Wellness at Work – Throw Down Your Yoga Mat and Say “Om”

We all know that yoga is a healthy practice to integrate into your daily life. When you practice yoga, you just feel better. In addition to the physical benefits such as increasing flexibility, and soothing and elongating the muscles, the mental benefits of practicing this peaceful tradition are perhaps the most valuable. Yoga is, in many ways, exercise for the mind. The act of consciously slowing down our breath and quieting the mind can have a profound impact on our capacity to deal with daily stressors and handle tense situations in a way that doesn’t leave us wanting to pull our hair out at the end of each day. We all deal with stress in different ways, but it is no mystery that this little chemical/physical reaction in our bodies can be extremely dangerous depending on how we deal with it. (Great article on the subject: The Conscious Lifestyle: Facing Your Stress.)

Our minds are constantly running. We bounce from topic to topic, and go from being “deep in thought” one minute, off on another thought the next. We have the ability to respond to emails, texts, phone calls, “reminders/notifications/alerts,” distractions left right and center – and somehow manage to “handle” it all. It’s no wonder many of us have such a difficult time shutting down and shutting off, before going to bed. But if we take time to “power down” periodically throughout the day – to meditate, play an instrument, write, power nap, or simply stare out the window – we may realize a growing ability to “handle” things in a way that contributes to a healthier and more peaceful outlook. Over time, I might argue that integrating yoga and meditation into your daily routine (and regularly throughout the day), will benefit you in ways that extend beyond your outlook and ability to “handle” situations, to a way of being that you embody (no eye-rolling!). Seriously, you don’t have to become a yogi to weave this healthy practice into your life and absorb the benefits.

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In an effort to encourage yoga and bring wellness into the office (a place where wellness is often disregarded), we have decided to do just that. Each week we alternate between yoga and massage sessions in the office, and I try to encourage everyone to participate as often as possible. Massages are easy – no one will say no to a quick but effective massage from a skilled masseuse. I smile as I watch my co-workers emerge from the “massage room” with a dreamy, far-off expression on their face. I’m not saying it is the answer to happiness in the workplace – certainly there are many variables involved – but these 15 minutes of silence and vital concentration on the neck, head, and shoulders, where we carry so much tension every day, is a beautiful thing. Yoga on the other hand, can be more difficult to introduce. First of all, it is a longer commitment (one hour), and it can also be a little intimidating for some who are inexperienced. But the thing about yoga, is that it is there for you to mold and adapt to something that feels right for you. For example, if you only want to participate for a half hour, that is great. If you just want to lie in Shavasana the whole time, which some believe is yoga’s most important pose, then you should do that – you will still feel the benefits of doing something good for yourself. And that is, in many ways, what it is all about – making a conscious choice to do something good for you, which I believe is a practice that is not easy for people to do. But the more you make the decision to put yourself first, the happier you will feel, and the better you will be towards others.

At the end of every yoga class, we bring our hands together in front of the heart, bow our head, and say “Namaste,” and while there are various interpretations of this word, I like this one as it captures acknowledging the self:

“I bow to your true self.” The true self might be seen as the deeper, more essential you, less connected to ego, social expectations, and pretensions. Honor the true self in each of us, and recognize that all life is interrelated.

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We are lucky to have found an amazing yoga instructor, who comes to our office every other week, and brings with her a lovely sense of calm and peaceful awareness. All of our employees are blown away by her teaching and yoga style. She brings something very special and unique to our day, and we are so grateful to be able to practice yoga with her. When I first contacted Megan Eliza Gathers (I have to include her middle name, because it is of course, my first name….obviously a clear sign that she should be our chosen yoga instructor), she provided some very useful information about the benefits of bringing yoga to the office. With Megan’s blessing, I would like to share some of her insight:

Benefits of Yoga for the Company

Yoga can be a positive influence on one’s ability to concentrate, gain confidence, and reduce stress. All these things lead to a more productive, harmonious work environment. Providing yoga for employees can also significantly cut operating costs.

The benefits yoga offers employees can translate into valuable assets for businesses; namely, higher employee morale, increased productivity, and fewer sick days and disability claims.

  • Job stress costs U.S. companies about $300 billion annually through absenteeism, diminished productivity, employee turnover and direct medical, legal and insurance fees. (The American Institute for Stress)
  • Stress is the cause of nearly 90% of doctor visits in the U.S. (The American Institute for Stress)
  • Companies spend $14,000 per employee per year on medically related productivity losses. (CorSolutions, Inc.)
  • Research indicates that companies who offer yoga programs to their employees reduce their annual health insurance premiums, and thereby improve their bottom line. According to a recent study on work-site health programs, corporations realized $3 – $6 in savings for every $1 invested in wellness programs. (American Journal of Health Promotion).

Offering yoga classes at work is a low-cost and innovative solution for companies wanting to reduce health care expenses, relieve workplace stress and promote employee well-being. The performance of a corporation depends on the performance of its key assets – employees. Healthy employees are more productive and more cost effective.

Thanks to Megan for bringing her practice to Varsity and encouraging yoga in our daily lives.


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