Balance Desk Stress With These 3 Poses

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It's that time again! September marks the "new year" for desk-related activities: school, work, or just hunkering down into projects as the season starts to change. As humans we spend a significant amount of time rounded forward or hunched into our front body, closing off the anterior cuff of the shoulder and rounding into the upper spine. Even taking a few minutes to stretch and restore can do wonders when you're in go mode. 


Check in with your posture this very moment as you read this and notice how your body sits naturally. 


Posture and general alignment of the body is a conscious effort, and often that gentle check-in or reminder helps us get back in form. This is an amazing habit to get into as you clack away at your desk, along with taking breaks and throwing in some stretches. Here's our top 3 favourite postures to make those long work sessions and study marathons a little more comfortable. 

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Balasana | Childs Pose

Anahatasana | Melting Heart Pose

Tried and true, these two postures give you front body space and release from the ankles up through the belly, heart, shoulders and out the fingers. Balasana offers a gentle compression in the hips, providing release and restoration from prolonged sitting, and by rooting our forehead and softening the face and throat you are invited to relax deeper. Anahatasana is a more active variation to open the front and side channels of the body, offering release through the intercostal muscles surrounding the ribs up through the sidelines of the shoulders as well as the heart and belly. Try the side variation for added space, holding an equal(ish) amount on either side!

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Parivrtta Anjaneyasana | Revolved Lunge Pose

Parivrtta Anjaneyasana is a beautiful compression or wring-out for the spine, organs and digestive system. After sitting, rounding and/or slouching, this is a reset button. Traditionally, this posture has been believed to stimulate the third chakra - the body's centre of energy and vitality. At any modification - back knee down, hands at heart, with a full bind, etc - it is a source of internal strength, confidence and courage.

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Uttanasana | Standing Forward Fold

I've often said a forward fold can change your life. The intention behind this posture can vary, so set it before you begin. Generally, this shape lengthens your entire back line, creating space in the spine and hamstrings especially. Perhaps you need a charge, moving into the posture with engagement and activity throughout the arms, legs and heart. Inversely, you may bask in the restorative side, rounding through the natural curves of the spine and softening the knees. Send clear, clean breath up and down the spinal column with gentle awareness through your crown. Mmm. 

Take the time to stretch, nourish yourself and not look at a screen or pour over a textbook as you return back to the grind of life. A regular yoga practice will ensure you can sit even longer, whether that's in silence or in hustle. Check in with your spine often and don't work too hard! 

Finding Stillness: Meditation for Beginners

Photos in this blog courtesy of Caitlin Varrin of Yogalife Studios, featuring Dayna Der

Photos in this blog courtesy of Caitlin Varrin of Yogalife Studios, featuring Dayna Der

Those unfamiliar with the practice of meditation may look at it as something for the New Age individuals. You know, those who are avid yoga practitioners, who create crystal grids, spend time balancing their chakras and read Rumi or Osho when they have a free moment. However, meditation is by no means a new ritual (with earliest documented practices dating back before the 5th century) nor is it confined to any group or religion. Meditation can (and should be) a purely individual practice, focused on being introspective, and finding a moment to be still amidst an often chaotic existence.


The term meditation is derived from the Latin word “meditatio”, from the verb “meditari” which simply means “to think, contemplate, devise, or ponder”.


Sounds simple enough. All you really have to do is sit and ponder things, or try not to think too much. Coming from a person who is consistently on the go, and always thinking about the next project, or item on a make-believe to-do list, I can say it’s harder than it sounds. You might ask yourself how you should be sitting? Or should you be sitting? Can I do this lying down? Should I have music? Silence?

For those new to meditation, much like myself, first attempts at the practice may involve a lot of fidgeting, twiddling ones thumbs, changing positions, and eventually giving up when one realizes that they still have to prepare their lunch for tomorrow and schedule their appointments before going to bed.

 

So where does one start when they’re so new to meditation?

For myself, it started with yoga. The cues in yoga to focus on my breathing, as opposed to the aesthetic of the posture, is what really first took my mind beyond the physical practice and into the meditative. At the end of the practice, laying supine in savasana, is where the real magic happened for me. The guidance by the instructor to acknowledge passing thought, and then allow it to flow out like the tide going into and pulling away from the shore was what was truly changed my view of meditation. I thought the goal of meditation was the pure absence of thought, but when it turned into an acknowledge-and-release style of practice, that’s when things changed, and it became something I could do on my own. 

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Loving the feeling that I got from that last 5 minutes of yoga class, I sought more information on the practice of meditation, and found a wealth of knowledge in books. For a digestible read, and something to get you started, check out “Unplug: a Simple Guide to Meditation for Busy Skeptics and Modern Soul Seekers”. It starts simply, highlighting the common misconceptions about meditation, and then offers a practical approach to integrating the practice into your lifestyle regardless of how busy you believe you are. It's a no-excuses, easy read to help get you started on incorporating stillness into your daily ritual. 

Another resource to get me started on meditation was a meditation app called Relax Meditation. The first week of meditating using this app was more akin to guided lessons that focused on preparing oneself to meditate, focused attention, practicing awareness, and living in the present moment. The audio on this app, as well as the options to add ambient noise, and even low frequency noises geared at stimulating brainwaves was great. It’s also handy to use as a basic app, where you can choose your “nature sounds”, music (or no music) and just set a timer that will chime once your meditation is complete.

 

 

 

 

Finally, many studios (including our very own!) offer guided meditation classes. Apps are great, and an individual practice is a healthy habit to get into, but sometimes, an in-person, guided meditation in a space that is away from home (which can sometimes subconsciously remind us of those to-do lists) is what we need to reset, and unwind from our fast-paced life. If you’re interested in attending one of our guided meditation classes check out our schedule here.


What are my basic tips for starting a meditation practice?

Like any physical exercise you do (yoga, running, cycling, weight lifting) make meditation a priority.

Set aside time in your day for a meditation practice and try to make it consistent. It’s as important as anything else on your to-do list.

Start small.

Maybe your practice starts at 10 minutes a day, where you sit, and just focus on your breathing before bed. Again, your mind is allowed to be chaotic at the beginning. At this stage, try and just acknowledge each passing thought from a third-person perspective, and release it when your mind feels satisfied.

Seek guidance.

Guided meditation was a good place for me to start, as I needed some verbal cuing to tell me how to refocus my mind and release extraneous thoughts. Whether it’s in one of our classes or via an app, some direction is good when you’re first starting out.

Make it a ritual. Make it feel special.

Probably my most important tip. For me I make my meditation practice time feel special. If I have the time to go to a class at the studio, that already is innately special time in a special setting. If I’m restricted to doing a home practice, then I make it as atmospheric as possible. I meditate in silence, but I take this opportunity to light my favourite candle, lay out my soft yoga mat, and wrap a soft blanket I once splurged on at a yoga festival around my head and shoulders. For me there’s something comforting about being wrapped in something during a meditation practice.


Looking to start your meditation practice? Check out our class schedule here for more information on our guided meditation classes!