The idea formed when I was looking at ways to promote an inclusive workplace as part of our LGBTI Ally program. My friend who is a yoga instructor ran the class during Pride month and it got such a great reception we’re now doing it regularly. And our numbers have been growing. We now average around nine to 15 people per class.
We get lot of people who’ve never done yoga before. Some people are hesitant at first because there’s a perception that yoga is not really “working out.” But I encourage people to give it a try because it’s often different to what they think.
It’s been wonderful to watch people enjoy the benefits. When you take time out in the middle of the day for mindfulness yoga it not only makes you more flexible, and stretches different muscles, but means you can come back to work and really focus. No matter how stressful your day has been.
What is mindfulness and why does it work?
You can also practice mindfulness on its own. Mindfulness is a breath-focused meditation that helps clear your brain. It helps you be present in the current moment and tune out the noise from everything going on around you.
Georgetown University Medical Center’s Department of Psychiatry research found that, over an eight week course, mindfulness meditation lowered stress hormones and decreased inflammation in the body by around 15 per cent.
It’s definitely a practice that takes time. Some days will be harder than others. But, like anything, practice makes perfect and the more you work at it the more benefits you receive.
My own practice involves 10-20 minutes, three or four times a day. I try and do nothing but relax my brain. I always find afterwards I’m less distracted and more focussed.
You’re more than just your job
At work, it’s easy to get roped into what’s going on around you. When something doesn’t go right or you feel overloaded, stress creeps in. By focusing on the present you’re able to reduce stress and focus – as opposed to focusing on how stressed you are. I’ve found I’m able to calm myself and pause instead of responding to something or someone immediately out of frustration or excitement.
If you’re in a workshop or a room, it’s really beneficial to allow your team to take short breaks. Every hour, give them time to go away for 10 to 15 minutes. Tell them not to look at the computer or focus on anything other than a brief mindfulness session. Everyone will come back far more productive.
There's definitely a change happening in workplace culture around self care. You're not just your job. Accenture have done an amazing job with their Truly Human, Healthy Minds, and Wellness initiatives. And the Auckland office has a great culture of caring about staff as people from a holistic perspective.
5 tips for easing yourself into mindfulness
Start by taking five minutes out of your day such as when you wake up in the morning or when you get a coffee.
Find a quiet place, at home or in the office, where you can be alone.
Do nothing except focus on your breathing and being present in the current moment.
Work up to more time, more often each day. From what I’ve learnt it’s not so much about the length of time but doing it often and in small bursts.
Your mind and body will relax and when you come out of that state you’ll find the presence you developed in that five minutes will stay with you. You can go back to whatever you were doing and use that state to better focus on the task at hand.