In addition to a healthy diet, regular exercise for heart health is an extremely important activity for staying healthy. Especially if you’re working a desk job five days out of the week. So Arkansas Heart Hospital offers weekly 30 minute yoga classes to its hospital and clinic staffs, led by yoga instructor Jason Henry. The idea is simple: by offering these classes, employees, nurses and staff are able to reset and take a few moments out of their stressful routine to give back to themselves. The class is structured with simple stretches, as participants are in work clothes, and simple breathing and meditation. Attendees end with a shavasana, a total relaxation pose, letting go of tension.
Jason offers these suggestions for yoga at work:
1. Identify your stress triggers. Develop an awareness of your triggers and how you react to them. Try writing the triggers down and then developing a plan to address them individually.
2. Breathing exercises (Pranayama).
“Victorious Breath” (Ujjayi)- Calms and settles the mind.
- Sit up tall and comfortably; close your eyes
- Place your tongue on the roof of your mouth; relax your jaw, forehead, and facial muscles
- With your mouth closed, inhale through the nose slightly deeper than normal
- Exhale slowly and fully through the nose while constricting the throat muscles to create an “ocean” sound in the back of the throat
- Continue for 3-5 minutes.
“Alternate Nostril Breath” (Nadi Shodhana)- Creates balance and a sense of grounding; relieves anxiety.
- Sit up tall and comfortably; close your eyes
- Place the middle finger of your right hand on the forehead in between the eyes
- Close off the right nostril with the right thumb and inhale through the left nostril.
- Close off the left nostril with the right ring finger and exhale through the right nostril.
- Continue for 3-5 minutes “Inhale right, close, exhale left; Inhale left, close, exhale right…”
3. Meditation. Quiet the mind by focusing all thoughts on a single object, mantra (word/phrase), or most commonly your breathing.
- Find a quiet place to sit up tall and comfortably
- Place the top of your hands on your thighs or knees
- Close your eyes; relax your jaw, forehead, and facial muscles
- Breathe in and out through the nose without effort; let the breath come and go naturally
- Focus your full attention on the object of your meditation. If it is your breathing, notice how the air enters and leaves the body. Observe how the chest, shoulders, and ribs rise and fall with each breath. If your mind wanders, simply bring the attention back to your breath.
4. Chair exercises. For all of these, sit up tall and keep the spine neutral and long; avoid rolling chairs.
- Forward fold- With feet flat on the floor, knees bent; inhale and lengthen the spine. Tuck your belly in and exhale, folding over your legs and bringing your chest towards your thighs. Maybe wrap your arms around your legs to intensify the stretch, but be gentle. Sit up and counter the forward fold with a slight backbend; arching the chest forward.
- Spinal twist- With feet flat on the floor, knees bent; inhale lengthen the spine and tuck the belly in. On an exhale, twist the torso to the right placing the left hand on your right knee and right hand on the back of the chair. Hold for 2-3 breaths, then reverse, twisting to the left.
- Wrist stretches- With feet flat on the floor, knees bent; sit up tall and lengthen the spine. Extend one arm out straight, palm facing up. Use the opposite hand to gently pull the fingers down; opening the wrist. Release and turn the palm facing down. Let the hand fall, fingers pointing down. Press the top of the hand into the palm of the opposite hand. Repeat on the other side then roll the wrists.
- Seated pigeon/hip opener- With feet flat on the floor, knees bent; sit up tall with your spine straight. Place the right foot on top of the left knee at a 90-degree angle. Flex the foot to protect the knee joint. Hold for 5-10 breaths then repeat on the other side.
- Side body stretch- With feet flat on the floor and knees bent, sit up tall and lengthen the spine. Place the left hand on left hip and inhale with the right arm up. As you exhale, bend to the left, reaching the right arm up and over. Hold for 5-10 breaths and repeat on the other side.
Eat well, sleep well, and exercise daily. Nothing combats stress, anxiety and illness like healthy living. Take care of your body by making healthy food choices, getting plenty of rest and exercising daily. Even minor changes to your daily routine can have a major impact on your overall well-being.
To learn more about how to best exercise heart health, check out our full blog, where you’ll also find amazing heart healthy recipes and health tips for your heart.