Staying fit and supple needn't be a huge commitment. Perhaps it's time to ignore colleagues' puzzled stares and dabble in some office yoga, says journalist Martin Drury.
It’s a common misconception that getting fit means taking up an extreme sport, or running a marathon.
The truth is, making room for some daily exercise needn’t be a tall order. Simply touching your toes can stimulate acupressure points in your feet and boost flagging energy levels.
Enter office yoga. Office yoga can be practised anywhere, at any time, during the working day.
A growing number of companies – among them, BBC Wales – are making group classes available for their staff, but if grabbing a lunch-hour is tricky, office yoga can be practised alone at your workstation.
Bending over backwards while checking the budget report could cause injury and attract the suspicious glances of colleagues.
Instead, sit up with your back straight and breathe from your diaphragm. Breathe deeply. Breathe in, hold the breath for a few seconds and then breathe out. In seconds, you’ve increased relaxation levels and mental acumen.
Next, slowly roll your neck in a clockwise direction five times. Make large circles with the movements. Hold the position before rolling the head in an anti-clockwise position five times. These neck rolls release tension from the body and stress from the mind.
Convinced a few simple stretches and neck rolls won’t get you into that little black dress? Think again: fidgeting in your office chair can burn an extra 800 calories per day. Add to that a few stretches and you could find yourself dropping a jean size and reducing cholesterol levels.
A study by University College London found that, when people are put under pressure, their cholesterol levels rise and the risk of heart disease increases.
Dabbling in some regular office yoga can help you develop a chilled-out Type Two Stress personality (easy going, calm, non competitive), thereby dramatically reducing the risk of heart disease.
There are other benefits. Your improved concentration and productivity levels could well catch your boss’s eye – bringing that pay rise or promotion within reach; more than worth the risk of looking silly in front of colleagues.
This is also your chance to be a trendsetter. Begin with practicing the neck rolls and stretches on your own at your workstation. Then ask your employer to book a group yoga class during lunchtimes.
Robin Catto at www.breatheonline.com and The Lotus Exchange are among the companies providing group and one-to-one yoga sessions for businesses on a client- by-client basis.
But don’t think you have to conform to a system in order to get fit. Remember that there’s no such thing as a universal body type, so set private fitness goals and take care not to do too much, too soon.
Martin Drury writes on yoga, health, food and psychology. He is a regular contributor to Yoga Magazine and a freelance journalist for national magazines and newspapers.
Picture used with the permission of Breathe yoga and pilates, www.breatheyoga.co.uk