One of the biggest challenges of the workplace is finding a way to keep employees engaged and active. The responsibility of employee engagement though does not lie only with the organization. Each individual employee has an obligation to not only come to work every day and meet our deadlines, but to also be fully present in our work and contribute our best efforts to all projects. The challenge that we face as employees is to figure out how to stay fresh and engaged in our work throughout our day without taking up time and energy from the actual work we are expected to do.
One of the best ways to do this is to play into what really motivates you, how you think and communicate in the workplace. But, in the end, we all have days where we feel out of sorts at work, where you are unproductive, disengaged and unable to access that efficient work mindset that you know you have had in the past. Some days, being in a role that plays to your strengths and is aligned with your motivations just isn’t enough to keep you engaged as you should be. In this case, it’s not about the role. It’s all about our mindset.
If you have ever participated in an Emergenetics Meeting of the Minds workshop or an Emergenetics Certification class, you have no doubt experienced strange exercises that involve making 8s with your thumb, or letting out a loud (maybe slightly embarrassing) exhale along with the rest of the group. Paul E. Dennison, a professional educator and scientist in the field of kinesiology, along with his wife, Gail E. Dennison, developed these strange exercises, otherwise known as a series of 26 movements called Brain Gym that are specifically designed to encourage brain activity and by triggering both sides of the human brain.
Many of the exercises were based on Paul’s knowledge on the relationship between physical activity and the mind, and how certain exercises enable you to coordinate your brain functions with your movements. These exercises are encouraged by Emergenetics Associates and representatives because they help you to engage your brain in different ways by developing clarity and concentration and by creating a sense of balance, all of which will enhance your own unique way of thinking. I argue that Brain Gym is a secret weapon for increasing employee engagement.
The key to incorporating this exercises into your daily work routine as well as the routine of your coworkers is to take a step back and breathe… no – really, breathe! Brain Gym studies show that controlled and coordinated breathing in whatever action you are doing helps you to find rhythm in your motions and mental engagement, while balancing your level of control over your body. The Dennisons, in their book, Brain Gym for Business suggest exhaling on movements where you are extending or exerting yourself, and inhaling on movements that draw your limbs or energy towards your body. Similarly, this is seen in Vinyasa or flow yoga with different forms of breathing. Ujjayi Pranayama concentrates energy on strengthening the body while allowing your body to experience a form of calmness. The actual meaning of “Ujjayi” describes “victorious” and upward or expanding, and is believed to convey a sense of confidence and power (CorePower Yoga Hot Yoga / Power Fusion Teacher Training Manual).
So, employees who focus on their breathing at work will not only feel a little more powerful in their actions while maintaining their engagement in their work, but they will also be on the path to sustaining a healthier body. Coordinated breathing is proven to: improve oxygen flow to the brain and the entire body, aerate your lungs, relax your central nervous system, and increase your energy level. And, according to Paul and Gail Dennison, “diaphragmatic breathing has been found to improve both reading and speaking abilities,” (Brain Gym for Business). It would be a great exercise to do before you begin your work day, while sitting at your desk, or even before meetings. It’s good to do with coworkers or by yourself.
Brain Gym for Business goes further and gives you instructions on how to get started with your Belly Breathing:
- Place your hands on your abdomen.
- Exhale through your mouth in short little puffs, as if you are keeping a feather in the air, until your lungs feel empty.
- Inhale deeply, filling yourself like a balloon beneath your hand. Arch your back slightly to breath in even more air.
- Repeat steps 2 and 3 over a course of three or more times to establish a rhythm.
Take employee engagement into your own hands! Remember to take a series of controlled breathing whenever you feel like you could use a moment to gather yourself, or when you need to transition into a more focused, engaged role. To boost your brain productivity even further, combine this breathing with other brain gym exercises.