Secretly incorporating yoga into your work routine can help even the most anxious employees transform themselves into a force to be reckoned with, according to a former TV executive.
Tracy Forsyth, from Richmond, Surrey, who ran the team that brought Strictly Come Dancing to 55 countries, worked in America and reached boardroom level at the BBC, studied vinyasa yoga in her free time and discovered it was a powerful tool at work.
From breathing techniques to help you feel calm to standing tall and powerful during presentations, the mother-of-two, 51, insists subtly incorporating subtle elements of the practice into your day at the office can be incredibly beneficial to staff members.
Tracy, who took on a 200-hour yoga teaching course in 2018, now runs Yoga in The Boardroom, teaching men and women how to use it to build confidence, banish nerves and lower blood pressure before important meetings – as well as boost productivity and mental and physical wellbeing.
Tracy Forsyth, from Richmond, Surrey, who ran the team that brought Strictly Come Dancing to 55 countries, worked in America and reached boardroom level at the BBC, studied Vinyasa yoga in her free time and discovered it was a powerful tool at work
She told FEMAIL: ‘When I first started, I really just wanted to become good at yoga, which I first thought was about mastering difficult poses and balances and handstands, but while I did the course I realised I was bringing so many techniques from the mat into my everyday life at work.
‘Before board-meetings if I was nervous, I was using breathing techniques to lower my blood pressure and calm my nervous system. If I was anxious or worried about public speaking, I would use yoga to keep me feel really powerfully calm and focused.
‘I was adapting poses to do at my desk to release the physical tension of being in front of a screen. If I wasn’t feeling very sure about myself, I would use my posture to hold myself up taller and broader to create a better personal and physical impact and make myself feel more confident.
‘In my everyday work life, I was constantly using the yoga to make me feel empowered and confident and increase my sense of self belief.’ Here she reveals how you can implement yoga into your work routine to boss it in the boardroom.
Tracy suggests trying a ‘belly, chest, exhale’ breath before a big presentation. Breathe in for a count of four and out for a count of four. Repeat two or three times and notice how calm you feel
CALM BEFORE THE BOARDROOM
If you have a big presentation or a difficult conversation coming up and want to feel powerfully calm, try a ‘Belly, Chest, Exhale’ breath.
Let your belly go (don’t hold it in) and breathe into it fully, then let your breath travel up to your chest, expanding your ribs as much as they will go and when you can’t take in any more breath, sigh it out.
Breathe in for a count of four and out for a count of four. Repeat two or three times and notice how calm you feel.
Also, take a moment to stretch out any tension you feel particularly in your neck and shoulders.
A fantastic stretch for this is Eagle Arms: hold your arms out to either side of you, cross them over at the elbows and wrap the bottom forearm up and around the other forearm so they are vertical.
Now clasp your palms together and, without hunching up your shoulders, raise your elbows higher in the air and move your hands away from your face. You should feel an incredible stretch across your shoulders. Repeat on the other side.
Take a moment to stretch out any tension you feel particularly in your neck and shoulders. A fantastic stretch for this is Eagle Arms (pictured)
DEEP BREATHS BEFORE ASKING FOR A PAY RISE
To boost confidence and feelings of calm before asking for a pay rise, try Ujjayi breathing. Ujjayi means ‘victorious’ and it works by lowering blood pressure and waking up the ‘rest and relax’ part of the nervous system. It also brings more oxygen into the lungs as we normally breathe very shallowly.
Extra oxygen is refreshing and revitalises us, keeping us focused. Inhale through your nose with a slight constriction in your throat (almost as if you were going to snort inwardly) then exhale through your nose making an internal sigh.
It’s like you’re making the sound of the ocean coming in and out. Making the noise is important as it helps the mind focus. It’s like a mini power meditation.
Inhale and exhale like this for 10 breaths and you will notice you feel calm and centred ready for difficult conversations.
RE-ENERGISE TO BEAT THE AFTERNOON SLUMP
If you have hit that after lunch slump and need to power up with some energy, try this simple breath technique.
Inhale for a count of four and exhale for a count of two. It’s refreshing and oxygenating, helping you feel super sparky.
RELEASE MUSCLE TENSION AT YOUR DESK
Even though you are at work, there are also lots of stretches you can do at your desk or where you’re working to release tension and limber up without needing a yoga mat.
A build-up of tension and tightness is bound to make you feel irritable and out of sorts and not on your A game. Try this easy desk stretch: interlace the palms and push your hands away from your body and up over your head. Stretch up and over to the side then the other side.
Bring your arms down, flip the palms towards you and twist your body round to one side then the other.
Release your hands and clasp them behind you. Reach down with your clasped hands to your bottom and then lift them gently away from your bottom.
This sequence will stretch out the shoulders, arms and sides of your body as well as stretching the muscles around your spine.
STAND (AND SIT) TALL IN MEETINGS
If you want to make a physical impact, either around a table in a big meeting, when meeting someone for the first time, or even on Zoom, pull yourself up to your highest point possible with a long straight spine.
Imagine you are being pulled by a thread from the crown of your head. It’s pulling you up and up, your neck is getting longer and longer and there is more and more space between your ears and shoulders.
Sit tall during meetings. ‘Imagine you are being pulled by a thread from the crown of your head,’ says Tracy. ‘It’s pulling you up and up, your neck is getting longer and longer and there is more and more space between your ears and shoulders’
Even if you are tiny, this will work. And if you are already tall, don’t slouch to come down to other people’s levels. Take up room, stand or sit to the tallest you can.
Standing or sitting tall will not only make you look more confident but feel it too. One of the simplest standing postures in yoga is called Mountain Pose, because a mountain is tall and strong. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, drop your shoulders and take a moment to feel present.
WHEN YOU NEED TO WIN THE ARGUMENT
Ever notice in the Gladiator films that the warriors open their arms and spread their chest as broadly as they can then swagger into battle?
Not only is rolling your shoulders back and down a great counterbalance to being hunched over on the computer all day but also having a broad, open front makes you look proud and fearless and ready for action.
A really easy way to check you are standing or sitting with a broad, open chest is to lower your hands to your sides and turn the palms to face the front. Now rotate your thumbs outwards and backwards so they are pointing to the back of the room.
This simple movement has the effect of opening up your chest area. When you feel the difference in openness and broadness, lock in that chest position and release your hands to a more natural position.
‘Stretching it all out helps release tension from the body thereby relaxing you and the forward fold helps bring freshly oxygenated blood to your brain giving you a mental boost,’ says Tracy
HEAD TO THE LOO FOR A SNEAKY STRETCH
If you’re back in the office, head to the bathroom or a private meeting room and do this full body restorative stretch. Stretch your arms overhead and reach as high as you can. Stretch over to each side for a side body stretch. Then bend your knees and fold forward from the hips, letting your arms and head hang down.
Take a few breaths there in ‘rag doll’ position. Slowly roll up an inch at a time until you are standing fully upright. Take a moment to centre yourself before moving.
Stretching it all out helps release tension from the body thereby relaxing you and the forward fold helps bring freshly oxygenated blood to your brain giving you a mental boost.
STRETCH IT OUT WHEN WORKING FROM HOME
Make sure you get up from your desk every hour for five minutes and stand up every half an hour and do a full body stretch.
Try my Whole-Body Miracle Stretch: Raise your arms to the sky, bend your knees and fold deeply from the hips so that you forward fold, then go halfway up so your back and neck are straight before folding down again.
Then stretch up with your arms overhead, lean to one side and stretch, lean to the other side, and come back to neutral.
Hold your hands together like you’re hugging a tree trunk and twist around to each side. Then clasp your hands behind your back, lift them away from your bottom and raise them. Do that every hour.
If you do these exercises, make sure you inhale and exhale with each movement because we breathe shallowly when sitting at a desk.
So, if you really want to feel refreshed, take a big deep belly breath and let it travel to your chest and shoulders and then exhale.
Do this 10 times using your full lung capacity. You will immediately notice the difference and how much more productive you feel too.
PERFECT YOUR DESK POSTURE
Sitting for any length of time can cause muscles to tighten up and hips to get stiff. An easy adaptation of the amazing stretch pigeon pose you can do with no-one noticing under the desk, is to place one ankle on the opposite knee so your legs make a figure four position.
From here, lean forward with a straight back and place your elbows on the table with your hands clasped. Not only will you open your hips, stretch out your glutes and thigh muscles but you will also appear very engaged in the conversation.
Tracy Forsyth is the Founder and Managing Director of Yoga in the Boardroom. For more information visit: www.yogaintheboardroom.com