What Are the Benefits of Yoga in the Workplace?

As more and more people discover the benefits of yoga, the 3,000-year-old practice is increasingly finding its way into the workplace. In fact, the demand for workplace yoga has created whole squadrons of corporate-focused yoga teachers. If you're creating a corporate yoga proposal, knowing the benefits might pave the way for future office-sponsored Down Dogs.

Yoga in the workplace helps foster harmony. (Image: Westend61/Westend61/GettyImages)

Tip

As you're writing a corporate yoga proposal, you can point to yoga's many potential benefits for the workplace. Reduced absenteeism, healthier minds and bodies as well as reduced aggression are just a few of the positive side effects of a workplace yoga program.

Reduced Back Pain

One of the main reasons many people take up yoga is back pain, which is one of the most common workplace complaints for people with desk jobs. A December 2012 British study published in the journal Occupational Medicine proved the point with an eight-week study that drew participants from a government office.

In the study, one group was given a single 50-minute yoga class a week while allowing a control group to sit on their keisters. Surprise, surprise — the yoga group reported significantly less back pain and lower stress, as well as greater self-assurance, serenity and concentration. By comparison, the sedentary control group reported more hostility, sadness, stress and back pain.

Additional research suggests that yoga may be as effective as physical therapy for low back pain, according to a study published in June 2017 in Annals of Internal Medicine. In the study, people who attended weekly yoga sessions experienced improvements in pain and activity limitation that were nearly identical to those who attended physical therapy. Given that office workers may be desk-bound for much of the day, a workplace yoga program may help alleviate or prevent any low back pain associated with sitting for extended periods of time.

Lower Burnout Rates

Worker productivity keeps going up. Why? Maybe it's because of the people who have jobs, many do the work that used to be done by three people. Hence, we have the problem of burnout — and the solution of workplace yoga.

Just ask nurses, who work weird hours and under a lot of stress. A 2015 study published in Workplace Health & Safety found that nurses who performed a weekly yoga session for eight weeks experienced enormous reductions in warning signs for burnout. Among the benefits are higher levels of self-care, less emotional exhaustion and a reduced tendency toward depersonalization in their contact with patients.

Contrast those positive outcomes with the potential for negative effects of burnout, ranging from job dissatisfaction and anxiety to lower quality of care. When nurses are burned out, there's a higher risk of detrimental effects for patients, such as medication errors, infections, patient falls and other adverse outcomes.

Less Hostility and Aggression

Any workplace that functions harmoniously is likely to be more productive. In a controlled study published in the October 2015 journal Ayu of 160 workers at an engineering firm in India, yoga in the corporate sector was shown to reduce hostility and aggression.

In the study, half studied and practiced yoga for one hour daily, while the other half received lectures in management theory and engaged in light exercise for the same amount of time. At the end of 10 weeks, the yoga group showed significantly improved scores for positivity and lowered scores for aggression and counterproductive work activities compared to the control group.

In your corporate yoga proposal, you can also point to the yoga's positive impact on the brain's ability to self-regulate and cope with stressful situations, according to the Ayu study. Yoga has also been shown to lower levels of cortisol — the stress hormone — as well as perceived stress in ways likely to make for a more serene workplace.

Less Absenteeism and Greater Morale

Stress in the workplace diminishes performance and can lead to physical injury, including back pain, neck and shoulder tension and carpal tunnel syndrome — and that costs money. Yoga at the workplace has been shown to reduce absenteeism from sickness or other physical problems, boost company morale and improve communication skills among employees.

In addition, research published in July 2015 in Industrial Psychiatry indicates mindfulness and self-control through yoga can help workers regulate their emotions. Yoga in the corporate sector is a cost-effective intervention that can result in not only reduced aggression and interpersonal issues, but also employee absenteeism.

A consistent workplace yoga practice may help workers create the kind of healthy lifestyle that prevents them from needing to seek external medical care. Not only does yoga in the corporate sector help in overcoming psychological and emotional issues that may keep people from thriving at work, but it promotes the overall well-being of both workers and the workplace as a whole.

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