There’s a lot of hype around yoga. Yoga practice almost doubled between 2002 and 2012 among the U.S. workforce. You can easily find popular media sources discussing the increase and the benefits of yoga in the workplace. Personally, I love yoga. I love the way I feel after and I think the calm and mindfulness translates to the rest of my life. Many people and organizations are buying into the benefits and Katina and I think you should give it a try. But don’t trust us, trust the evidence.
Research Supporting Yoga’s Benefits
Katina already discussed some mindfulness benefits and many of these apply to yoga as well. Yoga (and other mindfulness interventions) can provide workers with skills for coping with stress and managing mood and emotions. This means that people that practice yoga are less likely to react badly to stressful situations and more likely to stay positive. This type of practice can also increase workers’ resilience, meaning they know how to deal with burnout more effectively. These workers are less likely to feel chronic stress and exhaustion. This is especially important in high-stress jobs (like ER nurses) where people are more likely to burn out (more on that in future posts!) Additionally, one study found that those who participated in yoga did not have the same loss in work productivity as those who did not practice yoga. However, this research is limited and needs further study.
Yoga in the workplace has also been found to have a number of physicial benefits. In addition to less perceived stress, individuals who participated in yoga saw a decrease in sleep difficulties. That means yogis sleep better than non-yogis. They also had an improved breathing rate and heart rhythm coherence, both indicators of heart health. Yoga has even been found to reduce back pain at work, which is very important since many of us sit at our desks all day. In addition to workplace research, there’s an abundance of other types of clinical studies that have shown the physical and psychological benefits of yoga.
Start a Yoga Practice
Now that you are convinced you should give yoga a try, how do you get started? Luckily, it’s very easy! Most cities and towns have yoga studios. I travel for work all over the U.S. and have never had a problem finding a place that teaches yoga, even in smaller, more rural towns. You don’t even need to find a yoga-specific studio. Most gyms have yoga classes. Katina goes to Life Time Fitness and attends yoga classes there. I personally love hot yoga and go to Modo Yoga. There’s also a lot of online options if you don’t have a studio you like near you or want a more affordable option, such as My YogaWorks and oneOeight. And if you have any company gym or yoga benefits, use them! Don’t let an amazing benefit like that go to waste.
If it’s your first time, don’t be afraid. Every studio and gym has beginner classes. Yoga instructors are trained to teach you proper alignment in your poses and will help you find adjustments for the things that may be challenging at first. Also, yoga is meant to be a judgment-free zone. Everyone will be going at their own pace and listening to what their bodies allow them to do. Try not to get in your head and just enjoy the experience!
Finally, recognize that you will not see benefits immediately. You will probably feel good right after yoga but the benefits described above are associated with consistent practice. Expect to build your practice and see benefits after a few weeks. Consistency is key. That’s why it’s called a practice. You will not be amazing right away and it will take time to reap the benefits. But trust me, it’s worth it!