Pros: Simple, small, quick and entertaining
Cons: Not everything will work if you’re in a cubicle
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
First published 4/22/2003
Let’s face it: If exercise isn’t simple and easy, most of us won’t do it. If we can’t fit it comfortably into our daily routine, we’ll never stick with it.
This is, unfortunately, true for so many people. When you spend an hour on the bus or in your car getting to work, work an eight hour day, and spend another hour getting home again, you just want to collapse at the end of it all. The last thing most people think about doing is exercise. But exercise is one of the most useful ways to combat stress and fatigue. In an attempt to make exercise easy, Darrin Zeer brings us “Office Yoga: Simple Stretches for Busy People.”
Zeer starts us off with a few general tips and hints: If a stretch hurts, don’t do it. If you’re in a hurry, do one or two stretches fully instead of trying to rush through a bunch of them. And so on.
Part 1: Morning Eye Openers: Zeer gives us a two-minute meditation to start off the day with, and a few yoga stretches you can do in bed. These are interspersed with interesting quotes. There are additional stretches you can do once you get up (complete with illustrations of someone doing yoga in his pajamas), a tip to remind you to relax while jogging or doing similar exercise, a recipe for a “power breakfast smoothie,” and stretches you can do while in halted traffic (for your neck and shoulders).
Photos would have been better than illustrations for the sun salutation (or more thorough illustrations), I think; it’s a series of stretches that can take a little time to get the hang of. And not everyone will feel comfortable with the suggestion to relax in traffic by singing loudly. But certainly you’ll benefit from following some of these suggestions on your way to work.
Part 2: At-the-Desk Relaxation: Most of the exercises in this chapter you can do while at your desk, even if you’re in a cubicle. Only a few will get you strange looks if a co-worker walks by. There’s material on posture, hand exercises, neck and arm stretches you can do while sitting in your chair, and so on. Some of them have amusing names, like “kick back log-on pose,” “human basketball net,” and “e-mail meditation:”
While you are reading your e-mail, remember to breathe slowly and focus your attention on your breath. Make the out-breath two times longer than the in-breath. This will immediately calm you.
Part 3: Lunchtime Escapes: This chapter starts off with reminders to eat well (fruit, salads, herbal tea) and drink plenty of water. (And you can’t miss the illustration of the woman chugging down an entire water cooler bottle of water!) The stretches in this chapter require some floor space–a private office or gym would be handy.
Part 4: Afternoon Invigoration: Here’s where things get particularly entertaining. The first two stretches are the “crowded elevator stretch” and “empty elevator stretches”–yes, you can even do stretches in an elevator full of people, probably without being noticed. There’s the “photocopier stretch,” and the “late client stretch.” Then there’s the page entitled, “Oh My God I’m Never Going to Make It:”
Take a break, go for a walk, visualize your in-box as fan mail.
Part 5: Evening Balancers: Finally, the book winds up with various suggestions to help you unwind after a busy day, including a brief bit of “yoga for couch potatoes.” You’ll even find a quick help guide, which lists various problems such as stiff neck and shoulders, sore lower back, and low energy, along with the page numbers of exercises that might help.
The tone of the book is playful, interspersing amusing illustrations with hilarious titles and reminders to relax, breathe, and have a bit of fun. This book will fit in your purse or brief case easily (it’s small and thin)–maybe even in a large pocket–so it’s easy to take with you to work. By its tone alone it encourages you to relax and enjoy your work, rather than being defeated by it. The lifestyle suggestions are simple and obvious, but they’re also things that we tend to forget when we get stressed.
Michael Klein’s illustrations are… well, I’m not sure how to describe them, except to say that they keep making me think I’ve picked up a book from several decades ago (particularly combined with the color scheme) rather than something aimed at the modern office worker. They’re amusing, though, and entertaining, and certainly contribute to the tone of the book. For the most part they make the stretches clear, with very little confusion. If you want to see what they look like, there’s a brief preview of this book at www.relaxyoga.com
I like this book quite a bit. If you have trouble fitting yoga into your day, or you just need to loosen up a little at your job, this book will help you see how to do that. The stretches provided are the perfect thing to help you relax and get you moving, without requiring you to take an hour out of your day. And the lifestyle suggestions are handy too–sometimes we really do need to be reminded to take a moment out to just breathe.
I think it would help if you already had at least a passing familiarity with the most common yoga stretches and how to do them (or if you had another book that detailed the poses more thoroughly), but you don’t need that for the basic stretches, certainly. No matter what your level of experience, this book should have something useful for you.