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Office Yoga: Why Should You Exercise at Your Desk? And How?

Article January 28, 2020  |  Text by Martina Žilková Text by Martina Žilková

Yoga helps you to avoid burnout. And you can do it right at your desk, notes Helena Nehasilová, founder of the Office Yoga project, in her interview for #MORETHANOFFICE.

Helena Nehasilová says that a little exercise every day is far more important than wrecking yourself at the gym, because of the time ratios involved: “People easily spend up to 12 hours a day sitting down (at work, traveling, and at home). So what effect can exercising once a week have after that?”

That’s why since 2013, she’s been offering exercise sessions customized for office workers, and doing it right at their workplaces. “The goal is to integrate exercise into the workday, which has a positive influence on productivity and people’s concentration,” Nehasilová notes.

How did you come up with the idea of an office yoga project?

This project began seven years ago, when I entered the workforce as a fresh college graduate. I had a sit-down office job, and my back ached frequently. I was already doing yoga back then, but compared to the 8+ hours I was spending sitting down, it still wasn’t enough. 

Because I wanted to motivate my workmates to exercise too, I started doing my yoga right at work. And thus Office Yoga was born. And since the idea took off, I decided to start a company and offer this benefit to the wider public as well.

Photography credits: Miloš Potužák

If someone orders you for their firm—what do your lessons look like?

We have several programs that companies can choose from. When they have proper spaces (a free meeting room, a garden, or better yet a gym), we offer traditional lessons with yoga on mats. These are typically in the early morning or after work. But we also offer what we call “desk yoga”…

So, exercising right at your desk?

Yes, these are modified exercises, stretches, and workouts that don’t require preparations or changing clothes, and so you can easily include them into a daily work schedule. It’s a sort of a healthy break in the middle of the workday. We can also offer companies one-time workshops and interactive lectures on topics like ergonomics, work productivity, and work-life balance.

Helena Nehasilová in action during the PropTech conference Friendly Buildings 2019 in Prague

EARLY AND OFTEN

You’ve noted that a little exercise every day is far more important than wrecking yourself at the gym. So how often should people with sedentary jobs be exercising?

There’s no need to take it as a sport. It’s much more important to include even little things like micro exercises, but as many of them as possible. We’ve seen good results with e.g. chair stretches, stair runs replacing elevator rides, more walks—or our office yoga. But each one of us should fit in at least one exercise session a day.

And why pick yoga as your exercise?

Besides health problems (“lifestyle diseases”), urban people with sedentary jobs often also run into psychological problems. The vast majority of employees today are under constant stress and pressure. The symptoms are burnout, migraines, depression, and the like. As an exercise that overlaps into a person’s state of mind, yoga can help to overcome all this.

When’s the best time to practice yoga, and how can an employee at an office job naturally incorporate it into their daily schedule?

What’s ideal here is for workmates to motivate and support each other. For example you can set up a month-long athletic challenge. One nice approach is to exercise in the morning, because that kicks you off into your workday. After work, meanwhile, yoga is a good way to calm down. It depends on what people expect from yoga; it can have different effects at different times of day.

And as I’ve mentioned: be sure to include one- to two-minute micro-exercises into every day. And to do it regularly, so that it becomes a habit.

What kind of active relaxation do you recommend for office workers?

Mindfulness meditation, walks, getting out of the tram or bus e.g. two stops early and walking the rest of the way to work. Stretching regularly, running up to the second floor to talk to someone instead of sending an email, running up the stairs instead of a smoke break. Going for an occasional massage, or for a checkup with a physical therapist if something is bothering you. Making time for yourself is important.