The benefits of yoga in the workplace

Written by David Elliott on 27 March 2014 in Features
Features

Yoga can bring many benefits to your working life, David Elliott says

For busy employees, the thought of introducing yoga to their lives in 2014 seems a bit of a non-starter. 
 
Busy professionals have a lot of demands on their time and allocating time for yoga just doesn’t factor. But what if they understood the potential benefits to their work and home lives?
 
Stress in the workplace today is a major consideration for employers and anything that can be introduced to alleviate this is a potential benefit to both employers and the employees. Less stressful employees will be more productive and are less likely to need time off through illness. Less stressful employees are likely to have happier home lives and this in turn leads to increased productivity.
 
According to figures in the Health and Safety Executive Annual Statistics Report for Great Britain, 2012/13, 22.7 million working days were lost due to work-related ill health during the period and mental ill health is the single highest cause of working days lost within this figure. 
 
I believe yoga is not only an activity you should put in your life, but one that employers should actively encourage, either by establishing classes, or even allotting time in the work day for training sessions. 
I brought the yoga mat to the UK market in the early 1980s and I like to quote Yoga Journal which goes as far as listing 38 direct benefits from practising yoga!
 
Among these are dealing with stress and anxiety; creating inner peace, calm and presence, weight management, flexibility, managing pain and improving your breathing. Two scientific reviews in 2005 on yoga’s effects on anxiety and depression found that yoga helps moderate reactions to and perceptions of stress, as well as significantly lifting depression. It bumps up levels of the neurotransmitter GABA which both lifts mood and suppresses anxiety according to a 2007 study on brain GABA levels and yoga.
 
Related to this is yoga’s ability to create inner peace and calm. It’s probably the main image people have of yoga: people with legs crossed, hands over each knee, looking serene. Yet, meditation through regular practice cultivates inner peace and calm.
 
Presence is important in business to command respect; in yoga it’s about connecting yourself with the present moment - being in tune with your surroundings. 
 
Had too many good business lunches? Yoga helps manage your weight by creating a more positive self-image and, in turn, encourages you to think about nutrition and what you eat. 
Flexibility is one of the main benefits of yoga. Over time, ligaments, tendons and muscles lengthen and this leads to increasing elasticity in your body’s movement.
 
Yoga provides cardiovascular benefits by lowering resting heart rate and improving oxygen uptake during exercise. The breathing practice, known as Pranayama, helps you slow down and deepen your breaths. It activates the body’s parasympathetic system or how we relax.
 
Finally, yoga can ease pain. Practising postures (or asanas) and meditation reduces back and neck pain or more serious conditions including arthritis or multiple sclerosis.
 
So how do you get started?
 
I suggest the first thing you do is check out your local yoga class – see if they can accommodate a session for your staff, or even come and offer a class at your premises.
Typically, they run for about 45 minutes a time. Or if you are pushed for time and can’t commit, there are starter kits with DVDs available which are ideal for beginners to pace yourself in your own time, maybe at home.
 
I do have some sympathy with the yoga sceptics, as yoga does tend to exceed rational or empirical investigation as ultimately it deals with `states of being` that cannot be reduced to the biological or psychological. 
 
When you are trying to convince hardnosed business people, that can be difficult, but surely investing in your body and state of mind is the best investment you can make this year?
About the author

David Elliott is managing director of The-Mad-Group www.yoga-mad.com

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