Think back to the last time you were supposed to be working but your mind wandered off. (Ahem, when you clicked on this article, perhaps?). Maybe your mind drifted to an upcoming family event, your grocery list, or why your car insurance rates increased recently.
No matter the distraction, when it’s mid-workday, finding ways to gently pull your mind back to your task is critical for productivity. Staying glued to your laptop and trying to “power through” may seem like the best option, but don’t be fooled. When focus dwindles, your mind and body are asking for a quick reset.
Even (and especially) for busy entrepreneurs who can spare just a few minutes, there is a way to find stress-relief and a feeling of restoration: yoga stretches and breathwork done right from your chair or desk.
Take a quick intentional pause from today’s to-do list and explore these reprieves to get your mind back in the game fast.
How Breathing and Stretching Can Restore Focus
If you’re hesitant to allot a sliver of your work day for breathing and stretching, rest assured the benefits of yoga for focus are proven and numerous.
For starters, mindful breathing linked with gentle movement prompts a reduction in heart rate and blood pressure. So that wired, anxious feeling weighing on your chest mid-workday? A brief break for yoga can soften its grip.
Additionally, using yoga to refocus works because we tend to carry our issues in our tissues. No matter your professional avenue, you’ve probably experienced this. As a situation becomes more tense or stress piles on throughout the day, our shoulders, neck, and back begin to tighten and ache. But when we step away to stretch our bodies, we unkink and melt some of that tension away.
Finally, and maybe the biggest benefit of all, if you take care of your mind and body during work, as opposed to just seeing self-care as something which can only take place outside of work, you’ll be more productive during business hours. You’ll also enjoy your time and activities outside of the office that much more and avoid burn out as a business owner.
Now that your skepticism is quelled, here are some of the most common sources of workday aches and anxiety and how you can use yoga to overcome them.
Using Yoga to Fix Tech Neck
Tech Neck, a term coined with the advent of ubiquitous screens, is the jutting forward of the neck and head towards whatever you’re looking at. With the weight of the head pushed forward, sustained tech neck posture puts incredible strain on our spines.
In fact, for every inch forward your head juts forward, it’s estimated you’re putting an extra 10 lbs of weight on your neck and spine. No wonder we’re sore when we get up from our computer desks! The strain from this unintentional posture is an intense cause of pain and stiffness, and the more you work with screens, the more conscientious you need to be in avoiding it.
The good news is, you can easily counteract the tendency for tech neck without even getting up from your desk. Here’s how:
From your chair, imagine rooting down to your seat. Hanging on to that “rooted” feeling, and rise up through the crown of the head, like your creating space in between each vertebrae as you stretch toward the ceiling. Try and envision your alignment from a side view, noticing your posture. (You probably look inches taller!).
Find further structural integrity by stacking the shoulders over the hips, and importantly, the ears over the shoulders. Finally, with your chin level with the floor, tuck the chin on an inhale, and release to neutral on an exhale. Repeat this process three to five times to ease that tech neck, and maybe you’ll look a little taller!
Undo the Hunch with Some Yoga
If you can tell how late in the workday it is by how hunched forward you are, you need this next stretch in your life ASAP!
Seated Cat-Cow, one of many flowing yoga sequences for increased workday productivity, allows you to stretch and strengthen the core, back, shoulders, neck, and it gives you greater spinal awareness (which means better posture throughout the day).
Right from your seat, find the same rooted posture you discovered in the previous stretch. With hands either resting on the tops of the legs or lightly grasping the chair’s arm rests, inhale and bring the chest and gaze forward and up, dropping the belly and broadening across the shoulder blades. Exhale, and round back and tuck the chin.
Ensure the movement begins and is propelled from the pelvis and core, not the neck. Repeat this flowing sequence, linking breath to movement.
Adjust Your Breathing while You’re at Your Desk
Pause for a second. Just notice your breathing. Are you taking short, shallow breaths through the mouth? This type of breath is sometimes referred to as “fight or flight” breathing, and even if you don’t know much about breathing techniques, you can probably tell by its name that it induces anxiety and strain.
For those of us who are unconsciously breathing like this throughout our workday, we are starting from a state of tension and don’t even realize it.
Moving the breath deep into the diaphragm allows you to fill up the lungs more fully, while also tapping into the parasympathetic nervous system, which sends the “rest and digest” cue to the mind and body.
To begin changing your breathing habits and to relieve tension, start by finding your rooted posture. Then, place one hand on the belly, and the other hand on the heart.
Begin inhaling and exhaling through the nose, and simply notice how the belly moves. Feel it inflate like a balloon as you breathe in, and sink back toward the spine as you breathe out. Stay here for several rounds of breath. Simply bringing mindful awareness to your breath pattern can help deal with stress at work and keep you focused on the task at hand.
Using Yoga to Reverse Stationary Stiffness
The nature of your work may mean you are seated for the majority of the day, and if so, your lower back and hips are likely aching for change. A simple Ragdoll stretch will release that tension and also has the added benefit of combatting the aforementioned tech neck.
Start standing with feet firmly planted, hip-distance apart. It’s even better if you can remove your shoes. Melt forward towards the floor until you can release everything to gravity.
Let the crown of the head hang heavy, and then slowly shake the head “no” to let go of any tension you’re holding in the back of the neck. Clasp the elbows and gently sway back and forth, feeling the change in the lower back as you move from side to side.
Take a Break and Commit to Yoga at Work
It may sound counterintuitive, but taking intentional breaks between bursts of work will actually increase overall productivity. You’re not able to do your best work when you ache or are unable to focus, so think of yoga as one of the tools in your toolbox which will keep you (and your business) running at peak performance.
Leslie Kiel writes for QuoteInspector.com. She’s a mom of three, a yoga instructor, and swears by punctuating her own workday with short yoga sequences and breathwork sessions to reclaim focus and energy.