Bringing Yoga to a Newsroom or Workplace Near You

By | January 1, 2019

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I have always been a type-A person — I like structure, planning and efficiency — and while that has certainly helped me get a lot done, it has also sometimes pushed me to do things too quickly, to be impatient and to miss opportunities to learn through listening.

Yoga has been the counter to that motor — even when I am upside-down in a headstand. The practice of yoga involves breathing, meditation and postures, sometimes physically challenging ones and sometimes poses that are challenging in their simplicity — like just being still. I have been practicing yoga for nearly two decades, after being drawn to the physical comfort the stretches brought me as a teenager, and completed my 200-hour teaching training in 2011. In recent years, I have brought that practice to The New York Times, where I have worked for over four years and am now a director of communications.

As my fellow yoga teachers LaShone Wilson, Lara Atella and I recently wrote in our guide “How to Relax With Yoga,” “while relaxed forms of yoga are helpful, improving your ability to return to a calm state after stress requires a well-toned nervous system that is resilient. Think of it this way: If we could spend all our time in a quiet, peaceful environment, then stress would not be an issue.” In a previous guide, “Yoga to Make You Strong,” I detailed some examples of physically strengthening postures that also work the mind.

At The Times, I am especially grateful to offer my colleagues an opportunity to stretch and relax in the stressful world of news. Self-care is important because it enables us to replenish our energy in order to be of service to others. We listen better, empathize more and focus.

An important aspect of yoga is the integration of all things (especially the body and mind). When we compartmentalize our lives, we can sometimes miss opportunities for connections and we may not process our pain and trauma. It’s important to be kind to the entire being, all the time, so you can, in turn, be kind to others. As a yoga practitioner and teacher, I have sought to bring yoga into all parts of my life. I practice yoga at home with my 8-year-old son, Kai, and at work with my colleagues, but it is not always easy to prioritize self-care.

Even 15-minute stretch-and-chill sessions, as we call them here — where we close our eyes, deepen our breath and melt our bodies into the ground — can make a difference. (As it turns out, even a conference room floor can be relaxing with a bit of music, lavender oil and intention.) It’s something you could try in your own office or work space and adjust as you see fit. (We adjusted, for example, from our initial 40-minute sessions to better fit our needs.)

At The Times, we also have a Slack channel dedicated to self-care where we share tips and encourage one another to engage in healing practices — including heating pad recommendations and discussions about how to stay organized without overdoing it. This space has been a source of positive energy and has also enabled connections between colleagues of all walks of life, parts of the organization and physical locations.

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And I’m certainly not the first or only person to do what I’m doing. Kelly Couturier, a yoga and mindfulness teacher and author of the Times guide “Yoga for Everyone,” teaches a weekly class at The Times.

As we welcome the new year, I hope that you’ll take some time to experience yoga, or do whatever it is that enables you to feel strong, safe, happy and healthy. If you have never practiced yoga before but would like to try it out, I’d encourage you to start with the 15-minute stretch-and-chill session detailed below, which is appropriate for all levels and requires no knowledge of yoga. (If you have any injuries or special conditions, consult with your doctor first.) Of course, listen to your body — you should feel a challenge of the body and mind in yoga but no pain sensations. If you’d like, you may want to have two pillows and a scarf handy to help with some of the poses, but that is not necessary. A variety of playlists to accompany this practice can be found in the “How to Use Yoga to Destress” guide. And you can join us in practicing it together on Jan. 2 at 3 p.m. Eastern on Instagram and Twitter: @Ari_NYT.


Ari Isaacman Bevacqua, a director of communications at The New York Times, and other staff members use 15-minute “stretch and chill” yoga sessions in the New York City offices to help relax the minds of colleagues in the sometimes stressful world of journalism.Published OnCreditCreditPiotr Redlinski for The New York Times

Easy Seated Pose: Start in a comfortable cross-legged seated position. Allow your hands to rest on your legs. Drop your shoulders back and down. Lift the crown of the head up and straighten through the spine. Close the eyes.

Deep Breathing: Inhale through your nose and feel the air moving all the way down the spine and exhale out the nose all the way back up the spine. Continue with this deep breathing for three more breaths, inhaling and exhaling through the nose throughout this practice.

Give Thanks: On your next inhale, reach your arms overhead and when you exhale, bring your palms together in front of your chest in prayer hands. Close your eyes and pause for a moment to thank yourself for taking the time to practice.

Side Stretch: Take your right arm to the right and bend your body to the right. Your right forearm may reach the ground, or perhaps your fingers or hand reach the ground as you bend. Remember that all poses are equal. Lift your left arm up over your head for a gentle side twist. You can keep your eyes closed or open throughout your practice. Take three deep breaths in the pose. On your last exhale, reach both arms forward and move to the other side of your body, this time stretching your right side as you bend to the left. Take three breaths on this side before bringing both hands forward again. Press into all 10 fingertips in your gentle forward fold before slowly rolling back up to a comfortable seated position with a straight spine.

Shoulder Stretch: Bring your right hand to the ground to the right of you and bring your left hand to the crown of your head. Use your left hand to gently drop your head to the left, giving yourself a nice shoulder stretch on the right side. Breathe here for three breaths before releasing your left hand back down to your side. Switch sides, using your right hand to guide your head to the right and stretching through the left shoulder. Stay here for three breaths. Gently release the right hand. Return to a straight spine.

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Hands and Knees: Inhale your arms overhead and exhale them in front of you, moving onto your hands and knees in what is also known as tabletop position, with your shoulder over your wrists and your hips over your knees. If your knees are sensitive, you can put a pillow underneath them.

Back Bending: Inhale to release your belly toward the floor, looking up and dropping your shoulders back for cow pose, and exhale to round through the back and drop the shoulders down for cat pose. Move through a few rounds of cat and cow poses. The exact poses aren’t important — what’s more valuable is the connection between your mind and body.

Resting Pose: Inhale back into your tabletop position and exhale folding your body backward, resting your hips on your feet, with your hands outstretched in front of you. This position is also known as child’s pose. You can put a pillow underneath your head or your hips if that feels more comfortable, or you can take your knees out wide and lay your body in front of you on the ground or on a pillow underneath your chest.

Massage: Bring your hands by your side and make them into little fists. Give yourself a massage up and down the back (avoiding the spine) and up and down the sides of your thighs.

A Deeper Shoulder Stretch: If your hands can easily clasp each other behind your back from child’s pose, interlace them. If not, take a moment to get your scarf. Return to child’s pose, again putting a pillow under your knees if you’d like. Hold the scarf between both of your hands with the scarf lying across your lower back. Gently lift your hips up into the sky and lift your arms away from your back toward the ceiling. You may slowly roll onto the crown of the head for a deeper stretch if it feels comfortable to do so. Alternatively, you can stay in child’s pose with your head resting on your legs or you can softly turn your head and rest a cheek on the mat or pillow. This pose helps to reverse the experience of being hunched over a computer. You can straighten one wrist and then the other. Take three breaths in the pose. On your last exhale, relax your hips back down into child’s pose and let your hands softly rest by your side. Again, you can put a pillow underneath your head or hips if that feels more comfortable, or you can take your knees out wide and lay your body in front of you on the ground or on a pillow underneath your chest. Take a few breaths in your resting child’s pose before sitting up on your knees. If you have any knee tenderness or injuries, return to a comfortable cross-legged position.

Twisted Arms: For the next pose, take your right arm under your left in front of you and twist your arms like ropes, once or twice (only if you are able to do so easily). Keeping the spine straight, aim to lift the elbows up and drop the shoulders down for a shoulder stretch. Take three deep breaths here before releasing and switching your arms to place your left arm under your right, twisting your arms once or twice and breathing here for three breaths.

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Wrist Stretch: Take a moment to shake out your arms and then straighten your right arm out in front of you. Bend your right hand so your palm is facing outward. Take your left hand and gently pull back the fingers on your right hand to give yourself a wrist stretch. Breathe in this pose for three breaths, going deeper as it feels comfortable for you or lessening the stretch if it feels like too much pressure. Release the right hand and switch to stretch the left hand in the same way for three breaths. Shake out your wrists.

Hug Yourself: Make your way onto your back and bring your knees into your chest. Grab your legs underneath the knees on top of the thighs or over the top of the calves (not grabbing the knees themselves) and give yourself a squeeze. And if you need a laugh — this pose is also known as wind relieving pose!

Release the Back: Begin to rock gently back and forth to the left of the spine and to the right of the spine, and/or side to side.

Release the Low Back: Lying on your back, bring your feet in toward your hips and grab your feet from the inside, but keep them close to the body for an amended happy baby pose. Roll left and right on the low back and hips to release the body.

Twist It Out: Release your hands and drop your feet to the floor close to your hips. Make sure you have a pillow handy for the next pose, a spinal twist. Return to the back with your knees bent toward your body and stretch your arms outward on the floor like the letter T. Keep both knees together and drop them to the left of the body. They can go to the floor or to your pillow as you turn your head to look out over the right shoulder. Try to keep the left shoulder on the ground. Take three breaths here and then bring your knees back to center and drop them to the right again to the floor or to a pillow, twisting your head to the left, trying to keep the right shoulder to the ground. Take three breaths here. Bring your knees back into your chest for a final hug before we move into final relaxation.

Final Resting Pose: For the traditional version, lower the legs out in front of you, flop the feet outward, and release your hands by your side with your palms facing the ceiling. If you’d like, you can put a pillow underneath your upper back with your legs outstretched in front of you. Another option is to bring your feet together and put a pillow underneath each of your thighs for a full release of the low back. Whatever position you are in, close the eyes. Release your feet, ankles, calves, knees, hips, belly, chest, heavy and loose. Release your hands, wrists, elbows, shoulders, heavy and loose. Release your neck, eyes, nose, ears and mouth, heavy and loose. Feel your entire body melting into the ground in savasana pose. Inhale to the word “let,” and exhale to the word “go.” Spend as long as you’d like in this pose.

Coming Back to the Senses: As you are ready, gently wiggle your fingers and toes. Inhale to stretch the arms above the head and the legs outward. Exhale to bring your knees into your center. Keeping your eyes closed, give yourself a hug and gently drop your body to the right. Carefully push yourself up to a comfortable seated position.

Sealing Your Practice: Inhale to reach your arms overhead and exhale to bring your palms together in front of your chest in prayer hands. Peace to the mind, body and spirit.

Happy New Year to you and yours, and namaste!

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