Here’s what you need to know about stress: our bodies have learned to deal with physical stressors (things that cause stress) by using the “fight or flight” response. This means increased adrenaline, breathing, heart rate, sweat, etc. Basically, the body sacrifices the ability to think clearly and to digest, diverting blood from our internal organs to the limbs so that we can run faster, fight with more strength, and generally fend off any physical threat.
This was a great evolutionary adaptation for thousands of years – when large predators (i.e., hunting cats, bears) were a serious threat to survival. Unfortunately, evolution is a slow process, so this archaic method of dealing with stressors (predators) doesn’t transfer well to modern society.
Nowadays most stressors are psychological rather than physical – meaning the rush of adrenaline, increased heart rate, and high blood pressure do nothing except hinder us. That’s why it’s so important to manage stress… specifically work-related stress!
Stress (and poor posture) tends to build up in the muscles; we find ourselves tensed and hunched forward. Stretching is a wonderful way to relieve this built-up tension. A study by Gura (2002) polled two different companies, one law firm and one telecommunications company, on their stress at work – before and after a lunch-time yoga program was put into place. Self-reported stress at work dropped by 46.62% in the telecom company and 46.42% at the law firm after completing the 8-week yoga program.
That’s not to say that you must perform yoga in order to relieve stress at work – simply utilizing some breathing techniques or light stretches are enough. Try the world’s greatest stretch! It’s a combination of 4 yoga poses and it targets many muscles in a short amount of time. Here’s a video tutorial:
Here’s a tutorial for a great warm-up routine dubbed the “world’s greatest stretch”. More exercise videos to come!
Athletes’ Advantage Physiotherapy: World’s Greatest Stretch
Gura, Shira. (2002). Yoga for stress reduction and injury prevention at work. Work, 19, 3-7.