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Are you Type A? Is work more central to your day than breathing? Then you need this 14-minute practice. This sequence, requiring no yoga experience, is designed to be done mid-workday. Ease stress daily by boosting endorphins and dopamine right at your desk.
Puneet Nanda is an unintentional expert on the physical effects of work stress. As head of a multimillion-dollar oral care company, Nanda spent decades of long hours in a fast-paced, high-stress environment (and LA traffic). He was successful in business, but not in health and happiness: he was 40 pounds overweight and bloated with fast food, antidepressants, mood stabilizers, tranquilizers, and more. In 2008 after a severe anxiety attack with debilitating chest pain and shortness of breath landed him in the hospital, health experts recommended yoga and meditation, which he hadn’t practiced since his New Delhi childhood. Yoga took him back to India, where he sought knowledge from experts across the country, including the OSHO ashram and the Jindal NatureCure Institute. Eventually, he found himself practicing on the banks of the Ganges and feeling, he says, “stress-free for the first time in decades.”
In 2012, Nanda sold his company and, over the following three years, became GuruNanda—“entrepreneur turned yogi.” He launched a line of Ayurvedic health products and opened a private yoga studio in Beverly Hills.
His book, Wall Street Yoga, compiles the wisdom he’s gained to help anyone in a stressful work environment find focus and calm in just 14 minutes each day. Specifically tailored for office-going yoga newbies, he cleverly presents accessible morning (“Opening Bell”), evening (“Closing Bell”), heart-healthy (“Avoiding the Crash”), back pain (“The Rubber Band Effect”), driving (“Steer Your Investment”), and weight management (“Balance Your Portfolio”) sequences.
Mid-Workday Stress-Reducing Sequence
Here, Nanda shares his midday stress-reduction sequence, exclusively with Yoga Journal, intended to be performed daily as a break away from your desk. If your office doesn’t offer the necessary space, don’t fret. The sequence can also be performed at home directly before or after work “to lighten up the mood, increase endorphins and dopamine in your system,” and transition to or from work “with a better, relaxed mood,” Nanda says. Share these poses—and Nanda’s book—with a hard-working yogi-to-be in your life.
To begin, take a seated position, cross-legged or in a chair. Settle in with three Oms.
“Everything in this world is in vibration,” Nanda says. “the Om chant brings that vibration to our cellular level and synchronizes our entire system.” Close your eyes, take a deep breath into your full lung capacity. On the exhale, chant “Om,” using over 60% of your breath for the mmmm. “When you say the mmmm sound, your entire head is vibrating and you’re putting your body’s cellular system into its original shape as it belongs,” Nanda says.
See alsoThe Sound of “Om” Demonstrated
This is a great de-stressor to cut you off—momentarily—from the world.
Still seated, eyes closed, reach elbows out to the sides at shoulder height. Place your bottom three fingers gently on your eyes, index fingers on eyebrows. With your thumbs, press the cartilage flap at the front of the ear into the ears enough to cut off sound.
Take a deep inhale, and as you exhale, make the buzz of a bee deep in your throat, lips closed. Focus on the center of your forehead and feel the buzzing vibration inside your entire head. After three slow buzzing exhales, bring your hands together in front of your heart and rub them together. Once you feel heat, place your hands on top of your eyes—still closed—for a few breaths. “When you open your eyes, you will see a different you,” Nanda says.
Get your heart rate up.
Jog in place, bringing your knees up as high as you comfortably can, move arms gently as though running. Do 50 jogs. “Remember to try to control your breath,” Nanda says. “Don’t pant, breathe.”
Return to standing, feet parallel and hip-width apart, arms relaxed by your sides in Mountain Pose.
Palm Tree + Swaying Palm Tree Pose
Push out toxins and promote cellular regeneration.
Stand tall in Mountain Pose and lift your arms overhead. Interlock your fingers and turn your hands so your palms face up. Lift your heels and either turn your gaze up or focus on a fixed object in front of you for better balance. Feel the upward pull as your toes press down into the floor. Relax your shoulders and avoid hunching them up by your ears. Take 7–10 deep breaths in this pose. Gently lower your heels, release your arms to your sides and stand in Mountain Pose.
Swaying Palm Tree
From Mountain Pose, lift arms overhead, interlock fingers, turn palms up. Stand grounded on the floor, while distributing weight equally between your feet. Keeping your hips forward, bend at the waist to your right. Take 5 deep breaths into a full stretch, going deeper with each exhale. Feel the stretch on the side of your torso, keeping hips straight. Stand up straight, then bend left for 5 more breaths.
Get fresh blood flowing to your head, stretch your spine, and massage your essential internal organs.
From Mountain Pose, inhale and reach arms parallel overhead. Exhale as you slowly fold your upper body from the hips, reaching toward your toes. Bend your knees slightly if necessary. Let your head, upper body, and arms hang loosely. Take 8–10 deep breaths. Roll your body up one vertebra at a time and stand in Mountain Pose.
See alsoWork It: Seated Forward Bend
See alsoForward Bends
Get fresh blood flowing to your extremities, open your shoulders, stretch the pectorals, and open your heart.
From Mountain Pose, inhale and lift your arms overhead. Exhale and bend your knees as if you are sitting in a chair. This is Chair Pose. Try to bring your thighs parallel to the floor, as you reach your bottom back. Lift your heart as you inhale, bringing your hips even lower as you exhale (though not lower than your knees). Keep reaching arms up. Take 8–10 slow deep breaths, trying to hold the pose for 50 seconds.
Open your heart and break up the stress-induced lactic acid forming in your neck and shoulder muscles and joints.
From Mountain Pose, bend your arms and bring your fingertips to the tops of your shoulders. Draw slow, broad circular rotations with the elbows, keeping your fingers at your shoulders. Make the circles as big as possible. Repeat 10 times forward and 10 times backward. Return to Mountain Pose.
Arms Out Pose
Build strong arms and toned shoulders and counteract repetitive use injuries in the wrists.
From Mountain Pose, lift your arms straight out to the sides and make tight fists. Rotate arms in small circles—just a few inches in diameter. Repeat 20 times forward and 20 times backward. Next, keeping your arms straight out, flex wrists up and down 20 times, then in circles, 10 forward, 10 backward. Release your arms to your sides, returning to Mountain Pose.
A gentle stretch of muscles that tend to contract during stress or computer work.
From Mountain Pose, take a deep inhale. As you exhale, drop your head to the right. Inhale up, exhale left. Repeat five times right and left. For a deeper stretch, you may reach opposite arm overhead (as shown) and give a gentle assist.
Twists are great toxin eliminators. Doing this one builds strength, balance, flexibility—and humility.
From Mountain Pose, step back with your left foot, bending your right knee. Put your palms together in Prayer Position, elbows out to the sides. Twist your upper body to the right and place your left elbow on your right knee. Take 5 deep breaths in the pose. Release twist, step left foot forward. Repeat on opposite side. Return to Mountain Pose.
Lower your heart rate and blood pressure, reduce anxiety, increase job satisfaction, and start living in the present moment.
You can do a silent, breath-focused meditation, but Nanda recommends that a mantra meditation is best for “Wall Street” personalities, who have trouble quieting their minds. A mantra is a word or words that will give the mind a specific focus.
Selecting a mantra
The traditional mantra Nanda suggests is Om Nirogaya Namah, which means, “health without any disease” or “the divine will dilute all diseases.” You can, however, adopt a more personal mantra—perhaps an affirmation. Nanda’s first mantra was “I am strong, healthy, and decisive,” because, he says, “in my subconscious, I was not any of those things.”
Sit comfortably with your spine straight. If you’re on the floor, sit in a cross-legged position with your hands resting on your knees, palms up. Close your eyes. Chant Om three times bringing awareness to the navel (ohh), the mid-section (ahh), and the head (mmmm). Say your mantra twice out loud, quiet it to a whisper for a few times, then repeat silently. When other thoughts come in, let them flow and gently bring your awareness back to your mantra. Do this for 2 minutes, then place your palms together, bow forward slightly, feel a moment of gratitude, and open your eyes.
Improve mood, reduce anxiety, and feel better.
This is best done aloud, but you can do it silently if necessary. In a seated position with a straight spine, follow these four steps:
1. Bring your palms together in front of your chest. Quickly repeat “Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha” and move your upper body across your lower body, right to left and back, 3 times.
2. Throw your arms overhead as if in celebration and chant “Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha” 3 times.
3. Put your thumbs and forefingers together by your sides and say “Very good!” to the right, “very good!” to the left and, lastly, “very good!” with a slight bow forward.
4. Clap your hands and chant, “Ho-ho-ha-ha-ha.” The Ho-ho with two claps to the left, the ha-ha-ha with two claps to the right.
Rest your hands on your knees, breathe, and calm down. Namaste.