Give this world good energy

Please grant me coffee to change the things I can

and yoga to accept the things I can't-

Feeling inspired after a recent ‘Wellbeing Event’ as part of the Women at Leeds Network (University of Leeds) I find myself wondering how at the School of History we can improve our work/health balance. I encourage my colleagues to share their views and it appears office yoga is an activity worth exploring. The class can take place in our main meeting room and the staff can easily access this on their lunch break. Nowadays, lots of us make lifestyle compromises to fit around work and family commitments so practicing yoga at work doesn’t require us to neglect other important aspects of our lives. A few emails exchanged with Emma Mackenzie-Hogg (Get Out, Get Active and Uni Girls Can) and we have some in-house yoga sessions sorted.

They say ‘Yoga is the fountain of youth that you’re only as young as your spine is flexible.’ It is evident soon everyone will be young, with a flexible spine ;) Dr Laura King says: ‘Having an instructor come to us makes it much easier to attend the class and a lunchtime slot is brilliant. It means I actually take a break in the day, rather than eating lunch at my desk, and allows a bit of time to slow down and think amidst a busy work schedule.'

'I must be the most inflexible person here; this should be ‘nteresting' I think to myself. The class starts, I try to keep an open mind but my view of yoga to date is: what a lot of oriental mumbo-jumbo...

It’s incredible how quickly ones’ mind empties from everyday matters with yoga. I sense I'm drifting towards relaxation and at the same time, feeling alert. I become intensely aware of the functioning of my body and my breathing. Erin Pickles comments: ‘I noticed the physical activity helped me focus better in the afternoons and I am a lot stronger even after a small number of sessions.’

For a lot of us yoga is a new thing. We soon discover there is usually an easier way if we need it. We are fortunate to have lovely Pam, patiently and safely showing us how to adapt our poses for our personal limits. With her gentle encouragement I am able to start simple, build on it and take it a little further with each session. To be able to truly relax at work is simply incredible. We are able to switch off both physically and mentally, we quieten the mind and simply breathe. Dr Jonathan Saha says: ‘It was the first time I ever did yoga, I really felt the benefit of it. I have an entirely new relationship with the Grant Room (!) – It is a place of calm for me now.

We return to our desks and we are feeling re-vitalised; no longer that common lethargy that affects concentration; slouching less and making a conscious effort to keep our spines straight. Dr Jessica Meyer says: ‘I am now seeing if I can find a convenient class to attend on a regular basis. I’ve really enjoyed the sessions and been inspired by getting involved with yoga again.’

I read somewhere that in Britain, four-fifths of people don’t get enough exercise. A less-than-ideal fact for lifespans because loss of flexibility is one of the most obvious signs of ageing. Looks like we can all do with a good stretch. Yoga teaches us to savour whatever we do this present moment- to not think ahead to the next thing. As if this isn’t enough, we also look better, improve our muscle tone and our immune system becomes stronger.

For all those reasons I am now a 'believer' and hope you give yoga a try too! Namaste-

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