I have a theory about why people don’t do yoga. It isn’t because it hurts—although it sometimes does hurt—and it isn’t because you fall over, although that happens too. It’s because when you stretch your body, you release more than just the toxins stored in your muscles. Scientists have discovered that we store emotions not just in our minds, but in our bodies. It feels weird—even if it’s kind of a relief—to stretch into Warrior Two and suddenly experience emotions leaking out that you didn’t even know you had.
During a workday, a lot of stressful stuff can happen, especially in the customer service realm where you can wind up as the repository for every customer’s emotions. But everyone needs to find ways to release tension throughout the day as we work. That’s where stretching and a little massage comes in.
During a workday, a lot of stressful stuff can happen, especially in the customer service realm where you can wind up as the repository for every customer's emotions.
Many of us store anger, stress, and anxiety in our jaws and in our hips. In fact, one study found a correlation between tightness in the jaw and tightness in the hips. The more we sit at a desk, the tighter our hips become, too. Jaw stretches and simple warrior poses can help counteract that tension.
Worry and depression can also cause tension to gather in your brow, even when you don’t realize you’re frowning. And when mental workload increases, it literally causes a pain in the neck, as well as physical tension in the arm and shoulders.
People store tension in other places, too. Their feet, for example, or the pelvic floor area. Clearly, you can’t relax all these places at work. But there are some things you can easily and quietly do at your desk.
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Stretch and hydrate.
This might be trying to connect your ear to your shoulder on each side to stretch your neck. It might be rolling your shoulders forward and together to release your upper back muscles. It might be wiggling your toes in your shoes while you extend your legs as far as you can under your desk. It might be slipping in a surreptitious Warrior pose while you’re at the coffee station. (Maybe don’t do the arms if you’re trying to be sneaky.) You could even drop something and do a deep lunge to pick it up—just be sure to lunge on the other side afterward. There are many stretches you can do right at your desk and some you can do while just traversing the room. Try taking super long strides, for example, to stretch out your calves and hamstrings and hips. It looks confident, too.
Clearly, you can't relax all these places at work. But there are some things you can easily and quietly do at your desk.
If we don’t know that we’re holding our jaw tight, we probably also don’t know how easy it can be to counteract this tendency. Just resting the tip of your tongue behind your top front teeth, or against the roof of your mouth can help relax the jaw. You can also massage your temporomandibular joint—where the jaw attaches to your head—and see if it doesn’t release tension in your hips, too. Reflexology and acupressure hold that different parts of the hands and feet correlate to other parts of the body and even organs. So that if you massage the heel of your palm it can help your lumbar, and if you massage your ring fingers it can help your legs and feet. Holding a finger in the palm of your opposite hand, perhaps under the table during a meeting, can help reduce anxiety. Another calming technique is to apply pressure between your second and third knuckles.
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The more tension you collect and hold in your body, the more difficult the day will be. Doing little stretches and giving yourself tiny, pointed massages will let out some of the tension and make your day better, and probably by extension, also the lives of the co-workers and customers you’re interacting with, too.