In 2010, technology firm IBM surveyed some 6,500 employees across 16 cities in the US to find out how much time they spent waiting for elevators and inside them over a 12-month period. Turns out that New York workers spent a cumulative time of 92 years waiting for them and 5.9 years inside them. Readers of this newspaper likely to spend a tonne of time in elevators too. This is both limiting and liberating. Limiting because you cannot speak on your phone as the reception is poor. Liberating for that very reason.
There are a number of things you can do in the elevator: Read this newspaper, make a to-do list or fret over a meeting. This is over and above the usual things that we do while stuck in an elevator, which is, stare at the floor numbers and wait for that reassuring “ping” sound that will allow us to scramble out of that claustrophobic space.
Now here’s a thought, and you know what’s coming right? Why not use the few moments to get that dreaded exercise word out of the way. After all, you missed your pilates class this morning. Since the elevator is crowded, try upper body stretches. Clasp your hands behind your back and roll your shoulders back to combat the hunch that comes from working at the computer all day. Look upwards for the full effect. The other thing is to face the wall and flex your feet. So your heel is on the floor and your toes are touching the wall. This gives your calves and lower part of the legs a nice stretch. Lean forward to amp it up a notch.
If you are a start-up entrepreneur, practise your elevator pitch.
The best thing to do in an elevator, however, is to lunge. This is particularly true if it is a small- to medium-sized elevator. You know the kind where you crowd in, shuffle around like a penguin, and hope that everyone is wearing deodorant. This is exactly the size of elevator that is perfect for lunges—if you are alone inside. Spread your feet forward and do, say, 10 lunges. The only problem is if the elevator stops in the middle and people enter. In this case, you have to, well, suck it in.
In Ashtanga yoga, there is a practice called odiyana bandha, which in its original form helps awaken your kundalini and needs to be learnt from a proper guru. The amateur approach has to do with pulling in your stomach, and not just when we pose for a photograph. Trained yogis can suck in their stomachs so that it goes flat below the ribcage. For the rest of us, simply doing the following practice can help. Exhale completely. Pull the stomach in as much as possible. Hold the position. Lift up your diaphragm and hold.
Most of us begin by holding our breath while the stomach is pulled in. But my yoga teacher tells me to gently inhale and exhale using the top part of the respiratory canal while holding the stomach in. Do this for 10-15 seconds. Repeat.
When I first went to the gym, a trainer began my session by making me lie on the ground and do “pretend ab crunches”, or pulling in your stomach without lifting the head like in a normal ab crunch. I can do real ab crunches now, but pulling in the stomach is what I do when no other options are available. The beauty of this practice is that it can be done pretty much anywhere. I do it in a crowded elevator. It has one added benefit: If I hold my breath, I don’t have to smell anybody or anything.
Shoba Narayan routinely lunges in the elevator. Write to her with your tips, tricks and short cuts. She blogs at Shobanarayan.com, tweets at @shobanarayan and Instagrams at #shobanarayan.