Yoga in Practice: Mindfulness and Meditation at Work

By Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500

Do you ever wonder how you could bring your Yoga practice into the workplace? Perhaps, the company you work for, scoffs at the idea of Yoga in work. Here is a way to be at peace with yourself and practice Yoga without drawing attention to it.

In some companies, mentioning meditation, Pranayama, and mindfulness practice, during work hours, might get you called into the “front office” for a lecture on company policy. This is a shame because these Yogic practices would help many companies become more productive, focused, and create an atmosphere of harmony for everyone.

The largest causes of production loss, at work, are daily distractions and absenteeism. As we know, many employees need a break from work; and the more stress, within the workplace, the more time employees will take off.

Some forward-thinking companies have introduced Yoga classes, during lunch or during an extended break. However, if your company does not have a Yoga program for its employees – let’s think about practicing Pranayama alone. The concepts of natural breath are understood more easily than mindfulness for many students of Yoga.

Natural Breath is a Yogic form of Pranayama – where your stomach rises on the inhalation and the navel draws inward during exhalation. This sounds simple enough, but practicing this Yoga breathing technique, during stressful situations, and being mindful of it, is a task within itself.

What is the benefit of Pranayama during work? Your blood pressure will be more stable and you will be able to function more rationally during work hours. Once your breath becomes steady, you can make a regular habit of being mindful about it. There are other forms of Pranayama, but it may be wise to avoid the noisy variations, which management, and your co-workers, might not approve.

Let’s consider distractions, at work, that take you out of the present moment. Is there a negative person who changes the atmosphere of the office, just by showing up for work? Is there a person who dresses provocatively? Each of these situations can be bothersome, but you can change them by practicing Pranayama and being mindful of it.

When you stare at a co-worker, whether you approve, or disapprove, it is a waste of productive time. If the person is negative, you should be kind, but firm. If the person is attractive, you should be mindful of your situation. You are in work and ethics should be taken into consideration.

If we disapprove of a co-worker’s behavior or dress – do we have a right to make it an issue? We cannot expect everyone to behave or dress according to our standards. If upper management does not take action, what can any of us do?

With respect to meditation in the workplace: we are not considering deep meditation while operating dangerous machinery. Anyone who operates machinery should be mindful of his, or her, tasks for the safety of everyone.

However, natural breath Pranayama, which is taught in any Hatha Yoga class, can become automatic, when it is practiced more often, during the day and at night.

Yoga allows us to practice its methods, at any time, and apply the benefits to daily life. You can practice good posturing, proper breathing, mindfulness, and a moderate diet, without any difficulty, if you make it an intentional habit. Even, if our work environment is chaotic, Yoga practice, during work, allows us to find a quiet place to concentrate from within.

© Copyright 2006 – Paul Jerard / Aura Publications

Teaching Hatha Yoga: My Yoga Students Do Not Want to Meditate

By Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500

Recently, I received feedback about my last meditation article. More than one Yoga teacher mentioned his or her student’s desire to “skip” meditation. It seems some Hatha Yoga students find it appropriate to get up and leave before meditation starts. In the one area, in the western United States, no Yoga studios have meditation as part of the curriculum.

Apparently, there is a lack of interest, and this would leave most Yoga teachers discouraged. However, these same Yoga students love Asana practice. They state that meditation is boring, and they could be doing something useful instead.

What can Yoga instructors do, to explain the mental benefits of meditation? At this point, mentioning spiritual benefits would fall on deaf ears. When Yoga students cannot appreciate anything beyond physical stimulation, it is doubtful they would appreciate anything that cannot be physically measured.

If we teach Yoga without mediation, is it really Yoga anymore? Is this how the Pilates Method was born? Should we “fold in” to popular demand, in order to keep our Yoga studios open? Should we create a new Yoga hybrid without a soul?

There are many new and interesting ideas to develop the mind and body connection, but Yoga teachers should not be discouraged. When most of our Yoga students get a mind and body connection through asana practice, this is a small start for the evolution of Hatha Yoga in western culture.

We live in a culture of “Attention Deficit Disorder,” and it is difficult for people to focus and unplug from distractions. Most of our Yoga students are totally addicted to multi-tasking. Some Yoga students quietly refuse to shut their cell phones off in class. No matter how many signs you post, there will be a Yoga student who will leave his or her cell phone on, and it will ring off.

No wonder, Bhakti, Jnana, and Karma Yoga, never got a serious foot hold here. Although Yoga teachers spend time on daily meditation – a deep meditation session may not be “popular” with your students, if a lot of nervous energy is in the room.

In this case, you could expose your Yoga students to a five minute session of mindfulness or Breath Awareness meditation. It is a start, and a brief tour toward their inner being. A brief five, or ten, minute relaxation sequence is also an option.

Very few of my students want to experience more than the 15 minute meditation segment at the end of a Yoga class. Being distracted, and multi-tasking, is a normal state of mind to children. Unfortunately, many parents are in the “same boat.”

Therefore, Yoga teachers should not their waste time, lecturing students about the benefits of meditation. You would be better off creating a student handout about meditation for stress management and mental health. It is reasonable to say that everyone should give their mind a rest. The ancient Yogis knew this, and it is up to Yoga teachers to let the public be aware of the benefits of meditation, while you still have their attention.

© Copyright 2006 – Paul Jerard / Aura Publications

Yoga for Beginners: A Stress Management Program that Really Works

By Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500

Every time of year, there is an occasion for stress with work, holidays, family obligations, education, moving, and weddings. There is no shortage of reasons to be stressed out over something. Here is a Yogic method, which can help you handle stress all year long.

Learn from a Yoga teacher who remains calm “under fire.” It is easy to have the appearance of being calm and quite another matter to actually put it into practice daily. In life, you will see stressful situations and hectic moments, but the person, who remains calm, during a naturally stressful time, is a person you can learn from.

Now, what if the calmest person you know is not a Yoga teacher? You should learn by watching him or her, in action, and enhance your own powers of observation. Later, you could visualize yourself being calm in a similar chaotic situation.

Does this sound unrealistic? No, but the Sanskrit word “Grahana” comes to mind. This is a complex word, but one of the ways it can be defined is, as a perception, or the process of seeing things as they are. Grahana is a meditative state where your mind focuses on observing without judgment.

Some people scoff at the idea of Yogis, who practice positive visualization and observe life, with mindfulness. You may hear people say, “That will never work,” or “Meditation is a waste of time.” The truth is the person who is negative in life, does practice his or her own negative brand of Grahana. In fact, some Yoga teachers would say negativity is the opposite of Grahana because it is non-acceptance.

On the other hand, if we constantly look at the world with a pessimistic viewpoint, is this a truthful perception of life? To the pessimist, a negative perception of life is reality. A negative perception creates the “cloud of doom,” which follows this person around in life. Self-pity and negative thoughts are created, envisioned, and become a constant daily cycle, within the life of a pessimist.

Remember the saying: “Be careful what you wish for.” You could also say, “Be mindful of what you visualize.” A mindful and positive perception of life is “light baggage,” in comparison to the burden of negative thought.

Look at stress as a tool, which you can use for good. When you come to a Yoga class, you will notice that some of your problems seem to evaporate. What happened? You filtered thoughts, concentrated, meditated, and prioritized all of the day’s problems.

If you took part in a Hatha Yoga, Raja Yoga, or Kundalini Yoga class, the muscles in your body feel much less tense – due to the physical techniques you learned and practiced. When you finish your Yoga class, you are ready to put the daily stress of life to good use. This is a form of “Yoga off the mat.”

Yoga is not a “magic stress killer,” but Yoga does have many techniques for effective stress management.

Yoga helps all of us discover self-awareness. Stop, ponder, and become aware of the situations, in life, which cause you the most stress. What kind of stress sends you “off the deep end?” When you become aware of what causes stressful situations, in your daily life, it is time to develop a pro-active plan to manage your health.

Yoga contains many Pranayama techniques for stressful situations. Natural breath, Dirgha Pranayama, Kapalabhati Pranayama, and Ujjayi are just a few of the many useful Pranayama techniques you can learn in a typical Hatha Yoga class.

Once you learn these Pranayama techniques, you can easily incorporate them into your daily life. Many Yoga instructors ask their students to practice Yoga techniques such as: Pranayama, asanas, meditation, and moderate eating habits at home, but unfortunately, the day is busy with many tasks. What is the solution?

If you intend to make a positive change in life, through Yoga practice, you must make some time for yourself. Set an appointment aside for you to practice Yoga at home. If this is not possible, you should set aside some time for formal Yoga instruction, with the guidance of a competent Yoga teacher or Guru.

Many students of Yoga feel more energized, and much less stressed, after Yoga instruction, than before. This is interesting when you consider that the most common reason people do not attend Yoga classes, more often, is that they feel too tired. These same people, who do not attend Yoga classes often, complain about insomnia and irregular sleep patterns.

This is a stress, fatigue, worry, and insomnia cycle, which will “shave years off” your life, while draining you of life energy. We know that the body contains energy; in Yoga, we call it Prana. You have the power to recharge your life energy through Pranayama, or you can get medical prescriptions.

Why would doctors of western medicine recommend prescriptions, in the above- mentioned case? Many doctors are burdened with patients who refuse to be pro-active about their health. Remember the old saying, “You can lead a horse to water but you cannot make him drink.”

Yoga practice is the “water,” which will break the stress, fatigue, worry, and insomnia cycle, but only a comparative small number of people, on this planet, are pro-active about health. Do you think this is cynical?

Consider this: If everyone was pro-active about health, the tobacco industry would have already diversified to selling health products. There would be more health clubs than liquor stores – if all of us took action.

Also, the fast food industry would be geared toward serving more quality products and would have more vegetarian choices on the menu. Industries “sprout up” to meet consumer demand. If we collectively demand more healthy products; we will receive them.

Yoga has many solutions for stress and complete health, but all of us have to take responsibility for our own health. The public cannot expect the pharmaceutical industry to produce “magic pills” to compensate for poor health habits.

© Copyright 2006 – Paul Jerard / Aura Publications