3 Yoga Practices To Help Calm Career Anxieties

By: 
Kathryn Boland RCYT

When it comes to the nature of one’s career, and its future trajectory, there are so many possibilities nowadays. With some working entirely through the “app” economy (e.g. through Uber, Thumbtack, et cetera), and others paying the bills through more than one endeavor (“slashers”—photographer/computer programmer, for instance) the 9-5 lifestyle is no longer the given standard. That's great for increased choice, but it can also bring confusion and the anxiety of the unpredictable. Beyond present feelings, it can be difficult to hold clarity over one’s long-term career direction when so much is “up in the air,” so to speak.

Constantly balancing multiple contacts, responsibilities, goals and more can also be exhausting. Amidst these challenges, yoga practice can help one come to a calm and centered energy, a state in which one can have clearer vision about the road ahead. The following sequence is specifically designed to bring about those effects for anyone—but especially for those grappling with the often unpredictable, complex nature of 21st-century careers.

Alternate Nostril Breath in Sukhasana (Easy Pose)  

Grounding and focusing begins with the breath. Starting in a relatively simple asana (yes, actually meaning seat in Sanskrit) can help to increase that effect. Alternate Nostril Breath, especially when practiced with equal lengths of exhales and inhales, can help to bring balance to one’s overall system. 

It can be customized further, however. For instance. if you feel sluggish or sleepy, lengthening your inhalations so that they are longer than your exhalations can help raise your energy level.  If you feel anxious or restless, lengthening your exhalations so that they are longer than your inhalations can be calming. In your seat, lengthen your spine, yet allow its natural curves to remain. Try to release any tension that you notice, imagining it leaving with your exhalations. In particular, allow your inner thighs and hips to release, so that your sitting bones are grounded in your seat.

If your knees are higher than your pelvis, it is recommended to sit on a folded blanket, block, pillow, meditation cushion or similar support. Tune into the rhythm of your breath, and observe if that might help you remain in the present moment; you can only breathe right now! Scheduling, budgeting, et cetera practical matters might have been chaotic, and uncertain in the future, but your breath can be strong right here, right now.

Marjaryasana-Bitilasana (Cat and Cow Poses Flow)

cat cowCat/Cow is a basic spinal warm-up common to most types of asana practice. Come unto your hands and knees, your shoulders right over your wrists and your hips right over your knees. Spin your inner elbows forward, and spread your fingers wide (like the legs of starfish). Distribute your weight evenly through your hands. Moving from your tailbone, take a deep breath in and sequence through your spine to arch your back upwards. Let your head drop, even looking towards your navel. Breathe out, and move from your tailbone again to let your back drop. Look upward and release any tension you might feel in your face and jaw.

Flow through this sequence, at the pace and range of motion that feels right for your body today. In this sequence, your spine and your breath are constantly adjusting as you continue moving. You are empowered to determine the nature of those changes. That might not always be the case in your career. Flowing through this sequence, however, may help you learn to trust your intelligence—in body, mind, and spirit—to make necessary modifications to inevitable changes. At the very least, sequencing through your spine in this flow can help to release tension that could be blocking greater breath and making you feel stalled and stagnant.

Vrksasana (Tree Pose)

This relatively accessible balancing posture can bring about a sense of firm grounding, combined with upward-reaching energy. Begin by rooting into the foot that will remain on your mat, feeling the triangle of support in the space from the big toe side, to the little toe side, to your heel. Pick up your toes, spread them out, and plant them back down wide and strong. Feel weight evenly distributed through that triangle and all of those toes.

Then walk the other foot up your leg, placing it wherever is comfortable for you today. Avoid pressing your foot into your knee, which can be injurious to your joint. Fix your drishti, your gaze, on a spot ahead of you that is not moving, at approximately eye-level (so that your chin stays parallel to the ground). Start with your hands in Anjali Mudra (palms together at your heart), feeling the strength from your shoulder blades to your hands by pressing your hands firmly into each other. Then, if you feel stable here, “sprout your branches” by raising your arms to the sky with your palms facing into each other (pinkies spinning forward).

Stay here for five to ten breaths. Enjoy your strong and energized, yet calm stability. Your drishti helps you to keep a focused, unwavering vision forwards, even when you might feel like other forces are trying to throw you off balance. In addition, you have grounding in the earth, yet energy rising to the sky. Such a balance, if you can take it from your mat into an unpredictable career, can help you to cope with whatever might veer you from your intended path.

Tree Pose also helps bring us back to the wisdom and stability of nature. Many trees survive for hundreds of years, through storms, droughts, and more. So, we can release unnecessary worrying and tension, and trust our inner vision and strength to see us through the uncertainties and challenges of 21st-century untraditional careers.

If you have any health issues, particularly disc problems, as always, consult with your doctor before starting this, or any other exercise routine. Under all circumstances, if you haven’t exercised for a while, start slowly with a few repetitions, and then build up to 2-3 minutes for each sequence.

Another asana article from YogaUOnline and writer, Kathryn Boland: Twisting Postures for Grounded Flexibility.

Study with YogaUOnline and B Grace Bullock, PhD - BREATHE: Yogic Tools for Happy, Healthy and Fulfilling Relationships.

Kathryn Boland is a RCYT and R-DMT (Registered Dance/Movement Therapist). She is originally from Rhode Island, attended The George Washington University (Washington, DC) for an undergraduate degree in Dance (where she first encountered yoga), and Lesley University for an MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, Expressive Therapies: Dance/Movement Therapy. She has taught yoga to diverse populations in varied locations. As a dancer, she has always loved to keep moving and flowing in practicing more active Vinyasa-style forms. Her interests have recently evolved to include Yin and therapeutic yoga, and aligning those forms with Laban Movement Analysis to serve the needs of various groups (such as Alzheimer’s Disease patients, children diagnosed with ADHD, PTSD-afflicted veterans - all of which are demographically expanding). She believes in finding the opportunity within every adversity, and doing all that she can to help others live with a bit more breath and flow!