The founder and CEO of Universal Power Yoga, Palmer understands firsthand how yoga can enhance both physical and mental health. Beyond increasing strength and flexibility, she says, yoga can alleviate anxiety, improve mental clarity and focus, and even boost creativity: “My best ideas have come to me on a yoga mat.” 

That’s because yoga produces what Palmer calls a “flow state” by synchronizing breath and movement. “In our technology-driven world, we’re losing thBentley alumna Jen Palmer in a traditional tree posee ability to focus,” she explains. “But with yoga, we become fully grounded in the moment. When we’re 100% focused, mentally and physically, on what we’re doing in the present, we aren’t wasting mental energy thinking about the past or worrying about the future.”    

The key to this mental clarity is pranayama, or mindful breathing: slow and steady, engaging the diaphragm, intentionally balancing inhalation and exhalation. Deep breathing has been shown to increase oxygen levels in the blood, reducing heart rate and lowering blood pressure.

“Our breath is a powerful tool,” Palmer says — and it’s one that can be easily employed in the office. “If you find yourself feeling frustrated, overwhelmed or irritated, the best thing you can do is ‘find your inhale,’ or center your breath. Intentional breathing will help you become calmer and grounded, making you a better decision-maker and leader.” After all, she notes, “it’s hard to inspire people if you’re angry.”    

Yoga also helps improve body awareness, which can have a major impact in the workplace. “Most people live from the neck up,” Palmer explains. “But body language is incredibly important, especially in a business environment.” Indeed, studies have proven nonverbal communication is often more important than spoken words in conveying confidence and credibility. Yoga poses, or asanas, not only help release tension and improve posture, she says, but foster awareness of the signals our bodies may be sending; “As a manager, you really need be aware of how you’re carrying your body.”  

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