Updated: Sep 30, 2021
The physical benefits of yoga are well known. Enabling the body to stretch, reenergise, relax and restore are just some of what a yoga practise can achieve.
Yoga means “union” and in essence it’s the union of the mind, body and spirit. Its purpose is largely to still the “chattering mind” allowing a sense of calm and presence. Through movement, meditation and breathing an overall sense of wellbeing can be created and enjoyed. Why is yoga a great wellbeing tool to bring into the workplace? . Reduces stress and boosting immunity- it’s no secret that deadlines and workloads can cause stress which in turn may lead to poor performance and anxiety. According to the Health and Safety Executive , anxiety, stress and depression accounted for 51% of all work related sicknesses in 2019-2020 ( Health & Safety Executive Annual Statistic Report GB 2020).
Furthermore 17.9 million working days were lost due to work relates stress, depression or anxiety in 2019/2020.
Yoga is a great stress buster. Yoga practices, especially calming breathing techniques reduce activation of the HPA axis (Hypothalamus – pituitary-adrenal) and the Sympathetic Nervous System and increase activation of the Para Sympathetic Nervous System stimulating rest and repair throughout the body. Yoga is also beneficial for our immune system potentially reducing sick days. . Increasing focus – yoga enables us to still our busy minds. We live in busy multi-tasking / overstimulated and anxious times, and this is such a useful tool in allowing greater clarity to focus on tasks ahead. . Improving posture – employees may spend considerable amounts of time sitting or standing and generally limiting their movements. Hours spent in a sedentary position can wreak havoc with posture and cause or exacerbate alignment issues leading to tight shoulders, lower back problems, tight hips etc. Yoga is fantastic at alleviating these. It stretches and strengthens the major muscle groups, enables us to find the natural curve of the spine and increases joint mobility all of which bring numerous benefits to our bodies . Increasing confidence and morale - yoga isn’t for the flexible but for the willing! It really doesn’t matter how flexible you are but one of yoga’s great benefits is how flexibility improves over time. The loosening of rigidity in the body may encourage creative thinking! Or is that a stretch too far (excuse the pun)? Yoga can increase body confidence which can have a positive impact on other areas of life. Practising as a group can be fun and uplifting and undoubtedly boost morale. In Sanskrit we call this “sangha” which means “community” and it really is a lovely feeling to be part of something which brings so many benefits. . Improving digestion and energy - twisting yoga poses may help improve digestive problems which can arise from sitting for long periods, limited movement and eating at desks. Yoga is a form of physical movement and the energy it creates is a great boost for the working day. Generally, the less active you are then the quicker you feel tired, and this can impact upon working decisions. Taking a few moments to focus on yourself, move, de stress and reenergise is incredibly beneficial. . Improving breathing – yoga encourages greater awareness of the breath. Shallow breathing (often seen when shoulders are tense) depletes energy and creates feelings of sluggishness. Yoga teaches us how to breathe deeply and fully and how to use our breath to relax or reenergise ourselves as needed. There are specific breathing exercises in yoga (known as Pranayama), but also beneficial breath is engaged as we move through the yoga postures.
What can employers do and how can I help? Mindfulness and wellbeing are concepts that are no longer strangers to us.
Many corporations and organisations from the NHS to private companies acknowledge that creating a happy and healthy environment not only benefits individual employees but also the organisation as a whole. There is a greater science based understanding of the importance of mental health and wellness and its relationship to staff wellbeing, productivity and turnover. You may have read that in August 2021 Nike gave its staff a week off to rest and recover from a difficult period due to the coronavirus pandemic. Other organisations including Bumble and LinkedIn have also provided time off to help combat "burnout".
Furthermore a recently published study by workforce analytics firm Visier called "When Vacations Aren't Enough", surveying 1,000 full time employees noted that 89% of employees experienced stress and burnout over the past year and 70% of respondents said they would leave their current job for another organisation offering better resources to reduce stress and burnout.
As a former London Lawyer used to dealing with competing demands and tight deadlines and yoga teacher of 18 years I am able to work with employers on a workplace wellness scheme and offer yoga, breathing practices and mindfulness. I aim to to ensure that everyone regardless of age, flexibility and experience enjoys and benefits from the yoga sessions. Classes lasting from 45 minutes to one hour incorporate physical yoga poses which may be linked in creative flowing sequences. Time may be spent on certain postures to enjoy their benefits. Breathing techniques are often a natural part of the sequences or can be stand-alone exercises. Visualisation, simple meditations, and yoga relaxation are included. My aim is to counteract the impact of sitting at desks , workplace pressures in addition to creating a sense of wellbeing and community.
Please get in touch if you believe your organisation might be interested in arranging workplace yoga whether as part of a broader wellness programme or as a stand alone class.