Workplace Yoga: let’s stretch away stress

Corporate Asanas Are Trending

“Breathe in.”

Eyes closed. Back straight. Mind as blank as you can make it…

“Breathe out.”

Feel your muscles relaxing. The negativity draining away. The tension dissipating…

Corporate wellness programmes are quickly becoming a strategic imperative from an HR point of view – as they rightly should be – but perhaps one discipline has had the most impact on the corporate world.  Yoga. The 5,000 year old physical, mental and spiritual practice is finding favour in offices from Berlin to Beijing.

An increasing number of corporations are making funds and space available for yoga classes on their premises. The benefits of workplace yoga have been seen not merely on an employee’s health and wellbeing, but on the organization as a whole.

In fact, Johnson & Johnson did a study that showed that the return on their wellness programmes was $2.71 for every dollar spent – this means the company saved $250 million* on health care costs over the course of a decade. It should be noted that nearly 50% of employee illnesses are lifestyle-related, so in theory they are preventable.

The trend has gone beyond installing a gym in the office, or offering to cover fitness centre membership fees. Wide-appeal wellness programmes that can be held in office are the norm today. And many companies feel that corporate yoga is a cost effective, preventive and holistic healthcare measure. And yoga is being seen as a winner by HR people looking for significant returns on their wellness investments


The Many Benefits of Workplace Yoga

Corporate yoga can show almost immediate results in some areas – like physical improvements – while mental gains tend to show up after a sustained period of time. Benefits usually include:

* Relief of head, neck and back strain, carpal tunnel syndrome and high blood pressure symptoms.

*Relief from stress and negative emotions.

*Improved concentration, multi-tasking and decision-making ability.

*New perspectives of work and higher levels of creativity.

*Enhanced alertness and energy levels.

*Calmer reactions in demanding situations.

The stress-busting aspects of yoga have been traced to its effects on the parasympathetic nervous system, which conserves energy by slowing the heart rate, relaxing certain muscles and increasing gland activity.  Stilling the mind promotes inner reflection and heightens the awareness – leading to new perceptions and fresh creative solutions.

Corporate yoga benefits individuals in different ways, but a sustained programme certainly reduces absenteeism due to illness and results in higher energy levels – a key indicator of workplace wellness.

Employees often develop a more positive outlook and this reflects in their work – particularly so in areas like customer service.

Get Workplace Yoga Working For You

So how do you get a yoga programme running in your organization?

Start small. It’s easy to find a corporate yoga trainer online. Pick someone who suits your budget and who will take a small class for a short period, say one hour.

Get the trainer to come to your office – perhaps to just one department if it’s a large office – and do a one hour training programme. This will introduce employees to the entry-level techniques and the philosophy behind yoga. 

If you have spaces available like a lounge, a terrace or a canteen, well and good. Otherwise the yoga trainer will tell you what space in your office is viable.  If things are very tight, some exercises and meditation can be done at employee desks.

It is important to get feedback from this initial session. Do people see value in it? Is the trainer a motivator? Then you start rolling out the programme to other departments and other offices in your company.

Starting workplace yoga is not the hard part; sustaining it is. Employees are only human, and often succumb to work pressure (or sheer inertia) and yoga takes a backseat, till it’s entirely forgotten. One solution is in having the trainer come in at regular intervals, on a weekly or monthly basis – this introduces more asanas and the trainer’s inputs keeps enthusiasm alive.

Another way is to have keen employees champion workplace yoga – these are people who get others to join in and prevent them from dropping out. Identifying and motivating these keen practitioners could be very beneficial to the company.

There are yet other ways…but in any case, yoga classes should be supported by other yoga tips, diet facts, and meditation guidelines. Ideally this information is disseminated in a newsletter, a website or through internal communications. And you will have reached the pinnacle when workplace yoga becomes a movement within your company.

In today’s health conscious corporate world, workplace yoga is going to play an increasingly large role – and the smart HR executive should start leveraging it now.

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