For what was once associated with spiritual followers and Hollywood celebrities, yoga has seen a significant shift in demographics in the last decade. Today, you’d be hard pushed to find a local UK gym that doesn’t offer a variety of yoga classes, whilst in recent years it has started being appreciated by both genders, rather than just women. Triyoga, one of the top London studios, has seen the number of male attendees shift from between 11-27 percent in 2015, to between 25-50 percent in 2018, whilst many influential British men are vocal about their dedication to the practice. David Beckham believes yoga is responsible for resolving chronic aches, whilst early adopter Ryan Giggs credits yoga as the reason for his long football career.
What’s more, this rising trend in popularity has been picked up in the corporate world, with more and more employers offering regular yoga classes to their staff. In the most recent UK study by CIPD & Simply Health, 25% of companies surveyed said they offer regular on-site relaxation or exercise classes, under which yoga at work sits (up one percentage point from the 2018 results).
The benefits of practising yoga at work
There are considerable benefits to practicing yoga, limited not just to the practitioner, but also for their employer. These include:
Reduction of stress
In a 2018 UK Mental Health Foundation poll, a huge 74% of the 4,619 respondents said they felt so stressed in the last year, that they had been overwhelmed or unable to cope, whilst 60% of 18-24s and 41% of 25-34s cited their cause of stress to be related to pressure to succeed. With the former demographic being the latest to enter the workforce, employers need a strategy to combat these rising levels of stress.
Stress arises when the body enters the sympathetic nervous system (SNS), also known as ‘fight or flight mode’, and produces cortisol. Because yoga is focused on slow, nasal breathing (both inhaling and exhaling through the nose), we are able to utilise more lung capacity and the parasympathetic nerve receptors in the lower lung are stimulated. These are responsible for calming the mind and body, thus reducing the production of cortisol and lowering levels of stress.
Calms anxiety and the mind
If the mind starts to wonder in a yoga class, we are taught to bring our attention back to our breath, focusing on how this links to each movement. This provides us with something to concentrate on whilst encouraging a deeper connection between body and mind. Through this, our mind is brought to a state of clarity and peace, which is likely to reduce feelings of anxiety. If an employee feels less anxious, they will be able to think more clearly and focus better on the task at hand. Furthermore, certain yoga poses help increase blood flow to the brain, therefore our brains should function better after a class.
Boosts energy and morale
Yoga promotes all round fitness, with individual poses helping to fuel different functions of the body. Whilst Pigeon pose will help to increase flexibility, Plank and Chair are examples of strength building poses. Regular practice will also help to regulate the metabolic system, which will result in fat burn, whilst like all exercise, yoga produces serotonin – the happy hormone. A happy employee that takes care of their fitness is likely to have more energy and be more engaged in the office. Moreover, if employees are participating in a team yoga class, workplace morale is bound to soar.
Better health and reduction of absenteeism
Lastly, yoga will keep employees healthy, as it promotes longer, deeper breathing which enables higher levels of oxygen to reach the organs of the body; more oxygen to the organs, the better they will function. Healthier employees will lead to better engagement, more productivity and a reduction in absenteeism.
Yoga adapted for the workplace
As the above shows, there are significant benefits to incorporating yoga into the workplace. Of course, getting a regular yoga at work programme may take some time, but the beauty of yoga is that it can be flexible; certain poses are able to be practiced without having to leave the desk.
Desk yoga can easily be incorporated into the working day. Below is a 10-minute video which demonstrates some simple poses that can be started today:
Claire Underhill is a yoga teacher who runs classes as part of our staff wellbeing programmes. For more information on such programmes or Claire’s classes and approach, email us at contact@