As yoga has become more mainstream, it has additionally become more misunderstood. We are seeing the number of yoga studios increase dramatically with each passing year. Today, you can find yoga happening in the office, on paddleboards, and even at Mommy & Me infant classes. Over recent years, many individuals have turned to yoga as a way to relieve stress, anxiety and tension. What better place to do that than while you are stuck at work 8 hours each day? Office yoga is incredibly beneficial for individual mental and physical health as well as overall company morale and business success.
As a yoga instructor, I frequently hear people tell me that they can’t practice yoga because they “can’t touch their toes,” or “don’t like sitting still.” And while these are just two reasons to practice yoga, such statements further validate the lack of comprehension around the practice.
The concept of bringing yoga and all its many facets into the workplace, therefore, might seem baffling. But it’s really pretty simple. Office yoga will decrease stress, increase productivity and overall enhance employee morale.
1. Organize Your First Office Yoga Class.
First things first.
Put out an email to employees to see if there is enough interest in a office yoga class on site. The class could be before work, during lunch, or right after work. If everyone has a convenient scheduling app, the class could be plugged right in so there would be no confusion where employee schedules are concerned. Then everyone can be on the same page.
Classes would run on a session basis with you determining the number of classes per week, as well as the number of weeks. And don’t worry. Your space needn’t have tinkling bells or walls painted in relaxing colors. Really any space where furniture can be pushed off to the side will usually suffice.
2. Hire a Yoga instructor for the Office
Check around with local yoga studios. Let them know you’re interested in hiring an instructor to teach to teach office yoga at your location. Be sure that the instructor is certified and capable of teaching not just the poses, but breathing exercises and some of the philosophy as well.
There are always teachers interested in providing this service for world-weary workers. I taught in this setting for many years and the students were always so grateful and gave me jewels. (Okay, there were no jewels. But they were grateful.)
Figures for payment will vary based on a number of factors and studios can advise you on what is considered fair. And if your business offers a service, sometimes arrangements can be made to do a trade as well.
3. Ask to learn poses that can be done in a chair or on the floor of the office.
Physical movement is key in staying healthy in mind and body. It also leads to more successful and productive employees, particularly when such movement is done in the morning as a precursor to work. And with yoga, there are many simple poses can be done while standing or even seated in chair. Office yoga is a great way to take a breather from the stresses of work. Not to mention, it combats back and neck problems that are associated with being stuck at a desk all day.
Ask the instructor to teach employees these poses so that they can reap the benefits right in their individual work space on the days when no class is in session. Keep in mind though that knowing when it’s appropriate to hang upside-down or haul off into the splits is completely on the employee.
4. Practice deep breathing exercises.
One of the greatest benefits of yoga is learning to breathe.
Sounds weird, I know. You thought you had that nailed when you got to the planet. And you did. Newborns and infants breathe the way we were intended to breathe with the belly rising and falling like the waves of the ocean. Or a yo-yo… in slow motion… in skilled hands.
At any rate, yoga aims to return us to this sort of breath. With the help of your instructor, you can also learn other breathing exercises, or pranayama, to either awaken or calm the mind. And they really can be done anywhere.
5. Take a “time out” to stop and meditate.
As much as yoga stresses the importance of movement, it also emphasizes the value of stillness. Except in the Westernized world of “loud music/dance party” yoga, meditation is a huge part of the practice and your instructor can help you in this department as well.
My friend and fellow yoga instructor (who is also a lawyer) was telling me that she recently felt overwhelmed at her job (the lawyer one, not the yoga one) so she went off by herself for a mere three minutes to close her eyes and just be still. It did a great deal to improve her perspective.
She has since that time gotten her coworkers on board. Twice per week, some of them meet for a scheduled office yoga meditation either outside or in the conference room. Since doing so, there has been less stress and a subsequent boost in employee morale.
Taking the time to collect ourselves and find that reset button allows for better decision making and increases productivity. And it also reduces the likelihood of passive-aggressive behavior, like stealing lunches or putting metal in the microwave.
So bringing office yoga into the workplace isn’t hard at all. And the return on such a small investment is phenomenal, making it one of the most sound business decisions you can make. Even better than the foosball table.
Like many before her, Steph Ruopp is a human. She is also a freelance writer/blogger/copywriter, yoga instructor and educator. As an extroverted introvert she is well suited to the alternating human contact and isolation that is the life of a freelancer.