yoga at work

Four Reasons Why It's OK To Giggle On Your Yoga Mat

We mm…Yoga! crew are known for our lightheartedness. People often tell us our classes are fun. For some, especially if they've practiced in a more serious environment before, it's a surprise. 

But you know? Like I've said before, life is serious enough. You don't need to make yoga overly serious too. 

Why it's OK to giggle on your yoga mat

Here are our top four reasons it's OK to giggle on your yoga mat:

  1. Yoga is about giving yourself permission to be who you are. It’s about finding your true self and embracing all the things you discover. Including joy.
  2. As adults we are expected to ‘behave’ all the time, to leave behind the silliness and frivolity of childhood and ‘grow up’. Bah! Boring! Who says adults can’t have fun? Who says we should be serious all the time? Why can’t we laugh more often? 
  3. Yoga is about stress relief & laughing is the ultimate stress relief, so it seems smart to combine the two.
  4. Yoga is also about letting go of old patterns of behavior and thought, so why not let go of the seriousness we are expected to cultivate all the time?

Yoga is about relaxing, so sometimes it's good to forget about being a grown up and giggle. 

having fun with tree pose - it's OK to giggle on your yoga mat

As Karen says, 

Well, the real question is, why not have a giggle? If I look back on all the happy times I've had, a lot of it is filled with laughter and silliness. 

Why it's OK to giggle on your yoga mat - mm…Yoga!

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How to avoid Hunchy Desk Pose (and sore shoulders)

Are you hunched over at a desk right now reading this? Yes? Don't worry. I'm hunched over at a desk writing it.

Tell me, are your shoulders sore? Mine sure are.

Sore shoulders is pretty high up on the list of things my students (understandably) complain about most. For the most of us (and I'm definitely included in this), that soreness comes from what I call Hunchy Desk Posture, because so many of us sit at desks and peer at screens of some description for many hours a day, most days of the week.

Look familiar? Suzy came into this pose and immediately said, "Ouch!"

Look familiar? Suzy came into this pose and immediately said, "Ouch!"

If you're used to holding your upper body in this kind of shape, chances are that you also bring this shape into many of the yoga poses you practice. Unfortunately, this puts all sorts if weird pressure on joints, tendons, ligaments and muscles to do things they're really not supposed to. Doing so can, and often does, lead to those sore shoulders and—worse—injury.

So we want to counter Hunchy Desk Posture. The good news is that if you know a little bit about how your shoulders work and which parts of them should be doing what kind of work, then you can begin to correct this stuff yourself (and alleviate tension, tension headaches and that anxious feeling) just sitting at your desk.

What's going wrong in Hunchy Desk Posture

Usually, if you sit or stand like this, it means your upper back and neck are far more rounded than they really should be. Basically, this means three things:

  • The muscles between your shoulder blades and around your armpits lengthen and become weak

  • The muscles on your chest and the front of your neck shorten and also become weak

  • The muscles that run from the top of your shoulder blades, across the top of your shoulders and up your neck to the base of the skull have to do all the work. They don't like this very much. And it usually means they're tense and feel a bit like a rope.

(This is a really great article about how Vulture Posture—another great name for Hunchy Desk Posture— means your heavy-full-of-brains head is wreaking havoc on your spine.)

How to start to fix it yourself

To begin to counter that, you need lengthen the spine at upper back and and neck, well, upwards, rather than forwards.

Countering Hunchy desk posture.jpg

Try this: sit tall, and without letting your head drop forward, pull your chin back towards your throat and make a double chin.

Suzy's comments on this pose: "All of the chins..." Think of that as you do it—it helps!

Suzy's comments on this pose: "All of the chins..." Think of that as you do it—it helps!

Notice how you're suddenly sitting up taller? Hopefully the top of your shoulders have relaxed a little too. Sit here a while, then relax.

You also want to try to strengthen the muscles between your shoulder blades and underneath your armpits.

Try this: sitting, draw the bottom section of your shoulder blades towards one another at your spine. At the same time, let the bones of your upper arms rotate in your shoulder socket so if you bend your elbows your hands stick out to the side (I like to call this Pre-Shrug Pose).

Look at that smile! You too can be this happy about relieving shoulder tension.

Look at that smile! You too can be this happy about relieving shoulder tension.

Now add in the double chin exercise. And, most importantly, breathe slowly. The slow breathe should help to let the body know that it's okay to let go of that tension.

And here's the trick: do this for a minute or so whenever you notice that you're sitting all Hunchy-like.

(And if you're anything like me, that will be embarrassingly often).

Regularly reminding your body in this way starts to change posture habits, which most of us have been practicing again and again for many years.

There are also some yoga poses you might like to practice to lengthen the muscles across the chest, strengthen the muscles between your shoulder blades and under your arm pits, and take the pressure off those poor muscles across the top of your shoulders and up the back of your neck that have been desperately trying to stop your head from falling off.

Play around with the double chin exercise, and the rotation of the arms and drawing together at the base of the shoulder blades in each of these postures. Breathe.

(If you want to print this image, just open it in a new tab and print away, for you to use at home or work.)

Yoga for the blokes

Blokes can sometimes feel a little left out in talk about yoga, because women do seem to love getting on their mats, and classes can be a little lady-centric. But we have a lot of men in our classes here at MmYoga, so we thought we'd dedicate an infographic to yoga blokey-ness.

Yoga for men

What guys have said about our classes:

Nadine is a terrific communicator and teacher, who I would thoroughly recommend for corporate events or personal yoga teaching. She introduced me to yoga in a very patient manner, and was adept in managing my various pre-existing aches and pains. She exudes warmth and personality, and is very knowledgeable and passionate about yoga practice.

Bruce Hawkins, Consultant, The Lonsdale Group

Nancy has been really amazing, from explaining the poses to offering advice and answering questions after the class, if I had imagined a yoga teacher before my first lesson, Nancy is the embodiment of that yoga instructor.

Michael McKenzie, Mission Australia

The legal team at REA Group booked Karen through MM… Yoga to run a yoga session for us at the start of a full day conference. A couple of people in our group had injuries at the time. Karen actively changed her class program to accommodate for the unique needs of these people so that they could still participate in the yoga class. On the day of our conference Karen arrived early, and was well prepared, which helped me out as the event organiser. Throughout the class Karen’s instructions were clear and easy to understand. I found her class well aligned to the abilities of the group that she was instructing. Karen provided the group with an enjoyable, energising experience which prepared us to kick off our full day conference in a relaxed and rejuvenated manner. If we have a similar conference I would definitely book Karen again, as she was proactive, organised and flexible in her approach. I recommend Karen and MM… Yoga to other companies that want to provide their employees with a healthy, fun and relaxing experience.

Ben Hooper, realeastate.com.au

Beth was clear in her instructions that if you couldn’t do something, that you could do it with your “knees on the ground”, for example, or balance with just your toes on the ground and your heel against the other ankle. I thought that was good, in that respect. The lesson was more obviously easier at the start and harder as we went along, so I liked that, the gentle start and gradual building. She moved around the room a lot, it seemed, and talked to individuals. Got her left and right, right. And demonstrated from locations that were best – didn’t stay up the front all the time. She was here in plenty of time and helped move the chairs. So, five stars from me.

Mark Jenkin, former National PublicAffairs Manager, Australian Bureau of Meteorology


How to get (and keep!) people excited about yoga at work

Yoga at work. Obviously we think it's a great idea: it's our specialty. (Also, infographic on yoga for blokes here.)

When we did our survey, a fair number of you wanted to know how to get people excited about yoga at work. It's true: running successful and well-attended yoga classes at work can be a challenge, even if you and your colleagues really do love yoga.

So we thought we'd ask the organisers of a couple of the longest-running and most successful MmYoga classes for their expert tips! 

Alyson has had MmYoga classes running consistently in her workplace for about five years; Rosanne for about four.

How do you go about organising for people to get involved? 

Both Alyson and Rosanne use email to gauge interest and inform people about classes, and Rosanne also uses word of mouth.

“About three weeks prior to the end of term, I send out an email to the group asking for their intentions for next term,” says Alyson. “So I need to know if they want to continue, and if so, how many sessions are they wanting to attend,” she says.

Flexibility with the number of sessions helps, Alyson says. At her workplace, the terms are 20 classes long, but participants are able to attend 5, 10, 15 or all 20 of those sessions, which allows them to work around annual leave. 

“I keep a list of email addresses of anyone who has EVER expressed an interest in anything remotely related to yoga,” says Rosanne. “We also have a social yammer network at work and this has been used occasionally with mixed results,” she says. 

Both Alyson and Rosanne say it helps to occasionally open the invitations to classes out beyond the current list of attendees.

“If it looks like I'm not going to get the numbers, I send out a global email to all people in the building, with a bit of a spiel about the yoga,” Alyson says. “I always get a lot of interest from this,” she says.

Rosanne says she has found it useful to have an ‘open’ class towards the end of a term and invite people who haven’t already enrolled in a term to come along and try.

How do you keep them involved?

Alyson says people are more likely to stay involved if they feel like the space is a safe one and that people from all levels within the organisation can feel comfortable in. 

“We also have a bit of fun, and joke around a bit so everyone feels comfortable,” Alyson says. 

Money also comes into it. Alyson says keeping the numbers up means the cost is more manageable for everyone, and this is something she is clear about when she’s organising the classes — which encourages people to recruit their friends and colleagues to come along too. 

Having one term roll into the next helps to keep the enthusiasm up too, Alyson says. (Building a habit helps keep up the enthusiasm in a home practice too — here are some tips about how to do that.)

What are some of the challenges of organising a yoga class in a workplace?

Alyson says that finding the time to keep things going and keep the lines of communication open can be difficult at times because there is quite a bit of organising and chasing people involved. There are also lull periods where the organiser needs to amp up the advertising to get the numbers. Rosanne says it can be difficult sometimes to find an available space in which to hold the class. 

Tips for meeting the challenges

While every work place is different, Alyson and Rosanne have some good general tips for getting around some of the logistical challenges of organising yoga at work. 

“It really is about making everyone aware of it,” Alyson says. “So talk about it, publicise it, get it talked about in the workplace,” she says. Getting the support of the Workhealth team or Occupational Health and Safety representative is useful too.

Being knowledgeable about the bureaucratic ins-and-outs of the organisation really helps, Rosanne says. 

“And, trite but true — professionalism and being courteous always helps,” Rosanne says. 

Unexpected benefits

The challenges of organising yoga at work are worth it though. Rosanne says she’s had good recognition from her workplace for organising the yoga classes.

“I used to worry about the potential for injury (even minor) of a work colleague during a yoga class that I’ve organised,” Rosanne says. “I feel responsible for their safety (particularly for new participants). On the other hand, I also get a nice warm-fluffy feeling thinking that I’ve contributed in a small way to peoples’ health,” she says. 

Alyson has noticed a huge improvement in workplace culture: people from different teams talk to each other, and people from all levels come along - from junior to senior.

Warm and fluffy, plus a better work environment. Yay!

yoga at work

What style of yoga do mm...Yoga! teach?

Good question. We teach what can really be best described as 'corporate yoga'. I.e. people will get challenged, but the pace isn't too fast as it's silly to expect folks to come straight out of work mode & meetings and into a very fast moving yoga class where the risk of injury exists.

 We sometimes call it 'slow power yoga' so that people know they will be doing lots of lunges, squats, and planks, but that they won't be moving as fast as in a traditional vinyasa class.

We do a lot of strength and postural work, too, so people can get through their daily lives feeling more physically comfortable and calmer.

 Here's a sample of how a mm...Yoga! class might look:

  • Start in savasana (lying on your back) with breath awareness
  • shoulder warm ups
  • cat-cow
  • down dog (where we asess what people’s shoulder girdles are doing and their hamstring mobility)
karen down dog
karen down dog
squatting is good for you ass-ana!
squatting is good for you ass-ana!
  • short rest on back, then core work, bridge pose, maybe side plank if appropriate:
  • reclining twist
reclining twist
reclining twist
  • savasana (guided relaxation)