After-work yoga with the Krones health insurance scheme (BKK) – so you can start your evening fit and relaxed

I presume everyone is familiar with the following situation: after a hard day’s work, on your way home more often than not you’re already looking forward to flop down on the couch and relax. On the other hand, there’s your guilty conscience telling you that after you’ve spent the whole day sitting in front of your desk you know damn well that a bit of exercise wouldn’t come amiss. Now how do you solve this dichotomy between the “lazy you” and your smart “superego”? After-work yoga is the perfect answer to that question.

From 21 March to 23 May 2018, I attended the “Hatha Yoga” prevention programme offered by the Krones health insurance scheme, coached by Sylvia Hecker. Hatha yoga focuses on slow and relaxed exercises. In parallel to the various breathing exercises, changing poses are mindfully adopted. Since I was absolutely fascinated by the eight dates scheduled, I asked some more detailed questions of Sylvia Hecker.

Sylvia Hecker, you’re a trainer for Hatha Yoga. Why did you and your colleagues decide to offer a course of this kind for the members of Krones’ BKK health insurance?

“As a yoga teacher, I do know, of course, what a huge number of advantages can be gained from yoga. It’s a wonderful instrument for countering stress and tension. In addition, yoga is also an efficient method for strengthening the musculature, so that it is simultaneously an ideal prophylactic for preventing typical office pains. Practised regularly, it also improves our resilience, and renders us calmer in everyday life, so that we’re simply better able to deal with the challenges we encounter. Since my colleagues had already become acquainted with my instant relaxation method, their curiosity was piqued to give yoga a try as well. As a company health insurance scheme, we are, of course, very keen to offer a program with these advantages for our members. So straight away our conference room was repurposed as a yoga training room, and the new program posted on the notice-board in Neutraubling. The buoyant demand thus triggered encouraged us to pursue this approach.”

In your training sessions, there was invariably a focus on breathing exercises. What advantages do these give you, and why are they so essential for Hatha yoga?

“Our body controls our breathing through the parasympathetic nervous system, as it does our digestion, for example. The processes run subconsciously, meaning we don’t have to do anything to keep them going. This is why in our everyday life we don’t focus on our breathing. But due to our fast-paced, hectic lifestyle, most of the time our breathing is too shallow, too quick, which ultimately results in us not breathing in enough oxygen. This, in turn, leads to poor concentration and an inner unrest. Our mind and our breathing are best friends – when one of them is worried, the other will follow. But when we now funnel all our concentration on our own controlled breathing, this will transport us to the here and now. Our breathing is deeper (abdominal breathing), which renders us calmer and more relaxed. During the physical poses in yoga (asanas), we use breathing techniques (pranayama), so as to enhance our stability, to optimise stretching and to find peace within ourselves – even if the asanas are in fact very exacting! This approach is integrated into our subconscious, which in turn results in our responding with a relaxed calm to challenging situations. What’s more: yoga without combined breathing is not true yoga, because our breathing is the link between body and mind.”

A current trend in the cosmetic and fitness sectors is detoxing. Why, in your opinion, does one hour of yoga in this context help more than a detox face mask?

(laughs) “…there’s nothing wrong with a detox face mask, of course, but we should bear in mind that up to 70 % of all detoxing is done through the breath, 20 % through the skin and only 10 % through the excretory organs. Irrespective of this, our body sees to detoxing itself – and this it does 24 hours a day. Our stress-laden everyday life, though, leads to hyperacidity in our body. But we can give it some extra support during the purge-and-detox process. Besides breathing, there are a whole lot of asanas that stimulate our metabolism and the organs’ activities, and are thus instrumental in improving the detox process. Here’s an example: the spinal twist, thanks to the twisting movement in the middle of the body, massages the abdominal organs and upsizes the flow of energy in the vicinity of navel, kidneys, stomach, small intestine, liver and gall bladder. More blood flows through the organs, thus helping to flush out acidic toxins. So when adopting this posture, you’re actively doing something good for your body, your mind AND your soul. This is why yoga, in comparison to a face mask, is so much more efficient that you cannot in all seriousness compare the two. Radiant appearance and beauty come from inside a person. Needless to say, a healthy, balanced diet consisting of loads of fruit and vegetables is indispensable. And our body also needs 1.5 to 2 litres of still water a day for it to function to optimum effect.”

How high is the priority you attach to the necessity of relaxation phases in our daily routine? Do you have any other tips, apart from yoga exercises, which we can use to start our evening in a fit and relaxed state of mind and body?

“As a basic principle, regular relaxation phases are very important for us. A tensioning phase must be followed by an ease-of-tension phase, so as to maintain your health and well-being. There’s a Chinese proverb that says: only a relaxed person is a healthy person. These important relaxation phases, however, are something that many people tend to neglect in their daily routine. Often, we don’t even have any sense at all of when we are relaxed and when we’re under tension. Then, for example, we grind our teeth at night because we haven’t come to grips with something and our inner tension has not been released. But only when tensioning and ease-of-tension phases are in equilibrium can we perform well and preserve our health. To regain more inner calm and serenity, it often suffices to perform a mindfulness exercise, a breathing exercise or a short unit of progressive muscle relaxation for a few minutes. Besides yoga, sport is also a wonderful option for reducing stress. But we can also go on a leisurely stroll through nature, so as to regain our inner equilibrium.”

At the end of every yoga session, we were welcoming the relaxation phase. Why is it so important to conclude the yoga session with this phase?

“We finish every yoga session with savasana, the corpse pose, where we lie motionless on our backs. Here, doing nothing is the paramount imperative. This is very difficult at first for most of the participants, since in our everyday lives we are confronted with a perpetual call to action, and have to perform our tasks progressively faster and more efficiently. So we have to relearn how to do nothing and simply relax. During the relaxation phase, our heartbeat and our breathing calm down – the primary focus is now on the regenerative process. Stress hormones are reduced, and the immunological system strengthened. In addition, the final relaxation phases integrates what you’ve learned more effectively into your subconscious.”

And last but not least, here is something you can try out for yourself…

Sylvia Hecker, please give our readers a brief explanation of the “Warrior 1.” What do we have to bear in mind for this yoga pose?

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“With your left leg take a long step to the rear. Turn the foot at the back (the left foot) outwards by 45 degrees and place the foot at the front (the right foot) with the toes pointing straight ahead of you. The left leg is not bent at the knee.

Bend the front (right) leg in the knee by 90 degrees. The knee must not reach a point at which it is further to the front than the right foot, because this would overburden the knee joint. If your thigh is not in parallel to the mat, it doesn’t matter. Instead, concentrate on emptying your mind of all thoughts and worries when exhaling, because then your thigh will at some point be parallel to the mat.

Now raise your arms, and place your palms together. Keep your shoulders away from your ears. It’s all right to open your arms shoulderwide if the first variant is too effortful. Look at your hands.

Hold this pose for approximately three breaths, and then change to the other side.

The Warrior improves our stamina and lends us strength and inner clarity. It stretches the groin muscles and the large hip flexor, which is neglected when sitting, and stimulates the metabolism. For all beginners, though, it’s better to take an experienced yoga teacher at first!”

Sylvia Hecker, thank you very much indeed for your knowledgeable answers, and not least for the stimulating and relaxing course, where we worked up quite a sweat. Without a doubt, in the future we shall continue to be attempting a yoga pose or two. And here’s a note for all colleagues: the Krones BKK offers all kinds of prevention programme for staff insured with the BKK. Has my article motivated you, has it whetted your curiosity? Then lose no time, and register straight away for the next courses!

If you are interested in another kind of yoga, check out this article and learn more about beer yoga!