Workplace Wellness – Yoga in the Workplace

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At first thought, “work” and “workouts” may seem like entirely separate spheres of life. However, thanks to employers who recognize the importance of wellness and physical fitness in their staff members, it’s not uncommon to find office buildings with fitness centers and employee fitness classes.

Features:  You can participate in workplace yoga through formal classes, informal sessions or just by doing exercises at your desk every day. Dozens of yoga studios across the nation contract with companies and corporations to offer regular classes at lunchtime or before and after normal work hours. In such a class, an instructor will come to your company and lead instruction for a period that typically ranges from 30 minutes to an hour. If your workplace has a yoga instructor on staff or an employee with sufficient yoga experience, that person may wish to lead informal classes on site with the company’s blessing.

Benefits:  Most forms of yoga offer a very mild, low-impact workout, but the gentle movements may bring about significant health benefits. According to the Mayo Clinic, yoga reduces stress, improves focus and concentration, boosts your fitness level and can help you manage chronic health conditions such as cancer, insomnia, high blood pressure or depression. Some research adds that regular workplace yoga sessions may reduce employees’ sick days and absences and boost their productivity. Finally, yoga classes sometimes have additional perks for employees in the form of better health benefits or wellness program rewards.

Exercises:  Regardless of whether your employer offers formal yoga classes, you can participate in simple yoga movements and exercises at your desk during short breaks throughout the work day. One of the most basic is deep abdominal breathing, which HealthandYoga.com recommends for relaxation and stress relief. To do it, sit up straight and lay your hands on your stomach. Inhale deeply through your nose and expand your abdomen, pushing it out as you draw in more air. As you exhale through your mouth, pull in your belly button and feel your abdomen contract. Other common and simple yoga exercises to do at work include neck stretches, spinal twists and the Child’s Pose.

Considerations:  Yoga can be beneficial for stress relief and improved flexibility, but it may not work for weight loss. The Mayo Clinic states that yoga does not burn as many calories as most aerobic exercises, so it may not be effective in a weight loss plan. If you’re participating in workplace yoga in an effort to drop pounds, you will want to add regular aerobics (walking, running, biking, etc.) and reduce your daily calorie totals to increase your chances of success.

If you offer worksite fitness classes, you will also want to consider having employees sign a Waiver of Liability if they choose to participate in the classes.  This can protect the organization from injury claims and workers compensation claims.