Yoga in Unconventional Settings

–5 min read–
By Ece Ozkan

As the saying goes “every challenge creates an opportunity”. In times of a crisis we need to be creative in our solutions. True, yoga is a community practice and not intended to be done alone in isolation. Yet we are all in lockdown due to COVID-19 and it has never been this hard to keep us sane. That said we never had such technological advances to even think about practicing yoga outside the studio. With the challenge of a pandemic and social isolation, we are seeing more and more creative ways to handle the situation well. In this post I’ll talk a bit about both these creative ways to keep the community alive and practice yoga, as well as some other “out of studio” ways to practice yoga.

Online Classes

One way to practice yoga outside the studio is online classes. There is a plethora of prerecorded classes on Youtube, be it for beginners or advanced yogis. There are also online classes offered by a variety of studios and yogis, which are mostly paid services. Online classes are very helpful if you are not able to go to a studio, or just want to practice yoga on your own time. That said, they are usually prerecorded, to make the classes more scalable, hence there is no personal assistance. Plus it is much harder to keep the sense of community there, as the classes are not happening in real time where students might see/ support each other. 

Image taken by the author during a live tutorial by Mandala teachers

There is another type of online yoga classes, which became much more widely used with the COVID-19 lockdown, that is the live tutorials via a video conferencing app. Mandala Yoga is one of the studios who offers this service. If you have already tried the Mandala live tutorials, you know it’s quite different from the common practice of a teacher talking through and demonstrating at the same time. At the Mandala live classes, one of the teachers talk you through the poses and another one demonstrates, which makes it easier to hear and follow the instructions (it’s hard to keep a mic on while you are demonstrating at the same time) and makes it possible for the teacher to assist students in real time if the student’s camera is on. It’s the first time I tried a live online tutorial, yet thanks to these unique factors of teaching and assistance, it did not feel any different than an “in person” studio class! When other attendees’ cameras are on, or even if not – just merely seeing how many people are practicing at the same time, the sense of community is being re-established regardless of the self quarantine.

Office Yoga

The common issue almost all officer workers have includes a stiff neck due to staring at a computer all day, and sore lower back with tight hip and shoulders due to sitting 8+ hours a day. That said there is so much one can do to regain their energy and build strength without leaving the office. 

Office yoga is ideally done on the mat with an instructor guiding you, if there is a multipurpose room and the company facilitates yoga classes. Yet it can also be done on your desk, if you have no space to practice or no time. 

Starting with the first option, most companies began to understand the importance of employee health to keep their business running. A guided yoga class as short as 30 minutes can provide several benefits from increasing the focus, reducing stress and decreasing burnout – which is one of the most common reasons for sick leave. Hence, we see an increased demand among companies to hire a yoga teacher to guide the employees for an in-house yoga class.

The other type of office yoga is actually a type of chair yoga which is explained in detail at the below section. From seated twist to seated backbend there are several simple poses you can do to regain energy and flexibility. Check this link from the yoga Journal if you want to give it a try!

Image taken from American Posture Institute

On office yoga, one thing I really benefit from is doing some counterposes for the “tech neck”, which is basically the result of office work behind a computer and being on our smartphones 24/7. Not sure if you experience that? Check the below quote to have a better grasp on what it feels like and what is the real impact on your body.

You know what it’s like, your shoulders feel frozen in an ape-like hunch and the back of your neck ends up in a throbbing knot. … “Tech neck,” when the neck droops forward and down as you post a shot to Instagram, send a text, or email the boss, puts up to an astounding 60 pounds of pressure on the upper cervical spine, research shows. That is akin to carrying 12 yoga mats or a small child on your neck Yoga Journal on Tech Neck

Fear not, though! There are several poses that can help you to counter tech neck, such as:

  • Gradual cobra
  • Downward facing dog
  • Front chest opener

Chair Yoga

Image taken from Tummee sequence builder

Chair Yoga is a form of yoga therapy developed in the early 80s by Lakshmi Voelker, practiced sitting on a chair or using a chair for support. It is a gentle practice and suitable for people who are unable to get on the mat due to aging, illness, disability or any other reason. Some areas it is used and proven to be helpful are: chronic pain, scoliosis, arthritis, diabetes, MS, osteoporosis, and heart disease.

Those of you with disabilities, weight challenges, inflexibility, or who just cannot get on the floor for whatever reason (such as age or being in a crowded work environment) can benefit from a daily practice of yoga on a chair in the comfort of your home or office.  The chair replaces the yoga mat and becomes an extension of your body allowing you to take full advantage of yoga’s amazing fitness and health potential.  Even if you are in a wheelchair, you can receive the many benefits of chair yoga–the integration of body, mind, and spirit that keeps the yoga practitioner at the top of their game. – Lakshmi Voelker’s website

Chair yoga is not specific to certain challenges, it can be practiced by anyone who just can not get on the floor, like in an office. A few spinal movements, lower back circles, wrist and ankle rotations and deep breathing techniques are some examples one can follow to eliminate the negative effect of constant sitting in front of a computer. 

 

All in all, there are several alternatives to a yoga studio if you can not go to one for any reason, be it busy office schedule or a pandemic like we are experiencing today. Check some of the options mentioned at this article to see if you can incorporate any of these in your life 🙂