How to Relax at Work: Yoga Tools for Naysayers

Every day I have to decide: Is this the day I run, bike, hike, do anything other than Yoga? Although I find yoga is an excellent complement to other pursuits, I am personally challenged to make it a very regular practice.

How about you? Are you thinking about it, talking about it, doing it?

One thing I hear repeatedly from clients and group members is how crummy it feels to let work and distractions get in the way of carving out a self-care practice to reduce stress and improve health. As the ancient art of yoga has much to teach us about patience, presence, profit and joy, I reached out to certified yoga instructor Carolyn Weininger about how to translate core principles from the mat for more mindfulness and stress reduction off the mat.

Carolyn has been teaching yoga to a large and enthusiastic cadre of students in northern Virginia for 10 years. Carolyn's finely tuned instincts and outstanding teaching techniques combine to create an environment highly conducive to growth.

The following Q & A Interview captures Carolyn's insights – fresh from the perspective of a masterful yoga teacher and practitioner – to help us strengthen and sustain how we're showing up at work and in life each day.

Q: We hear a lot about how yoga can yield benefits in just 10-20 minutes a day. Do you agree or disagree and why?

A : I agree. Yoga has traditional benefits: building strength and stamina; correcting poor posture; improving flexibility; reducing stress, experiencing a new level of emotional calm and mental clarity. Conscious breath control throughout the day in stressful situations or just to focus on a particular problem is a very useful and healthy way of managing situations.

Although it is tempting to dismiss or delay what looks to be an optional activity / effort when time appears limited, less time can also be our friend. Consider how present we become when facing the time constraints of a deadline. How can you structure slivers of time to allow for self-care?

Q: What tips do you have for those who are looking for yogi techniques that could have been in the workplace, eg, at a desk, before a stressful conversation?

A: Closing your eyes and taking some long slow deliberate breaths will help you relax and refocus. Sit forward on your chair, lift your chest up straight. Inhale into the belly. As you exhale, relax your muscles – soften your jaw, and relax your shoulders back and down. Loosen hands and feet.

Resisting or ignoring the need to relax, refocus and breath is counterproductive to our health and productivity. What shifts for you when you take time out for breaks and breaths?

Q: How about getting started for those whose exercise regimen already feels quite full?

A: If you are brand new to yoga, a level I class will introduce you to the poses and breathing. If you are more familiar with yoga, taking yoga after a rigorous workout and trying more advanced poses will offer deeper strengthening and stretching. Finishing with savasana (relaxation pose) will extend this state off the mat.

Getting started, whether it's with yoga or a new business or personal practice, is often the hardest part. When an activity has meant for you, one strategy that gains momentum for my clients is putting it on the calendar and committing to stick with it for at least 4-6 weeks.

Q: There's been much attention slowly on introverts, due to publication of the bestselling book Quiet . What about extroverts (who get their energy by being actively engaged with others)? What advice do you have for them and others like them, who may find it particularly challenging to start or sustain a yoga practice?

Try a class with a friend. It makes it more fun to have a partner. Friends can also help you stay on target. Find a place and time that is convenient with your schedules and go at least once a week. Be sure to find an instructor that feels like a good fit. It may take a few classes to find the right fit – place, time and instructor.

You do not need to go it alone, on the mat or in business. If you find yourself struggling to get a class, situation or project, enlist someone to join, contribute or support you.

Q : How do you encourage those who already have a regular yoga practice to take it to the next level?

A : One thing that will take everyone else is to let go and relax. Breathe and be present, both on and off the mat.

It is so easy to get stuck doing things the same old way out of habit. To amp up to the next level, try setting your sights and practice on one or two specific poses or areas of concentration. What do you need to do for yourself to raise an aspect of your fitness regimen and / or business to the next level?

Q: I enjoy listening to the relaxing music you play in class. Where can others access your favorite tunes to promote relaxation and meditation?

A : I have been posting some of my playlists on iTunes ping – follow Carolyn Weininger. You can also go to for a wide variety of yoga music.

Consider what happens to your mood and ability to relax when you tap in to the power of music.

Q: How do yoga benefits translate into ready-to-use benefits for work and life?

A : The goal of yoga is to be fully present, in the moment and in tune with your body.

A regular sustained practice of self-care is a core foundation for sustaining high levels of accomplishment and satisfaction at work and in life. Notice the impact of the presence or absence of self-care practices on your energy and output.

Over to You: What is most important about claiming a self-care practice? What benefits do you get from a regular yoga (or alternative) practice?