“You guys really need to exchange ideas!” That’s what my friend Verena kept saying about Kirsten and me. At some point, this exchange finally happened and it turned out: We actually have a lot to say to each other! Kirsten is not only a marketing manager, but also a successful yoga teacher and podcaster. She launched her 14-week online program “Office Balance” to bring more balance into the office. I had a chat with her about this topic.
Dear Kirsten, thank you so much for being here! Please introduce yourself briefly to the readers!
Hi, I’m so happy to interview with you today, Doro! I’m Kirsten Schneider, yoga teacher, marketing manager and podcaster. I’m on a mission to bring more relaxation to the offices of the world with a targeted 14-week online program “Office Balance”, live webinars and my podcast. I combine the world of management with the world of yoga and also bring in many aspects from my world travels, which I had the pleasure to learn through other cultures. Readers can also find more of my story on my podcast.
You are passionate about teaching yoga. When and how did you start practicing yoga yourself?
I was at the point in my career in 2018 where I realized that long days at a desk weren’t leaving me entirely unscathed. I was struggling with back pain, tension, and also stress-related sleep issues and felt my batteries were draining pretty quickly.
In 2012, I first became aware of yoga during a relaxation seminar. As a group fitness instructor, I had been practicing autogenic training at the end of my workouts with participants for a very long time. My first yoga class in 2012 as a participant showed me that there is a lot of potential in it for everyone. At first, I was put off by the yoga image that it is only for limber people – but I have been anything but limber and am more in the shortened muscle category. The more I gave yoga a chance and the less I compared myself to others on the mat, the more I found myself.
I was and still am captivated by the fact that even short and targeted exercises can be super effective. That’s why in my programs I also follow the mission to accompany the participants holistically with 5 to 30 minutes, both at work and in everyday life at home. Because at the end of the day, my learning from numerous yoga classes is that if you don’t integrate elements into your daily professional life as well, the consequences of stress and long periods of sedentary work will not go away. So an evening yoga session is just a drop in the bucket. It needs a holistic, time-efficient integration.
What made you decide to train as a yoga teacher?
I made a clear break in my professional career in the spring of 2019. I traveled around the world for a year to first primarily find a solution for myself on how I want to deal with stress in everyday life. Which exercises help me physically and which ones help me mentally?
In the first months I had a wonderful meeting with a great person who recommended the yoga teacher training in Rishikesh India as well as the Vipassana Silence Seminar. Looking back, this was one of the most formative moments and the best decision in my life to train as a yoga teacher.
At this point I can also recommend the training to every yogi who does not want to teach, because you learn so much about the technique and philosophy. Very valuable for your own yoga practice as well as for everyday life.
Where did you do your training?
I was intensively in Rishikesh for one month and was able to experience the culture of India first hand, but also to dive intensively into yoga. The training was super multi-layered and I was able to take different techniques from Hatha to Vinyasa Yoga to Yin Yoga and adapt them for my goal of a “holistic yoga program for the workplace as well as for the home” with my know-how from the management world.
Did you already know during the training that you would like to focus on office yoga?
My goal from the world trip was to find a way for me primarily that supports me holistically in everyday life. That means a yoga program that offers me yoga at the workplace and accompanies me before and after the workday. Office Yoga was an obvious choice. The idea of an ondemand, flexible, time-efficient and everyday program came to me during the Vipassana Silence Seminar.
After a few days, when I had completely arrived at myself in the process of silence, a voice inside me became very loud: Bring relaxation into the management world.
I’m a person with a lot of drive and positive energy who goes full throttle at work. But to balance that out, you also need conscious breaks in your everyday life. But the offer was simply not there on the German-speaking market. Apart from 3 YouTube videos, there was nothing to show how to do something good for your back in the office, flexibly and at your own pace.
So I tested a program myself, developed and improved it in the course of company yoga cooperations, and finally launched my first holistic online program/online course “Office Balance”.
Why did you choose this particular topic?
Stress is one of the main stress factors in management. Over 66% of employees suffer from stress, every second sick leave is due to muscular related issues that come from sitting for long periods of time. As I have seen it myself with each year of my career, what stress does to the environment as well as to oneself, it was clear to me – I want to work to change this!
As a trained business yoga teacher myself, I think yoga fits perfectly into the office, even better than other forms of exercise. How do you see it?
The beauty of yoga in the workplace is that it’s not only good for the body, but it also brings people back to themselves and reduces stress levels. So yoga has a great advantage. I’m a big proponent of yoga in the workplace. But that doesn’t have to be just physical yoga exercises, that can also be, if you look at it according to the yoga philosophy, simple things like “moving in nature”, practicing “serenity” and just connecting with breathing or sharing with people to bring variety into the workday.
Your program is about balance, as the name suggests. What does balance mean to you personally?
If you imagine life as a pendulum between the poles of “giving everything” and “relaxing”, balance for me means letting the pendulum swing from right to left again and again in order to recharge the batteries, to come back to yourself. Balance for me means to get a holistic conscious picture of oneself and to understand one’s needs more with each day in order to be in balance in the long run.
It would be a lie and an illusion to say that there are only positive energy days and that you can always go full throttle. That’s not how it is in reality and certainly not under the current circumstances in the management world. Balance means consciously allowing myself longer recovery phases after high-peak work phases and also consciously incorporating breaks into my everyday life.
How do you balance work and free time yourself?
I see balance in the entire course of the day. For me, balance means consciously starting the day and, of course, days off look different from work days. On a work day, my day starts with small conscious activities like short check-ins:
- After waking up
– Mindfulness meditation into the body for 2 minutes
– Consciously drinking the first glass of water
– Circling arms three times and stretching upwards
– Do NOT look at your cell phone first, but first arrive at yourself WITHOUT thinking about the day’s to-dos.
- – During the work day: 5 breaks in the work day:
– Micro-break 5 minutes per hour
– Mini-break 10-15 minutes 2x a day
– Recovery break // Lunch break 30-45 minutes
- The time after work is flexible and I deliberately alternate it.
– 1 free evening a week just for me!
– Get out and about to get some fresh air, sports that stimulate the cardiovascular system, meeting with family and friends
– Time for me
Now this sounds like a gnarly program, in the end it’s not time intensive at all. It all starts with 1) setting one as a priority, 2) understanding that our health is the most valuable asset we have, and 3) understanding that when we give ourselves breaks, take time for ourselves we have more energy for the job as well as our personal lives.
However, I would also like to relieve readers at this point that it doesn’t happen like this every day for me. There are always days when the schedule speaks against it and you can not follow his routine – that’s life and that is also fully OK. The important thing is to be aware of this and to take care of it / for yourself to get into prevention even in times of health. Because often the motivation leaves us in times when we are doing well. This is exactly the phase in which it is worth staying on to get into prevention, because because of our actions we are exactly in this state of health.
You can learn more about how to bring more lightness into your everyday work with little time investment in my latest webinar.
You travel a lot. How do you manage to integrate yoga on the road?
An important factor when traveling is to make the space for yoga. I’m now on my second trip around the world and an essential factor is 1) blocking out time in my calendar for yoga because I know it will do me good and 2) always having my travel yoga mat with me! This travel mat is foldable and weighs less than 1, 5 kg, making it an ideal companion. I love to practice yoga outdoors as well. But often the reality was that it took place between the kitchen table and the couch. Even there, it doesn’t matter WHERE and HOW you practice yoga, but that you turn your gaze inward while doing yoga. What I was able to observe is that in the apartments or places where I practiced yoga, I felt even more AT HOME, the place felt more familiar to me. As a tip for all those who have problems falling asleep in strange places or feel uncomfortable at first when traveling. Yoga can help you.
What does your everyday life look like today, in contrast to what it looked like before yoga?
Yoga has been a real game changer for my life. I have developed a much better understanding of my body and a valuable awareness of my needs. Accordingly, time for myself and conscious breaks already find more place in my daily work routine than it did before yoga. Yoga has also greatly enhanced my compassion, empathy and serenity.
How did your Office Balance program come about?
Office Balance first consciously came to my mind in the Vipassana Silence Seminar. I knew when I started the journey that if I could find a way for myself to get out of stress and into relaxation in the workday, that it would be a great opportunity for the management world.
I developed Office Balance based on yoga teachers, my practice as a corporate yoga teacher, and my experience as a long day manager. It is based on the insights of yoga philosophy, my interactions with other cultures while traveling the world, and numerous studies of work psychology. It is thus the first course available that combines the world of management with the world of yoga from a manager and yoga teacher perspective. I tested the course with managers and was thrilled with the feedback, so in the summer of 2022 I decided to offer the course “Office Balance- back fit. relaxed. happy.” for both individuals and corporate clients/teams.
Tell us a little more about the program – what is it and who is it for?
The idea behind the course “Office Balance- back fit. relaxed. happy.” is to accompany managers in their everyday life in a very flexible way, according to their own needs in everyday life, with exercises for the office and for home, to encourage them to redesign their everyday life and thus to find a way for themselves in the long term to experience their everyday working life with more ease.
The course consists of 14 modules, each of which offers a triad of yoga on the mat/at the desk, relaxation exercises and reflection. Step by step, participants learn how to make their daily office routine more relaxed, what really does them good and how they can bring more “office balance” into their lives, without a large investment of time. After 99 days, the participant will have all the tools in hand and will be able to redesign his or her life independently and sustainably. Will be more with himself, more relaxed and also happier with his life.
Yoga experience is not a prerequisite for the course and the sessions are guided in such a way that they pick up and take both yoga beginners and yoga professionals ideal.
So could I sign up even if I am a complete yoga newbie?
The course is also ideal for yoga newbies. I’m a fan of putting things simply and sharing yoga in a modern and motivating way for everyone.
Finally, your #1 tip for a balanced daily life?
My secret tip is to consciously do a quick check-in with myself every now and then. To take three deep conscious breaths in and out into my belly and feel into myself- how am I doing right now? How do I feel? What do I need? And then getting into the action, whether short micro, mini or longer recovery break.
Thank you so much Doro, for the opportunity to share with your community my insights on office yoga! For those of you who want to learn more, feel free to check out www.officebalance.de.