Office Yoga: Some poses to help us relieve tension & stress.

yoga-office

A popular resolution heading into the new year is to be “less stressed” in the workplace (lets face it- it’s hard not to be at times- especially after the holiday season!) So I’ve reached out to Jennifer Toste, founder and instructor at Love Life Yoga studio located in Woodbridge, ON, and asked her to provide us with some yoga poses and relaxation techniques that will help us keep our cool under pressure and that can be done in the comfort of our own offices/workplaces.

She was kind enough to provide us with this:

“The holidays have come to an end, and despite the happiness and joyful times we are able to experience, the holidays can sometimes have the effect of leaving us even more stressed on top of the daily stress we were experiencing up until those longed-for days off!  As you return to your office, make a promise to yourself this new  year:   commit to incorporating 5 simple yoga poses into your work day that are easy to do, right at your desk, and whose benefits you surely will reap daily.   Be sure that whenever you practice any yoga pose, you take your time, listen for any pain (it’s a warning!), and breathe deeply through each pose.  Remember this is supposed to alleviate tension and stress, not add to it!

Begin with a gentle Neck/Head Tilt:

Sit up nice and tall in your chair at your desk or standing. Simply inhale through your nose and let your right ear fall towards your right shoulder, without any forcing, take two or three more inhales and exhales, feeling tension release through the side, tilt your head forward and towards your right arm pit and take two more breaths, helping to stretch the front of your neck.  Gently roll your head back up and take a breath with your head facing straight, then repeat on the left side.

Shoulder Stretch and Forward Bend

Standing tall with room in front of you, draw your hands behind your back and interlace your fingers.   Keep your feet hip distance or wider apart and your knees softly bent.  Inhale and lift your chin, feeling your spine grow long and then gently roll forward allowing your heart to come towards your thighs and your nose to face your knees.  If your shoulders are very tight, you might just leave them on the low back, or move the hands to your hips, if you want to experience a stronger stretch through the shoulders, then allow the arms(while hands still interlaced) to come off the back and fall towards your head.  Breath here and then gently roll up, while the feet remain firmly planted to the ground.

Seated Twist

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To bring relief and release of tension to the spine, bring in the practice of a seated twist, even a few times a day can really revive the spine!  Sitting on your desk chair, with knees hip distance and feet firmly planted on the floor, feeling a sturdy connection of the buttocks to the seat, gently inhale and feel yourself sit up very straight, then gently turn towards the right, bringing your left hand to reach for the right knee, while the right hand can rest by your right hip or even hold the back of the chair.  With every inhale the spine feels like it is lengthening, and on each exhale the twist may feel like it can be deepened.  Really remain calm and breathe deeply, when you are ready to release, exhale and turn back to center, take a moment or two, then repeat to the left. 

Half Downward Dog

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Standing about arms length from your desk, place your feet hip distance apart.  Keeping a gentle bend in the knees, inhale and feel your spine grow taller and lift your arms up, palms facing each other, gently begin to come forward, keep your core engaged, and let the hands come to rest on the desk, putting your body in a L-shape.  Allow your heart to relax towards the floor and your chin to come towards your chest, and feel as though you are lifting your hips.  Ensuring your breath remains steady, continue to breathe deeply and feel your spine getting longer, relieving compression through the spine and softly stretching out the backs of the legs.  When you are ready, press your feet firmly into the ground and roll up slowly.

Last but not least, a breathing exercise, an essential part of the practice of yoga, and a wonderful way to calm the mind, and bring clarity and peace throughout a busy work day:
Sitting comfortably in your desk chair, hands resting on your thighs, close your eyes, and bring your focus to the sound of the inhale, as you breath in, count to 3 (this can become 4 or 5 depending on what you feel is comfortable or after some practice), hold your breath for 3 seconds, and then slowly and gently exhale for 3 seconds, and hold your breath for 3 seconds.  Do this 3 to 5 times, keeping your attention on your inhale and exhale, and this will help to bring the mind into focus, and allow a few moments of quiet to be had.

May this easy and simple sequence of poses help to bring you relief and relaxation as you work hard day in and day out, and may your new year be blessed with focus, good energy, good health, and joy.”
Namaste,

Jennifer Toste

To learn more about Love Life Yoga studio visit: www.lovelifeyoga.ca or find them on facebook at: www.facebook.com/lovelifeyogastudio

Internet Security

‘Tis the season for reflection of the past year and planning for the new year. Internet Security

To help you with your business resolutions we’ve reached out to multiple professionals, in various fields to chime in on what we believe to be very important areas of interest for you and your company.

This next blog covers areas of internet security- something that we all should be taking very seriously given how fast technology is moving and how clever some scams have become! When we asked George Gojmerac, web developer and technology tutor for his company ‘Mr. Tutor-Tech’, to guest write for us on the topic- here is what he shared:

“ When you see articles about stolen account information from some of the biggest companies in the world (Facebook, Twitter, Adobe), the ones that pay huge amounts of dollars on security, have the best equipment and some of the top minds, you should stop and ask yourself how important is my information and what can I do to keep it safe?

Using things like firewalls, anti-virus and intrusion prevention software are a very good start. The easiest way you can compare all this to an adult is through sex. You try to avoid catching some type of STD, what do you do? You can only say no so often (intrusion prevention), eventually it’ll happen and you’ll need a condom (firewall) and then if you do catch something you’ll need a shot (anti-virus) and hope it’s curable otherwise you’re infected.

Some of these methods like the firewall try to keep things out but users end up inviting things in as well, kind of like not wearing a condom, you’re taking a chance. Clicking on an emails Excel attachment (watch out for macros) for example could put you into a world of hurt, it would be nice if there was an “Easy Button” for this but there’s not, just like schools have adopted Sex Education so should people today be Computer/Technically Educated.

If you need internet for your company provide only access to what people need, don’t allow them to just visit pages aimlessly not only will this reduce them from wasting time surfing but it’ll keep your network safer. You should also consider locking down things like USB ports and CD drives so they can’t be accessed and prevent users from being able to make changes to these settings as well by password protecting it. I’d recommend doing this through the BIOS so that they can’t boot the system up using something like a Linux boot and bypassing any Windows security you have in place, this can still be circumvented but not without opening up the computer and getting inside of it. Not all company security breaches come from the internet though- someone simply placing a CD on a company desk with a company logo and having something like “top secret” written on it will do the trick if someone wants to swipe information. Also anytime somebody leaves their computer they should lock it, it doesn’t even hurt to have it automatically lock after a few minutes just in case they forget.

Another way to get someone infected is through Social Engineering. This requires hackers collecting and building information on a target then tricking the user into doing something. Simple versions of this are easy to spot, like that email from your dead Uncle in some country you’ve never been too or don’t even have a single relative near, others might involve them posing as a friend and using their email which is noticeable but sometimes a little harder to spot. Other tricks include emails from someone pretending to be a bank for example; they trick you into clicking on a link that takes you to a fake page that looks just like your banking page (phishing). Then you enter your information not noticing a tiny detail in the address bar that would have made you think twice about doing it! But now it’s too late….

Back to our firewall for a second, sometimes you might need something like a connection to a Remote Desktop on your computer so now you need to provide a hole in your firewall to do this. If you’re thinking about putting holes in a condom now, get your head back in the game that analogy stopped a few paragraphs ago. So now you have this hole in your firewall, one thing you can do to improve its security is create a VPN (Virtual Private Network) this would require you to know certain settings so that you can connect through the internet using an encrypted network so that anybody listening in won’t be able to read what you’re transmitting.

Thought I’d save the best for last, encryption is when you take a signal and mix it all up in a particular way where only the other party knows how to put it back together properly. This is done occasionally on some web sites, typically login pages to get onto things like email accounts which are usually encrypted as well. You can tell if a web page is encrypted or not by looking at the address bar, if there is an “https” like what we use for our site “https://mr.tutor-tech.com” then you’re safer, if you see “http” or neither of these then it’s unencrypted. To encrypt information the site needs to obtain a certificate, they can issue this themselves possibly to trick you so if you see the “https” being highlighted with a red colour or an x through it then this means the place that issued the certificate wasn’t registered and might not be trusted. Basically you’re using it at your own risk, even if it’s green (legit) doesn’t really ensure your safety just means they purchased a legal certificate from a reputable site and the traffic is encrypted. Technically the site that issued it to them knows it exists but that doesn’t mean the site should be trusted, if you’re unsure of the company or more specifically the URL, research it and don’t just assume it’s not some type of scam because it has a legal certificate.

Now back to regular web pages and regular email, they are transmitted in plain text and can be read by anybody with a computer and a little bit of knowledge. This means you should be very careful with the information you put or send forward, things like your credit card information, account user name and passwords are a big no, no and a surprise gift for any hacker listening in. Some email clients allow you to send encrypted mail, use this if you absolutely must transmit private information.

As you can see there any many considerations to take into account when addressing internet/network security and although there are no guarantees on the subject staying informed/educated about your options is your strongest asset, especially since you the user are usually the weakest link.

“My name is George and I created Mr.Tutor-Tech with you in mind! We provide flexible inexpensive tutorials designed just for you! Our courses are intended for those over the age of 14. Our hours vary and we do our best to accommodate your schedule 7 days a week. It’s recommended you call and make an appointment before just stopping by as we may have a class in progress.”

Visit https://mr.tutor-tech.com or https://www.facebook.com/MrTutorTech for more information or feel free to email George directly at george@mr.tutor-tech.com.

QR CODES: Friend or Foe?

QR CODE

I have a love/hate relationship with QR Codes- If used properly? They are smart! Unfortunately, they are getting a bad rap because some people took the tactic and transformed it into an oversaturated and now unnoticed gimmick- popping up everywhere, on everything- just because they can. I believe QR codes have a chance to redeem themselves- people just need some direction.

First thing is first- people need to stop adding them to business cards. You don’t need to reiterate a website link on a card that states your URL AND even if it made sense to put a QR Code on a business card? They are usually too small to scan anyway.  They shouldn’t be used on websites, they should ALWAYS work (check your links) and they should serve a purpose- outline a call to action or send you to a page that answers a question on a site that may take a while to navigate (i.e. government sites).

I had a twitter discussion last week about QR Codes and after a back and forth conversation on the topic, I reached out to London graphic designer, Andi Best (www.andib.co.uk) and asked him if he wouldn’t mind sharing his take on QR Codes as a guest blogger. Here is his reply;

“Entering a conventional web address into a mobile browser can be a fairly cumbersome process on the go, which is why most users tend not to bother, hoping instead to recall the URL (or at least some search criteria for it) when they are next at a desktop. QR codes offer a convenient solution to this problem. They circumvent the requirement of typing a flawless sequence of keys with a much simpler single scan of a device camera.
Sadly, convenience tends to be the extent of their implementation despite their great innovative potential. More often than not, when you see a QR code on a poster or billboard, it will be an afterthought ushered in by a half-hearted project manager, insisting it sits beside the full URL, the Facebook icon and URL, the Twitter icon and URL, the various app store badges and every other digital bumf they can think of that does not translate gracefully in print. Treating QR codes as merit badges rather than communication channels actually causes them to get ignored as audiences quickly grow blind to things they see too often in places they expect to see them. Marketers and designers are accountable here for paying little consideration towards the aesthetics of the QR code and simply dumping the awkward black and white mosaic anonymously on an otherwise well-thought-out layout.

From a design point of view, I’ve seen plenty of careless presentations of QR codes. I’ve seen codes printed far too small, or at too low a resolution on product packaging at the mercy of online code-generating apps, resulting in key data getting lost amongst the blurry output that inevitably causes the scan to fail.
I’ve seen ads bearing QR codes scaled proportionately to the rest of the content, but then positioned on billboards which are too high or far away for most device cameras to draw a decent focus on, again rendering them useless.
I’ve seen QR codes tainted by graphics embedded in their markings, tainted by graphics overlaid on the markings and tainted by a number of other visual gimmicks (as if scanning a poster with your phone wasn’t gimmick enough) which potentially skew their usability device-by-device.

From an implementation point of view, a number of ads largely overlook the basic logic of the QR code and its greatest available asset; its ability to offer real-time communication between user, content and location. Where the user is physically standing at the moment they encounter a QR code should be at the forefront of its inclusion in an ad and should also be championed by the supporting design. To give a user digital content that’s topical to the things and places he/she is currently interacting with in the real world breaks so many boundaries of communication that it’s staggering to see how infrequently this is properly utilised.
I’ve seen ads that have wasted valuable real-estate with a scan that simply links to a brand’s homepage, which a user could have easily Googled in the time it took to fire up the scanning app.
I’ve seen codes that scan through to web pages that aren’t optimised for mobile display.
I’ve seen QR codes on ads positioned in underground or enclosed locations where signal reception simply doesn’t exist.
Worst of all, I’ve even seen QR codes in the footers of the websites they point at…Tattooo QR Code

So why isn’t serious use of this technology mainstream? A key argument is that not many handsets come armed with QR scanning technology out of the box, so their reliance on an app makes them feel superfluous. As the audience is pretty slim, investment in clever (and typically pricey) marketing just isn’t happening, allowing a glut of uninspired QR Frankenstein’s to rise up and take over instead.
Marketers and designers are the ones who need to address this, as until they begin presenting QR codes in more innovative ways and with more relevant, engaging user experiences that capitalise on the user’s environment, there is no incentive for the public to regard them as anything other than a fad, and there will be no high demand for handsets to come equipped to embrace them.

Here are a couple of examples of QR codes that have really been put to work:”

http://www.adweek.com/adfreak/tattoo-studios-brilliant-help-wanted-ad-makes-applicants-carefully-fill-qr-code-147693

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2198127/Quick-Response-QR-Beyond-grave-A-funeral-director-launches-revolutionary-way-loved-ones-memory-alive-interactive-headstones.html

http://www.boredpanda.org/26-creative-ways-to-use-qr-codes/?image_id=creative-qr-codes-guiness-beer.jpg

You can find Andi Best on facebook and twitter via the links below:

https://twitter.com/AndiBDesign

https://www.facebook.com/AndiBDesign

I personally love the tattoo shops help wanted ad!

How do you feel about QR Codes? What is the best/worst ways you’ve seen them implemented?

Crystal Lengua