Stress-Busting Insights: Q&A with Work From Om® Founder Sarah Vaynerman

  • Brit Hastings
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As a certified yoga teacher and founder and CEO of Work From Om®, Sarah Vaynerman walks her talk. Before launching Work for Om®, she spent a decade working in marketing communications for fast-growing companies where she applied the techniques and philosophies of yoga and meditation to her professional life. Inspired by the noticeable improvement in her productivity, creativity, decision-making, and overall performance, she completed her yoga teacher training and launched Work From Om® with a mission to deliver the same benefits to busy professionals. She’s helped dozens of companies in the NYC area with her research-backed wellness programs, and here she tells us how she applies these same techniques to her day-to-day life in the Big Apple.

YogaToday: Businesswoman. Yogi. Meditation master. You wear many hats and must have a busy schedule! How do you start your day on the right foot?

Sarah Vaynerman: I’m not naturally a morning person, so I prepare myself to seize the day the night before by going over my calendar and to-do list and journaling anything that needs to get out of my head – all on paper. Sometimes I drink a bedtime tea and do a body scan meditation to help me relax into a good night’s sleep. When I wake up, I try not to look at my phone or computer for an hour, instead enjoying quiet time to meditate and stretch and having some coffee before beginning to take on the many demands of the outside world, which often vary from day to day. I recommend everyone pad their nights and mornings with a screen-free hour; It’s truly a gift to yourself.

YT: Okay, so I’m curious because I was recently in New York and found the whole experience to be slightly (okay, a lot) overwhelming … How do you find balance amidst the frenetic city energy?

SV: New York City can be a lot to handle, but this city is also full of sanctuary and wonder. We’ve got some of the best yoga studios and teachers in the country, and practicing at Lighthouse Yoga SchoolYoga to the People II and Dharma Yoga Center keep me centered in my mind and body. Outside the studio, I clear my head by walking across the Williamsburg Bridge, or biking along the Hudson River with views that literally change with the weather, or by curling up to read in a park or community garden. In the summer, I enjoy live music and weekends by the water with great friends. But there are times when the city seems to have no mercy. Thankfully, New York is the best home base for spontaneous travel and adventure which has proven to be a quite effective cure-all for me!

YT: What is your response to people who say, “I’m not good at meditation,” or, “I’m not flexible enough for yoga”?

When people tell me they are not flexible enough for yoga, I repeat a saying I once came across: “Saying you’re not flexible enough to do yoga is like saying you’re too dirty to take a shower.” That usually speaks for itself. I tell people to think of meditation as exercise for the brain, and just like trying to get into a cardio regimen you should start with manageable doses. There is no formula – take it slow and don’t judge yourself. Part of what we do in meditation is separate the witness from the self in order to sharpen our awareness and senses of perception. I would encourage the person who believes they are not “good at meditation” to notice that there is a subject (the witness) placing judgment, expectation and a label on the object (the self). The witness must practice shedding those attachments. It’s not something to be “good” at; It is a practice that is what it is, where it is, at the present moment.

YT: What is your goal with the “Work From Om” movement?

Our goal is to engage, unite and enrich workplaces with programs that promote health, happiness and growth on both the individual and organizational levels. With yoga, we put controlled amounts of stress on the body to train the mind to react with clarity and calm. Our meditation programs use methods that have been studied to improve perceptions of and reactions to stress while increasing focus and awareness. What’s more, our programs give teams a reason to get together and support each other in building positive habits. When employees are happy, healthy and high-functioning, the company benefits greatly. Everybody wins.

YT: Can you share a moment that inspired you from your recent work?

Knowing the positive impact our programs have on individuals is a huge motivator for me. A creative director at a global advertising agency told me that our sessions are the best part of her demanding work week, adding that her appreciation for her employer had grown tremendously since they began offering yoga and meditation. Virtually every time we finish a session with a new group, somebody asks, “Can we do this every day?” The gratitude that we receive from employees who attend our sessions inspires me daily.

YT: What is your personal health non-negotiable?

I don’t eat meat or poultry, but I do enjoy eggs, fish and dairy (in moderation). I try not to drink too much, but I love a wild night out every so often – especially if it’s outdoors and involves live music. I like to hit the yoga studio five times a week, but sometimes three is all I can fit in. I lead a healthy lifestyle, but if I’m being honest, I don’t have one non-negotiable. Just a few years ago, I ate poorly, partied often, and rarely worked out at all, but since I found my practice I’ve naturally developed healthier habits. Sri Pattabhi Jois famously said, “Do your practice and all is coming.” My lifestyle habits continue to refine themselves as my yoga journey progresses.

YT: Do you have a home practice? What does it look like?

As a studio junkie, I use a home practice to counteract the regular butt-kicking that I get from my master studio teachers Yoshio Hama and Jared McCann. At home, I use props like the Dharma Yoga Wheel, the Infinity Strap, blocks and foam rollers and I take it slow. Unless I’m on my roof, I rarely practice vinyasa in my apartment because my space is so small. I do practice inversions at home, holding headstands for several minutes a day for their many benefits and working on handstands against a wall so that I’m better able to keep up in class.

YT: Where will we find you on Friday night?

Friday nights are for winding down, which I often do with my yoga teacher friends in Williamsburg (Brooklyn). Sometimes we take a class together at Lighthouse Yoga School and go out for a big meal after, other times we skip the class. There’s usually a lot of food and wine involved either way.

Sarah Vaynerman is a certified yoga teacher and the founder and CEO of Work From Om®, the New York City wellness company that brings yoga, meditation and mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques to the workplace. With a firm conviction that healthy employees are generally happier, more productive and more likely to contribute to a successful collaborative environment, Work From Om® has helped dozens of companies in the NYC area with research-backed wellness programs designed to reduce stress, improve engagement and teamwork, lower absenteeism and increase employee-retention at the organization level.