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Improve your code: do yoga

lmeromy profile image lmeromy Updated on ・3 min read

Credit and thanks to Katerina Limpitsouni for illustrations at https://undraw.co/

Disclaimers
I acknowledge and am grateful for my two-fold privilege:
1. I am physically able to do yoga, and 
2. I have a flexible work situation which allows for daily yoga

Anyone who has tried it knows that coding is hard! It is a challenge for our minds as well as our bodies. It certainly challenges me on both fronts. So how can yoga help? 

Perhaps the more obvious benefits are the physical ones. 

1. Get up! Step away from your screen!
We all have heard about how bad sitting in one position for hours on end can be for our health. So taking even a little bit of time to change your physical position from the traditional shoulders-hunched-neck-forward-eyes-strained-face-scrunched is probably a good idea. There are many great poses you can do to counter the most common forms of back/hip/neck/wrist strain that occur when working at a computer all day. 

2. Deeper breathing ==  health
If you are ever stressed (and who is never stressed?), taking a few moments for a couple deep breaths can reduce your heart rate, reduce your levels of cortisol, and help calm you down. Yoga practices often focus on breathing and linking your breath to movement.
A healthier body is not necessary for writing good code, but it is certainly much more conducive to writing good code. 

The slightly less obvious ways yoga may benefit your code:

1. Give your brain a break 
Hopefully most people do this already when spending lots of time and energy on problem-solving and hitting a wall. Often, when I let my brain switch off my problem du jour, I can come back to the problem a bit later refreshed instead of fatigued. 

2. Yoga == self-care 
Software engineering is a challenging profession. Sometimes the technical skills are difficult to learn/implement, or sometimes your work situation is challenging (resource issues, deadlines, stakeholder management, etc). Anything that you can do to help care for yourself will allow you to show up to do your best possible work. 

3. Yoga facilitates mindfulness
Software engineering (as well as many other challenging professions) has a tendency to brew up some serious imposter syndrome. If you can practice mindfulness, then ideally you can learn to allow the negativity that comes up to simply exist and let it go without making it mean anything bad about your skills or worth as a programmer (or as a human being). 

Tips for getting started

  1. Start small. I mean really small if that is all you want or are able to do. Some ideas:      
    • 30 seconds of deep breathing while sitting at your desk
    • Stretch your neck, arms, and shoulders while sitting or standing at your desk
    • 2 minute sun salutation next to your desk, in the bathroom, in an empty meeting room
    • 5 minutes of breathing and sun salutations 
    • block out a specific amount of time each day to do one or more of the above, even just a minute or two is a great start
  2. Slowly build up the habit one day at a time
  3. Be kind to yourself. Just because you don't manage to do 1 hour of power yoga every day doesn't mean you failed and that you should give up forever. Just start again with a small amount as soon as you are able. 
  4. Try out a local yoga class
  5. Try a paid or free online yoga class

Resources

  1. I love Yoga With Adriene: https://www.youtube.com/user/yogawithadriene. She is hilarious, beginner-friendly, and very inclusive. Also...she has hundreds of free videos of all themes and lengths (5 minutes to 1+ hours). What a deal!
  2. Search the internet. There are tons of options. https://www.thecut.com/2016/01/best-free-yoga-classes-online.html
  3. Share any other resources for doing yoga in the comments!

Posted on by:

lmeromy profile

lmeromy

@lmeromy

Environmental scientist/software engineer....and never bored!

Discussion

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Great article, thank you!

 

Solid advice. One can only be truly productive when she/he is happy and healthy 😄