Peanut butter and jelly. Birds and bees. Some things just make sense together. Now, what do you think when you hear the words “corporate” and “Yoga” concurrently? While these may seem like an unlikely duo, the trend is growing, and with good reason. The dawn of the information age has created a primarily sedentary society. A vast majority of working adults will spend 40 to 50 hours a week cooped up at a desk, embedding poor postural habits in their bodies with little to no emphasis given to mental and physical well-being being at work.
Our culture has glamorized productivity and largely stifled our innate connection to our bodies and breath. But what if the nourishment of mental and physical well-being could in fact be the key to increased productivity? As it so happens, studies indicate just that. Happy, healthy people suffer from less absenteeism, report higher job satisfaction, and ultimately benefit a company’s bottom line. Yoga is a moving meditation. Meditation has been shown to change the structure and function of the human brain, specifically the areas related to attention, emotional regulation, and self-awareness (Tang, Hölzel & Posner, 2015). Imagine a workforce of focused, calm, purpose-driven employees. The integration of mindfulness and yoga into the professional environment has the potential to change the game as we know it.
I can hear the litany of excuses already: “But I have a family.” “I can barely fit in all my responsibilities as it is.” “How am I supposed to make time for yoga?” “Yoga is hard, and I’m not flexible.” “The studio intimidates me.” “My boss will not let me leave.” Now, the assassin of excuses? Corporate yoga. The teacher meets you exactly where you are, the office becomes the studio, and your organization joins the ranks of those astute enough to actively promote employee health. There is nothing left to contest. Just do it!
Savvy corporations recognize the symbiotic relationship at play, and realize they have a lot to gain at every stage from offering wellness initiatives. These incentives offer a hiring edge and can help allure high quality candidates. Individuals who are already taking good care of themselves and recognize the importance of health are drawn in. The existing demographic benefits from the boost of morale. Productivity spikes while the team bonding experience fosters healthier interoffice relations. In turn, these effects yield less absenteeism, reduced turnover, and a fraction of medical costs for companies. In addition to a more pleasant day-to-day working environment, the potential return on investment is significant.
I connected with Kathryn McCann who founded Hang Zen Yogi’s. She has been offering corporate yoga for many years and has seen first-hand how revolutionary this offering can be for both employees and employers. She is in the midst of launching and expanding her program here in Hawaii and envisions helping as many people as she can on the islands through this redefining of wellness in the work place. She spoke to the advantages of this format. “We pride ourselves in providing quality classes that work for all employees! All levels and abilities are encouraged and welcomed to participate. Instructors are trained to offer modifications or advancements as needed so that each practitioner feels safe and comfortable.” There is no pre-requisite to participate and the corporate-sponsored service is free, giving employees little to no excuse not to try it out. Simply show up and reap the extensive benefits, which include but are not limited to:
- Decreased fatigue and tension
- Increased energy levels
- Increased memory, focus, and concentration
- Decreased anxiety and tension
- Reduced muscle tension and pain
- Improved posture and flexibility
- Greater happiness and positivity
- Corporate team camaraderie
I have had the pleasure of teaching a bi-weekly class for the employees of a local company here in Honolulu. I was astounded at the initial hesitation of these smart, accomplished professionals towards yoga. The intimidation factor is real. Nothing pleases me more than demystifying the experience and creating a fun, accessible space for a group of people that may otherwise never experience yoga. One of the students was kind enough to share her experience thus far:
“Our company decided to offer Corporate Yoga twice per month. No one in the group other than myself had done yoga, and we’re so incredibly pleased with the program. Our first day with our instructor was amazing! We got a workout while stretching, and it felt wonderful afterwards.
It had such an impact on the health and wellness of the employees at McCabe, Hamilton & Renny Co., that we wanted to offer it every week. I always knew yoga had mental, physical, and spiritual benefits, but I’m so happy that the employees were able to experience that firsthand for themselves.” -Nalani Foreman, Human Resource Director at McCabe, Hamilton & Renny Co.
Yoga has the potential to break down barriers within one’s self and between each other. Emotional intelligence is an integral factor in the cohesiveness of an organization. The ability to self-regulate and accurately navigate the emotions of others can bolster collaboration and catalyze innovation. It is high time our society begins to proactively address wellness of mind and body as a critical component of success, rather than reactively responding once it’s already too late. Employees, talk to your boss. Bosses, get on board!
By Alana Michele
Kahala based yoga instructor of the land, sea (SUP Yoga) and sky (Aerial/Acro Yoga)! Alana received her 200- hour certification in Boulder, Colorado in 2006. Her goal is to create a safe space to dive inward with compassion. Expect moments of challenge, giggles, and sweet surrender. Private, semi-private group, event, and retreat instruction available!