• Health

Why yoga is the ideal way to stay active for freelancers

This is a post from a member of the Freelancers Union community. If you’re interested in sharing your expertise, your story, or some advice you think will help a fellow freelancer out, feel free to send your blog post to us here.

I’ve been a freelancer officially for a few months now, as far as an official label goes. Working as part of an amazing team that has mobility as its core value, I am effectively among awesome people working together from all corners of the world.

This makes me prize the values of freelancing even more, since I’m among likeminded people and we all get to revel in the diversity of our group. Every now and then, someone posts a photo with an amazing view on the common chat group, and they mention it’s their new office window view for the next two weeks. While my lifestyle isn’t as radical as intentionally adopting a new headquarters for myself regularly, it’s definitely swoon-worthy.

I’ve always been a nomad at heart

But the more I move and breathe through our collective of freelancers, the more I realize I’ve always been one, even if not officially.

In the beginning of my career, I used to be a teaching assistant for my university. That meant not sticking to a regular work schedule, coming and going as the classes and my own research needs required. Besides scheduled team meetings and the fixed classes I had with my students, I could come ang go as I pleased. Of course, this didn’t mean less work; on the contrary.

I was popping in and out of the library, I was going with the flow and attending other lectures or conferences with a last-minute decision, and I was taking weeks off at a time to pursue a new research theme in a new field. If you’re wondering what I mean by field, I will clarify: It’s not agricultural. I was an anthropologist, and my time doing field work remains my most treasured professional memory.

Of course, work continued when I got home as well. Tons of emails, applying to conferences and journals, more reading and writing… the hustle never stops when you’re in academia.

After a few years doing this work (which I truly loved and still have much fondness for), I started doing freelance work in digital marketing as a side gig. As the demands of both my "careers" got too intensive for me to be able to afford both, I had to make a choice. I went with digital marketing, because unlike academia, it paid the bills, and I felt like there’s more of an actual future in it.

For a time, I worked with a freelancer regime, even though I had just one main client (employer). But I could do work at my own pace and on my own schedule. Afterwards, I transitioned to a regular working schedule, from an actual office and so on.

There was theoretically nothing freelance-like about it, but the long hours and the demands of the job still meant I took a lot of work home, too. I still remained a digital nomad, and this is probably true of any creative profession. A small degree of freedom and unpredictability is just the missing ingredient that turns your work from functional to remarkable.

Leaving my office job for the next big thing, I found myself officially a freelancer again. But was I ever anything else, at heart? I am proud to answer no to this.

The challenges of the freelance lifestyle

Of course, it’s not all rosy in living the freelance dream. We all know this. Most of the time, it means longer hours than any traditional job. You can’t draw the line at the end of the eight-hour mark and say "this is it, I’m going home." Since you’re home anyway, you’re always tempted to check one more email, write just two more paragraphs to a piece you’re working on...

There’s also the issue of potential distractions, if you don’t make an active effort of reserving a special place for your working time. If you live with family or roommates, they too need to be on board with the absolute priority of not disturbing you while you work, regardless of how available you seem.

This one is less of an issue for me, but I still need to make a conscious effort to carve out time and a place specially set for work. Otherwise, I risk becoming unfocused and working even longer hours than I would have worked in the first place.

Staying active as a freelancer

Also, there’s the matter of being sedentary. While I didn’t pay too much attention to this one in my early twenties (...or late twenties, for that matter), now in my early thirties I am trying to find a solution to this. Especially since I’ve always been up to speed with health topics and I do take care of myself in virtually any other regard, it weighs on me that I move very little. It may not be a huge issue now, but I will certainly become one down the line.

There are other challenges of freelancing we could talk about, but others have done it better than me. Besides, the ones above are the only ones I personally experience, so I’ll draw the line here.

Why yoga is the ideal fitness regime for freelancers

I mentioned I’ve been looking for a way to get more active, even as I struggle with a challenging and very busy freelance work life.

I believe I’ve finally found the ideal balance with practicing yoga, and that it’s the ideal regime for all freelancers. Here’s why.

Yoga is easy to practice both at home and on the run

Do you feel like with your hectic schedule you couldn’t possibly stick to regularly showing up at your gym? With yoga, this isn’t an issue. It’s like modern yoga was designed with the freelancer in mind. You can go to your favorite yoga class from time to time, but it’s also incredibly easy to practice at home, too.

Solitude actually helps you focus better, so the absence of an entire group of fellow gym-goers might be a good thing. At the same time, if you prefer attending yoga classes with other people, but you travel a lot, this is also cool. Since yoga is so incredibly popular (and its popularity keeps rising), you’re bound to find yoga classes and a yoga practice almost anywhere in the world. Also, remember that good yoga builds bridges across cultural divides.

Even if you’re in a remote area of the world and feel like you can’t relate very well to the people there due to cultural differences, this all changes in a yoga class. Yogis are likeminded in only the right stuff: while they can be as diverse as possible, they share the same thirst for life and for joy, as well as the same openness towards others.

Yoga is easy to access at home

If the only way you can make workouts fit into your daily grind is by practicing at home, yoga comes to the rescue again. Given its popularity and intuitive moves, yoga is among the best documented fitness practices you can find.

The internet hosts a wealth of step-by-step resources for practicing yoga by yourself, from articles to videos. You just need to get started and the rest is pretty much covered.

Yoga helps improve mobility for people who spend a lot of time at the desk

If you spend a lot of time working from a desk (as a freelancer, how could you not?), then yoga is the perfect practice for you. It helps counteract the damaging effects of sitting even more so than stretching or similar practices.

Basically, after you become more experienced with yoga, you can create your own routine that shouldn’t take you more than 15 minutes. Do this once or twice a day when you take breaks and your body will thrive in spite of the long hours spent sitting.

Yoga prevents back problems

The benefits of doing yoga as an otherwise sedentary person go beyond simply improving your overall mobility and keeping you fit. Freelancers who work primarily from their desks are more prone to developing back issues. You’re probably already aware of this, since it’s nothing new, but it’s worrisome nonetheless.

One of the go-to fixes that fellow freelancers reach for is investing in a standing desk. I’ve tried one myself at some point and I wouldn’t say no to it again. But while the variety is useful and definitely brings relief for my back, I, for one, couldn’t spend all my time working like that. I still need the comfort of sitting for at least half the time I spend working.

Luckily, yoga is great for people like me, because it prevents back problems and even reverts pre-existing back issues. One more reason why it’s so great for freelancers!

Yoga helps you be more present in the moment

Another challenge of the freelancing workstyle is to be too all over the place all the time. The pace is intense, you want to get a lot done quickly, and before you know it you’re down the rabbit hole of rush and confusion.

For your mental hygiene and your emotional well-being, you need to master the art of removing yourself from the hustle. This is another thing that yoga is great for. It provides not only a temporary escape, but it also teaches you mindfulness and a better awareness of what you do, how you do it, and how you can improve.

Yoga means connecting with people across cultures, much like freelancing

Another perk I personally enjoy from everything that yoga offers is the great variety of people you can come in contact with. Regardless of what continent you come from or your life story so far, if you’re a yogi you can probably connect well with any other yogi, because you already share so many common values.

You can also be sure that when you travel for work or for leisure, getting in touch with the local yoga community will be much like having a support network in place.

A yoga retreat is a deeply reviving experience, ideal for a lifestyle reset

In spite of all the benefits of yoga discussed above, the truth is that your schedule and your lifestyle will still become hectic from time to time. We’re only human, and being freelancers means living everything more intensely… including work.

But you know what works to give yourself a general reset and refresh your life? A yoga retreat is like achieving deep relaxation and then getting a turbo boost on everything. New energy, new optimism and new plans are just a few of the known effects of going on this kind of vacation.

As I write these lines, I’m preparing for a bit of travel of my own. First, I need to get to Seattle for business (attending the MozCon conference), and then I’ll get about 10 days of relaxation and immersion into different cultures. Spain and Portugal are my destinations for this second part of my travelling journey. As a person who is still an anthropologist at heart, being a freelancer and this incredible mobility are the only way I can imagine living.

I hope I’ve inspired some of you to find a way to stay fit, and to ask life for more. Regardless of whether you choose yoga for this or not, stay present and enjoy the privileges the freelance lifestyle offers.

Miriam Cihodariu is in charge of the BookYogaRetreats blog and has a background in anthropology, which makes her completely fascinated with cultural expressions. When she's not doing marketing stuff, she drinks tea or pets the neighborhood cats. She relishes the rare spare moment to write about something she loves and tries to make the most of it.