Yoga In The Workplace, Obviously There Are Benefits But What Is The Whole Story.

We now know that Yoga can make us calmer, more focused, and prompt innovative thought and that there is plenty of science to prove it (check out my previous blogs).  These benefits can penetrate into all facets of our life but let’s specifically talk about the one that we spend at least 8 hours of our day doing and that is work. 

Most of us get up in the morning, have a quick snack and say goodbye to our loved ones to spend our entire day with other people serving a cause outside of ourselves and regardless of what we are going through at home or who we are as a person we show up every day.  While at work not only do we directly impact those we work with but we also impact the company we work for and in turn society.  If each individual at your company has such a great impact why not provide them with something that is proven to reduce their stress and aggression while increasing their positive affect (one’s propensity to experience positive emotions and interact with others and with life’s challenges in a positive way)?  How do you do this you might ask???  By offering them yoga at work.  It is true, workplace yoga has been shown to impact stress, aggression and people to people interactions at work.

Photo by Ekaterina Bolovtsova from Pexels

Ohio State University determined based on a pilot study from 2009 that 20 minutes per day of guided meditation and yoga combined with six weekly group sessions lowered feelings of stress by more than 10 percent and improved sleep quality in sedentary office employees.

A graduate dissertation from USF studied the impact of practicing yoga on the organization and observed through the results of the study that yoga allowed for greater bonding, mental or psychological flexibility and working out conflicts with less competition.  It also positively impacted client confidence growth and developed better work relationships on the individual level as well as between vendors and clients. It is also worth noting the interviews that were conducted of subjects indicated that individual stress levels negatively affected the organization resulting in both the quality of work suffering and the work environment becoming inhospitable as a result of stressed workers.

A 2015 study published in Occupational Medicine on Yoga in the workplace and health outcomes evaluated over 1300 papers, this analysis after inclusion criteria were met indicated that yoga had a positive effect on health in the workplace, particularly in reducing stress with no negative effects being reported.

In the International Quarterly Journal of Research in Ayurveda, a study published in 2015 showed a group that performed workplace yoga showed statistically significant reduction in aggression and enhancement in positive affectivity compared to a control group that did not perform workplace yoga. 

There are more studies but I think the consensus is strong and we can all agree that the literature is clear; yoga in the workplace can have a direct effect on your employees, leading to lowered stress levels and the development of interpersonal relationships.  Given we also now know that the stress employees carry comes at a cost for the organization we should all be wondering how do we get yoga to our employees. 

A workplace yoga class can also create an opportunity to build community within the workplace and lead people who might have never met each other to bond before or after classes or better yet over their experience in the class.

Offering yoga to your employees is way easier than you think.  You need:

  1. A certified and insured yoga instructor.  A 200 or 500 hour RYT (Registered Yoga Teacher) who is registered with Yoga Alliance would be preferred as they verify the program that was attended meets a set of standards.
  2. Space to roll out a few mats.  A hard surface is preferred but not necessary and mats can be placed as close as 2 feet apart.  Let’s just say if you run out of space that’s a good sign your employees really needed this.   

And…

  1. Interested employees (hint: let them know how good they will feel after, I have plenty of blog posts full of yoga content you can share with them!).  You can gauge employee interest by having them take a survey and can even determine what type of schedule to offer based on their preferences.

In terms of cost, a yoga instructor may charge anywhere from $40-$75 per class.  That amount is nominal compared to reimbursing gym memberships.  Other companies offer a computer program that forces their employees to take a break and provides guided stretches or breathing which I have first hand witnessed the employee use as an opportunity to chat to someone they are sitting next to or eat a snack.  Do yourself a favor and start a wellness program right in the workplace (even more reason to do this can be found here) where you can see the ROI firsthand and bring people together, a yoga class might be a great way to start.  Moreover, when it comes to increasing focus yoga has been found to do a better job than aerobic exercise…wink. 

Understanding that many organizations are currently closed I hesitated to write this post despite the fact I had been researching and thinking about it for quite some time.  I decided to share because the COVID crisis has opened our eyes in many ways.  We have been able to witness the organizations that stand out to protect their employees and respect their personal decisions through this hard time and it has never become more clear which ones care and which quite frankly do not as they expect their at risk employees to work and struggle to protect them.  As we begin to wrap our heads around a new normal for the businesses that have had to continue to operate or those that are about to start back up they have an opportunity to take care of the people who are there every day making sure things keep moving and who knows maybe yoga fits in somehow for them. At the minimum they should consider it as their people may be especially susceptible to stress as we all come out on the other end of this dark time.    

Now that you know the benefits are real and that it is not that hard to implement a program, just sit back and try to imagine what a workplace environment might be like if your employees are happier after attending a morning yoga sesh or how they might prefer an after work stretch as opposed to happy hour and that they might show great gratitude towards you because that means they also get to go home and share their happiness with their loved ones they spend most of their day away from. 

If you would like to have yoga classes offered in your workplace or you do and care to share your thoughts on if you see a benefit yourself, I would love to hear from you!  Please share in the comments or follow me on Twitter and let me know.


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