As the world slowly awakens to the benefits of mindfulness, exciting new ways of increasing productivity are being embraced by both employers and employees alike. In the past few years, we have seen the rise of ‘corporate yoga’ in big cities yearning for some collective respite from the stress of modern working life. But is practicing yoga at work really a viable option?
They may seem out of place in an environment replete with strict schedules and busy bodies. But it’s because of these everyday pressures that our offices need mindfulness in the first place. Those times when you’re too busy for mindfulness are the times you’ll need it most. In this way, taking care of our minds and bodies is as important in the workplace as it is anywhere else.
The core principles of yoga almost seem designed to combat the pressures of working life. Positive and clear thinking. Discipline. Relaxation. Fulfillment. Reflection. Balance. Simplicity. These are dispositions that help remedy the strain of intense environments and strenuous work. States of being that maximise performance and improve wellbeing. They make you work better. But more importantly, they make you feel better as you work.
Let’s hone in on the practice of yoga at work and its benefits for the workforce.
The usual working routine can be fairly spiritless and inactive. Sit in a chair. Stare at a screen. Stop for a lunch break. Sit and stare some more. Where’s the energy? Where’s the movement? Office culture is often completely sedentary, and sitting down is the default position for many. This needs to change, especially given the evidence that excessive sitting is commonly associated with diabetes and certain types of cancer. But it doesn’t have to be this way. It just takes a few yoga poses to get the energy flowing.
Studies show that yoga reduces fatigue and increases levels of invigoration and relaxation. These powers can give workers a boost upon returning to the office. A fresh sense of renewal. And the feelings of movement and release experienced through yoga translate into the mind. They help align your thoughts and emotions with the body, with both feeling the same energies. A flexible body leads to a flexible mind. One that can think freely and creatively.
As well as fatigue and burnout, back pain is one of the most common physical ailments to affect our largely sedentary workforce. It’s also a major cause of sickness absence at work, comprising 12.5% of all absences in the UK. As well as practicing good posture at the desk and regular exercise at home, yoga breaks can ease our bodies and offer freedom from pain.
A study in 2012 investigated the effects of yoga on a large group of UK workers and compared the results to a control group who received no intervention. The researchers found that workers practicing yoga experienced a reduction in back pain, as well as reduced stress and improved psychological wellbeing. This goes to show that yoga helps us to feel relaxed and comfortable, both physically and mentally.
But it’s not just back pain that you can tackle by practicing yoga at work. While yoga is marked by the subtlety and simplicity of its movements, the health benefits are extensive. When we listen to our bodies, they respond with greater health and vitality. These benefits include:
- Lower blood pressure and heart rate
- Enhanced posture and balance
- Increased muscle strength
- Better immune system
- Fewer headaches
- Improved breathing
- Enhanced flexibility
- Reduced weight
- Lower blood sugar
- Better sleep
When our physical bodies are healthy, so too are our perceptions of ourselves and our abilities. We think better, we work better, we socialise better. Many claim that yoga changed their lives, so it clearly affects more than just our physical wellbeing. It’s much deeper than that…
Another interesting result from the above study is that those who participated in yoga at work reported decreased levels of hostility. And another study from 2015 shows that yoga reduces aggression and increases positive affectivity.
Yoga releases endorphins and makes us feel better. When those feelings take over a workforce, everyone gets along. High morale brings people together and unites them in their work. Because we all perform better in the company of others who enjoy their work.
Yoga encourages participation between workers and helps them to connect on a deeper level. By experiencing the same energy at the same time, workers can build bonds beyond their company status and foster new social interactions outside of traditional working relationships. These benefits have been reported by many companies who introduce corporate yoga classes, as have the benefits on attendance and productivity.
For many people, experiencing stress is simply an expected part of their working routines. Regular feelings of overwhelm should not simply be brushed off and diagnosed as ‘normal’. Setting your mind free from stress and anxiety may take some work. But this freedom comes with the promise of a new life – not to mention a fresh approach to your work.
There are many aspects of yoga which directly combat stress, especially in the average worker.
For instance, the release of tension and the practice of relaxation techniques has been shown to reduce a worker’s stress upon their return to the office. Likewise, another study shows that proper breathing and controlled movement helps build resilience to stress in the workplace. Participants also reported increased feelings of clarity, composure, and confidence.
So practicing yoga at work not only offers an antidote to the everyday pressures of working life. Scientific studies prove that yoga also grants us freedom from the personal stress that takes over our lives in these moments of intense pressure. For the modern worker, this holistic experience is as liberating for the mind as it is beneficial for the office.
Mental clarity. Better concentration. Increased attention span. Improved memory. Active imagination. These are all proven benefits of practicing yoga. Because sometimes a little quiet is all we need in this increasingly hectic world. Embrace the calmness within yourself.
By practicing control and openness during the working day, you can keep a calm mind in the midst of chaos. You can take restful awareness into every moment. You can simply focus. Whether you struggle with procrastination or you simply need to practice better restraint, engaging in yoga at work grants the qualities and abilities necessary to make these changes. An open and clear mind helps make way for greater perspective. So every afternoon at work, you can return to your desk with a myriad fresh ideas and insights.
Uncommon cares about how you feel at work. Our workspaces are designed with your wellbeing in mind. Every single detail helps create an environment in which you can feel good about where and how you work. From lighting and noise levels to ergonomics and air quality. And yes, we do yoga classes! Visit our locations in Borough, Highbury & Islington, and Fulham to experience our unique vision of working life.