Yoga In The Workplace: See How It Can Help Reduce Stress

Cindy Boisvert

Ever rising in popularity, meditation and yoga in the workplace are precious tools when it comes to reducing stress. Why not allow your employees to benefit from them directly from their workplace?

Stress, a known enemy of both physical and psychological health, can cause severe damage in the workplace.

According to the statistics published on the Institut Universitaire en santé mentale de Montréal, 20% of Canadian workers suffer from stress-related illnesses each year. And mental health problems cost as much as 14% of annual net profit to Canadian companies, which means up to 16 billion dollars yearly.

These numbers are mind-boggling, and stress at work is a problem that should be taken seriously.

The Benefits of Yoga in the Workplace

This millennia-old practice, which originated in India, is used to calm the mind through a combination of positions and breathing exercises. Once you get started on the mat, it is easy to let go and mentally escape far away from thoughts of files accumulating on your desk, emails that need answering, and meetings that have to get planned. When you return to your desk, your body feels relaxed and your mind is soothed.

“Yoga works on different dimensions: balance, stability, strengthening, flexibility, concentration, relaxation. In addition to unwinding, it gives a boost. After a yoga class, you feel more confident and in control”, said Melanie Richards, director of HappyTree Yoga, who offered us a yoga class at the Dialogue office (which was highly appreciated, by the way).

“It is a moment of complete presence, during which we are invited to let go of the past and imagine the direction we want to move in. It enables a shift in perspective.” Quite ideal to have a new outlook on a stressful situation at work, right?

Breathing and Straightening Up

A non-negligible benefit of the techniques acquired in class is that they can be used at any time. “Many employees who practice yoga are aware they need  to breathe better or make time to stretch on a daily basis, which is extremely helpful in periods of high stress”, says Melanie Richards.

Yoga also works wonders when it comes to posture. That is good to know, given that in Canada, backaches are the most common cause of compensation for workers, according to the Commission des normes, de l’équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail.

“Yoga is very beneficial for the shoulders, neck, hips and back, all of which are parts of the body that are put under strain when doing work in a seated position.”

Meditate on That!

A lot has been said about the effectiveness of mindfulness meditation for treating anxiety. Meditation actually doesn’t require complete silence and Tibetan monks chanting “Omm” in the background –  it can be practiced anywhere simply by concentrating on the air coming in and out of your lungs.

Martin Sansregret, president of Montreal-based advertisement agency Tam-Tam/TBWA, shared with L’actualité that he meditates in the morning by taking the stairs to slowly climb up the seven stories that lead to his office. As psychiatrist Thanh-Lan Ngô, head of the program for affective illnesses at the Hôpital du Sacré-Coeur in Montreal, stated in the same piece for L’actualité, “meditating helps reduce anxiety and reduces the risk for the recurrence of depression by half.”

Prevent stress from affecting your employees’ mental health

Though this practice’s effect on efficiency at work have not yet been proven, it is easy to imagine how concentrating on the present moment certainly would not cause any harm. “When the spirit is relaxed, reactions to difficult or stressful situations are more balanced. Meditation also teaches us to see situations differently: we either accept them, or we take action to improve them”, explains Melanie Richards, who offered four mindfulness workshops to 185 Cirque du Soleil employees in December.

Simple and accessible techniques are within reach to prevent negativity and stress from eating away at employees’ mental health. Why not ride the wave of namaste?