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The Benefits of Including Yoga in Your Workplace Wellness ProgramIf you’re putting together next year’s workplace wellness plan, you may want to consider adding a yoga program to your offerings. According to a survey from the National Institutes of Health, nearly 10 percent of U.S. adults did yoga in 2012. That’s more than the numbers for meditation or massage therapy, and it’s a 50 percent increase from 2007. Yoga is growing so much in popularity because it offers many health benefits and can be tailored to participants of all fitness levels.

September is National Yoga Awareness Month. In this spirit, I talked to two yoga experts to get their take on how yoga can be beneficial as a component of workplace wellness.

What different types of yoga can be incorporated into a wellness plan?

Kerry Maiorca, founder of Bloom Yoga Studio in Chicago: We offer three levels of corporate yoga. We’ve worked with clients for on-the-mat yoga classes, yoga at employees’ desks and chair massage. Organizations can pick ones they like best or a combination of all three.

What are the benefits of these different types of yoga?

Maiorca: The yoga on the mat focuses on physical strength and flexibility.

Yoga at workers’ desks still uses the vocabulary and principles of yoga, but can be done with limited space and no equipment. People can stay in their work clothes. This class would be customized for desk workers and provides relief from shoulder tension, neck tension, and wrist issues through customized poses, breathing exercises and mindfulness exercises to promote stress relief.

Each of these plus chair massage also has a mental component and can aid in feelings of stress relief and eliminate tension. The most profound thing we see is the impact to the mind — the impact on stress relief. People feel like ‘I had a chance to slow down and step away from the busy pace of my day.’ People just feel very grateful for that.

What are some specific concerns that office workers have when it comes to fitness?

Melissa French, instructor at Katonah Yoga in New York City: In today's world we are always sitting; we sit at the office, we sit in the car, we sit at home on the couch watching TV. Sitting used to be a privilege and now it's our biggest defeat. A standing forward bend will open lungs, flush kidneys, stretch the liver, fill the heart and will allow the stomach to digest all in the service of well being. A standing forward bend reverses the effects of too much sitting.

Offices often have people of many different fitness levels. Does one need to be an expert, or will beginners benefit from yoga as well?

French: Performing various poses can help one feel rejuvenated, restored, and renewed instantly. Even beginners will see benefits.

What should someone look for in an instructor for their corporate yoga program?

Maiorca: Look for a certified yoga teacher, if possible registered with Yoga Alliance. Look for someone who has experience [teaching] at all levels — in the workplace, you will have someone who hasn’t done anything physical in 20 years, and the next person is at gym every week. Find someone who can work safely, is insured, and can make it fun and accessible.


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