February 7, 2013

The Benefits of Practicing Yoga at Work. ~ Hailey O’Hara

We dim the lights, close the doors and the bustling office hallway transforms into our own little yoga studio.

A small group of women approached me nearly two years ago, wanting a gentle relaxation yoga during their lunch hour.

Since that first class, the group has grown and mats now extend down the entire hallway. Although most were brand new to yoga, they have cultivated strong, balanced and dedicated practice.

Before Christmas, a male coworker joined (partially out of interest, partially out of peer pressure, I think). After his first class, he told me he was surprised; he never expected to break a sweat in yoga. He’s been coming regularly and last week he had another surprise—he could touch his toes.

At our last practice, he handed me over a handful of cash, paying in advance to attend every class for the next month.

“I’m all in,” he said.

It’s exciting, as a teacher, to have the opportunity to work with the same group consistently and be able to observe the incredibly positive changes in their bodies, their attitudes and their health.

Here are a few reasons why you should consider bringing a yoga teacher into your workplace:

1. You’re already there!

Life is busy enough. Trying to race through traffic to a gym or yoga studio after work is an added stress that you could do without. Free up your evenings by getting in your exercise and relaxation on the job. By bringing a yoga instructor into your workplace, you can find balance and save time.

2. “It’s better than coffee,” said one of the women after she mastered her headstand.

Being sedentary all day is fatiguing for the mind and body. When my class comes out of savasana, their eyes are brighter, their shoulders are relaxed. Just an hour of yoga can improve focus and concentration, meaning increased productivity. The Conference Board of Canada calculated that for every one dollar invested in workplace wellness, a company can expect three dollars in cost savings of benefits. Much better than coffee!

3.  Less sick days (more personal days).

Sitting all day at a computer can lead to back pain, neck pain and carpel tunnel syndrome. The effects of tension and stress are often headaches, colds, overeating and interrupted sleep.

Yoga can provide relief from the physical pain and provide the tools to deal with stress. I often hear things like, “I never thought my back (neck, shoulder…) pain would go away.”

That means, you can turn those ‘sick days’ into personal days!

4. It’s more than just stretching.

Stepping away from the desk, the computer screen and the deadlines and moving into a downward dog beside an office mate helps to build camaraderie with coworkers.

Over the past two years, I’ve watched many of them go through divorce, deaths, sickness, struggle and triumph. Regardless of what they’re enduring, they make it on to the mat, day after day; although many probably do not consciously realize it, they have created this unique support group for each other. A safe zone.

A place where they can work through whatever it is they are going through—whether it is in the unguarded conversation I hear as they walk down the hall together to return to work, or simply within the silence of the practice itself.

There have been good days and bad ones; hugs, tears and uncontrollable laughs. At the end of the hour, the mats get rolled up, dress shoes put on and they fall back into their roles. But that seed has been planted for consistent, incremental change to take root and the process can be described as nothing less than transformative—inside and out.

Most yoga studios can connect you with a teacher who will come in to your workplace and many companies are starting to subsidize the cost.

All you need is a mat, a space (a conference room, even a quiet hallway work great) and you’ll be ready to let your yoga journey begin!


Hailey O’Hara: I am wildly in love with life. I am  sattva yoga teacher  (and a yoga lover) in Edmonton, Alberta and every day it’s my job to simply share my passion. I have always had unyielding fascination for exploring the world around me and am forever seeking the next adventure. Find me here.




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Assistant Ed:  Terri Tremblett
Ed: Bryonie Wise



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