Have you ever gotten through half a day and realized that you did not accomplish anything on your “to do” list? Maybe you got distracted by looking at social media; maybe you received 27 URGENT (!) emails that morning; maybe your colleague stopped by your office and wouldn’t take the hint that you had too much to do. When that happens, don’t panic–here are some lessons that I’ve learned in my years of practicing yoga that can help you be much more productive and much less stressed:
(1) Stay Focused on Your Current Task. When you’re in a yoga class, it’s very easy to start thinking about which pose is coming next and how hard it will be for you get there. When you do that, your current pose suffers. The same goes for your work. If you’re thinking about tasks #2-1,000, you’re not focusing on task #1, and your productivity and your work product for task #1 will suffer. You might also start to get overwhelmed with the prospect of all you have to accomplish later that day. The answer is simple: start on task #1, and wrap it up (as much as you can). Then start on task #2. And so forth. Jumping back and forth between your tasks or spending your day anticipating what you have to do later will only stress you out more. Stay present, stay focused.
(2) Treat Yourself to Healthy Mini-Breaks. I used to practice Bikram yoga very regularly, which is very strict about when and how often you can drink water. Although sometimes I found the rigid water drinking schedule appalling in 105 degree heat, there was something really satisfying about working hard for those periods of time between water breaks. You train your mind to think: I get to have a break after I push myself just a little more. It helps you to stay rooted in the moment and push yourself a little harder. The same goes for your workday. If you schedule healthy breaks for yourself (walks outside, walks around the office, hourly stretch breaks, trips to the water cooler, etc.) you might notice that you’re slightly more productive while you’re at your desk. Set a timer on your phone to make sure you get up regularly, and then try to work as hard as you can until that break arrives.
(3) If You Start to Panic, Slow Down the Breath. In yoga, balancing postures are very difficult. They involve stability in your legs, stability in your core, strong mental focus, and a sense of calm (easier said than done). When I first started practicing yoga, I would throw myself into postures, hold my breath, and then fall of them. It was only when I was able to slow down, focus on the breath, and connect my inhales and my exhales that I was able to hold a balancing posture for longer with much less effort. Next time you start to feel panic-stricken at your desk, close your eyes, sit up straight, and take a slow inhale to the count of 6. Feel your chest rise, your ribcage expand. Hold the breath in for 6 counts. Then exhale slowly to a count of 6. Keep moving through this cycle of breaths (6 counts inhale-6 counts holding-6 counts exhale) until you notice your heart rate slowing down. Let the elephant-sitting-on-your-chest feeling dissipate. Then start tackling what’s ahead of you, one calm breath at a time.
Megan Grandinetti is a New York city-based attorney, health coach, and yoga teacher. Megan’s work as a health coach focuses on improving the health and wellness of busy professionals. Find out more about Megan (a.k.a. Health Coach Meg) on her website www.healthcoachmeg.com or her Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/megwellnessyoga