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What Yoga Can Teach Us About Productivity

What Yoga Can Teach Us About Productivity

    Earlier, I talked about how you can use meditation practices “in real time,” while you’re working on a task, to stay focused and motivated.  In this post, I’ll discuss how some forms of movement and breathing from yoga can help you find efficiency and ease in your work.

    Usually, when we think about productivity, images of well-organized e-mail inboxes and color-coded folders come to mind.  But these things alone aren’t enough to make us efficient.  If our minds aren’t disciplined — our attention is scattered, or we feel sluggish or anxious — work will be a struggle, no matter how organized our workspace is.

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    How do we discipline our minds?  I’ve found the ancient practice of hatha yoga — the stretches and breathing we simply call “yoga” in the West — very helpful.  This may sound odd at first, but it makes sense if we look at why hatha yoga was created.  It’s designed to clear the mind to prepare for meditation. In the same way, when we use it at work, it helps us become serene and focused.

    Although people tend to see yoga as a complex bunch of poses that require a mat and a lot of flexibility, there are simple forms of yogic breathing and movement we can do while seated. You can do the practices I’ll describe whenever you feel yourself losing attention or momentum at work.

    1.    Breathe Into The Tight Spot

    When a student is in a yoga pose that’s bringing up a lot of discomfort, a yoga teacher will often tell the student to “breathe into” the uncomfortable spot in their body — meaning to breathe so that the tense part rises and falls with the breath. This helps the student relax into the pose.

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    If you pay close enough attention when you’re feeling stressed or anxious at work, I suspect you’ll notice that some part of your body is tensed up — whether it’s your jaw, neck, lower back, or somewhere else.  If you notice this, I invite you to try taking a few deep breaths into that tight place.

    When you do this, I think you’ll find the tension dissipating, and the stress starting to fade.

    2.    Open Up Your Shoulders

    Many of us spend our workdays hunched over a keyboard, and this can cause tension to build in the neck and shoulders.  When that tightness gets uncomfortable enough, it can disrupt our focus.  Here’s a great way to release some of this tension — again, without leaving your chair.

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    The pose I’ll describe is called “eagle arms.”  To do this, hold your forearms out in front of you, parallel to your body.  Cross your right arm in front of your left, and clasp your hands in front of your face so that your arms intertwine.  Holding this pose, breathe deeply a few times into your shoulders.  Repeat this with your left arm crossed over your right.

    I think you’ll find this helps you let go of the tightness in your shoulders, and return your attention to your work.

    3.    Breathe Into Your Heart

    When we’re feeling unmotivated at work, it’s helpful to connect with our desire to contribute to and serve others. The yoga technique of breathing into your heart is a wonderful way to do this.

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    According to yoga, there’s an energetic center in the heart area called the “heart chakra.”  When we “open” the heart chakra by breathing into it, we feel our sense of compassion for others, and our desire to give to the world.

    To breathe into your heart, clasp your hands behind your back at the level of your heart, and stretch out your arms.  Then, breathe deeply so your upper chest rises and falls with the breath. Feel the warmth and openness in your heart, and notice any tension melting away.

    4.    Breathe Into Your Spine

    According to yoga, there’s another energetic center at the base of the spine called the “root chakra.”  Breathing into the root chakra gives us a sense of groundedness and stability.  Doing this can be very useful when you’re feeling anxious at work.

    To breathe into the root chakra, put your attention on the base of your spine, where the spine meets the pelvis.  If focusing on that area is difficult, place your hand on your lower back, and concentrate on the sensation of pressure there.  With your attention on the base of your spine, take a few deep breaths.

    When you do this, you’ll likely feel a deep-seated sense of solidity, and that paralyzing worry will start to fade.

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    Published on April 16, 2019

    How Self Care Can Help You Live Your Best Life

    How Self Care Can Help You Live Your Best Life

    When was the last time you did something for yourself?

    Whether it was deciding to treat yourself with a little something or travel for some R&R, how often do you practice self-care?

    Well, as good as above sounds, there’s a common misconception that many of us have about self-care: that it’s only about indulgence and enjoyment.

    However, self-care goes far beyond indulgence. It’s actually about respecting your mind and body, understanding its limits, and being able to take care of every part of yourself, in a holistic way.

    And, you really don’t have to go to extreme measures or do anything specific–like meditating or following a plant based diet–in order to practice self-care. You just have to make sure that what you’re doing is in your best interests.

    So how can you make that happen?

    Below are a few proven methods that will help you become a better version of you. Follow through with these regularly and you’ll be well on your way to living your very best life.

    Listen to Yourself

    The bulk of self-care is knowing yourself.

    This means knowing your body’s limitations, and being in tune with your feelings, emotions and thoughts. So it’s important, then, to know who you are and what you want to do in life, in order to truly say that you know yourself. 

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    What is your purpose?

    Have you ever thought about this question?

    Your purpose doesn’t have to remain the same throughout your life. What you found a purpose in at age 19 would likely be different at age 49.

    In your current situation, think about the different roles that you have – as a working professional, a spouse, a partner, a parent, etc.

    Do you feel like you are fulfilling your purpose through any of these roles?

    All you have to do is ensure that what you’re chasing is meaningful to you; this will bring focus and motivation as you strive to achieve your goals.

    If you have your purpose defined, then that’s awesome! You know what drives you and why.

    But, if you don’t feel like you have a purpose nailed down, it’s good to start by asking why.

    For example, why are you working in your particular job or industry? If the reason is vague or unclear, then your motivational energy will be the same. In which case, you may find yourself not having a direction for where you’re headed in life.

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    If you’d like to learn more about finding your purpose, then I recommend you check out this article:

    How to Get Motivated and Be Happy Every Day When You Wake Up

    Seek Out Continuous Education

    Now, this may seem less common when you think of self-care, but lifelong learning is incredibly useful and an important component of taking care of yourself.

    It’s Super Practical

    Lifelong learning is extremely practical these days and does not require as much effort as it may have in the past. Long gone are the days when you could only find information on something by visiting a library. In this day of the internet, anything you can imagine is at your fingertips.

    You don’t need to physically go to a learning institution to learn. You can watch Youtube videos to learn new skills, take online courses to earn a degree, and scroll through an endless amount of articles, books and journals from reputable news and informative sites.

    When you’re constantly pushing yourself to learn and take up new things, your mental health also improves. Research shows that an active and engaged mind is responsible for diminishing age-related memory loss and improves overall cognitive abilities.

    Your Confidence Will Skyrocket

    You’ll also have improved self worth as it teaches you to step outside of your comfort zone, which will undoubtedly improve your confidence.

    You’ll also connect better with others by expanding your knowledge base. Learning exposes you to a multitude of new ideas and perspectives that you may have otherwise never considered. This also increases your adaptability. Whether it’s at work or just wanting to adapt to society, your peers, and loved ones, life long learning prepares you to take on new challenges.

    You’ll Be More Desired in the Job Market

    Another obvious reason for continuous education, is that your employability will also increase.

    With the ever changing economy, and huge influences from technology, social media, science etc., job descriptions today are moving targets. Assignments and roles change so quickly in response to changing business demands, it becomes a Herculean task to keep a job description database current.

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    In years past, stability was a characteristic of the world of work. Procedures, information, jobs, and organizations were established and provided continuity. Education was completed in the first 14 to 22 years of one’s life, followed by a long career occasionally punctuated by short-term job training.

    Today, however, jobs, companies, and technology are disappearing and being created simultaneously. To remain current and maintain a competitive advantage in the human capital marketplace, an individual is challenged to continually learn.

    People return to school at every age to enrich their skills and knowledge for their current positions. Some even prepare themselves for new jobs or career changes, moving them forward into new opportunities and technology.

    We can be assured that we will be challenged to continue to learn new tasks and information throughout our lives. Successful careers belong to flexible, curious learners who are prepared for opportunities because they know themselves and where they make their best contribution. As Peter Drucker, the father of modern management stated,

    “Knowledge is choice.”

    Lifelong learning also increases social awareness and perspective. To genuinely understand and empathize with others, increase social awareness, and foster strong interpersonal relationships, it’s important to seek out new perspectives. Enhancing the skills that positively impact emotional intelligence can bring even greater happiness and success, both personally and at work; and, this is all part of self-care.

    Improve Your Habits (Both at Work and at Home)

    Now, the last piece of advice I want to introduce to your self-care regimen, is to improve your habits.

    Habits define who you are, and are built up over time. You are what you eat is a great example of this. If you make it a habit to eat foods that nourish your body, rather than make your body feel bad, then you will be much healthier overall.

    Good Habits Allow You to Reach Your Goals

    Since habits dictate your days and nights, such as waking up every morning to get to work before a certain time, or brushing your teeth before bedtime every night, they play a major role in whether we do or do not reach our goals.

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    When you form habits that allow you to progress towards your goals, you’re automatically living a purposeful day, everyday.

    Habits Make Your Time a Priority

    How do you spend your free time? Do you opt to lounge on the couch watching Netflix passively, or do you engage in activities that support your purpose in life?

    It’s natural to waste a lot of time during the day, but fostering good habits will make you set a pattern for how you spend your time and give you the choice of what you choose to spend your time on. By improving your habits, you’ll find that you can be a LOT more productive. When you create good habits, you become more efficient with your time and a lot less is wasted.

    This in essence creates an overall positive influence on your life, allowing you to treat your mind and body well, which is why improving your habits are so important to self-care.

    Your Well Being Comes First

    We live in such a fast-paced society, where we are often so caught up in our work, families, maintaining our social lives, our studies and everything in between. It’s an understatement to say that life can get a little overwhelming at times.

    If you’ve ever watched the safety video onboard a plane, you’ll know that they always ask for a parent or adult to put on the safety mask first, before tending to the child. This may sound selfish, but the fact is that if you truly want to ensure the child’s safety, then your safety needs to come first so that you can protect and care for the child without complications from your end.

    The same goes for self-care. We need to ensure that our well being is priority, so that we can be the best for the people around us.

    Listening to yourself, practicing lifelong learning and improving your habits are steps that you can take to ensure you’re constantly in the best state of mind, alongside the indulgence and rest that you reward yourself with.

    Featured photo credit: Photo by Raychan on Unsplash via unsplash.com

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