Yoga in the workplace: benefits and tips for stretching to success

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Later this month (21st June) it’s the UN’s International Day of Yoga, which is aimed at raising awareness of the many benefits of practicing yoga. It has, of course, been practised for centuries having originated in India, but has gradually moved into mainstream culture around the world and continues to grow in popularity – not least in the workplace!

The trend has been driven by a more general increased interest in wellbeing, which is evidenced by the Google Trends graph above showing a continual rise in “wellbeing” as a search term over the last 15 years. The benefits of yoga are, of course, myriad, with evidence to suggest it can:

  • Decrease stress
  • Relieve anxiety
  • Reduce inflammation
  • Improve heart health
  • Improve quality of life
  • Fight depression
  • Reduce chronic pain
  • Promote sleep quality
  • Improve flexibility and balance
  • Help improve breathing
  • Relieve migraines
  • Promote healthy eating habits
  • Increase strength

Although health and fitness practices like yoga are generally issues for individuals, any employer would naturally prefer healthier and fitter employees on their books. But the benefits for businesses go much further and it is this that is driving interest among employers. Among the benefits to businesses are:

  • Improved employee performance: By virtue of reducing stress and anxiety, as well as improving sleep quality for individuals, the impact of yoga across a workforce manifests as improved mental acuity and focus. Work is delivered more quickly and to a higher standard.
  • Better workplace morale: Not only is workforce output improved, but so too is workforce mood. By helping to tackle conditions like stress and depression while improving overall quality of life and offering an opportunity for sharing time together away from work tasks, yoga contributes to a happier team. This in itself contributes to improved performance, but also a more familial, supportive working environment with less tendency for hostility.
  • Reduced absenteeism: Better employee health means fewer days lost to lost to sickness across an organisation, directly impacting the bottom line. Not only are fewer hours lost, but more hours worked are more productive.

While the benefits may sound too good to pass up, it’s easier said than done to introduce yoga into any business. In particular, those running at capacity or with more traditional business approaches may naturally be less interested. There are some simple things you can do to test the water though:

  • Find a yoga teacher who will offer trial classes
  • Arrange optional classes immediately after the working day
  • Outline the benefits to both the individual and the business
  • Dispel any myths or concerns that employees may have
  • Gain support from management or key groups
  • Incentivise attendance to classes with small rewards

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