Corporate Yoga- Can You Really Find Your Zen?
By Debbi K. Levy
It’s 11:50 on a busy Tuesday morning at At Home’s headquarters, and Bee J Stanley has a decision to make. Actually, she has one of many because it is a very packed day. Not to mention her busy family schedule once she gets home. Go to the locker room and change for Yoga class or put a bigger dent in her task list? Lucky for Bee J, she sees Adrienne and Indria out of the corner of her eye leaving their offices to go downstairs, and today, it seems to be the little push she needs.
The studio is buzzing with energy when I walk in, some good, some a little too frenetic, shallow-breathing for sure all around. Two of my students are having early Savasana it seems, and I’m not convinced it will be easy to move them into even child’s pose. And yet, this is how we begin so often and the question is- Can we find our zen in this environment? I’ll let you be the judge.
The students find their mats, and lay out for more than a few deep inhales and exhales through the nose, and the music starts. Not much more than an ancient chant with a beat, just enough to line your heartbeat up with. I spray some eucalyptus around the room. More deep breathing. I ask them to settle upon an intention. Hints of smiles emerge. I ask them to balance the scales and let go of something that no longer serves while we share this space together. A few furrowed brows here. And then the asanas. The sweet poses that remind these corporate yogis to link their breath with their bodies, to soften in just one more place, to engage something else. As I look around the room, its happening. Beautiful, big breathing, unencumbered movement, and the courage to try new poses that seem to defy gravity. But here in our At Home Studio, it is safe and encouraging.
There are crescent lunges with eyes gazing at the sky (actually ceiling tiles don’t tell ‘em), sideplanks, half moon poses and even a few headstands and before you know it, we are back in Savasana. But this one is different. The faces are peaceful, the bodies reflect physical release, and the breath is slow and calm. The tingshas get their strikes, the Yogis come to their seated poses at the top of their mats, and Tuesdays noon class is sealed with an Om. As the students return to awareness, they begin to look at watches and phones, and change quickly to make their way back to their office spaces.
At the “Lunch and Learn” prior to At Home’s wellness program being launched, I had the opportunity to ask At Home CEO Lee Bird why he felt so strongly about offering healthy benefits like Yoga to his team members. Lee said, “Offering yoga to our team members lives by one of our core values of Doing the Right Thing. But more importantly, I also know that our team members have very busy lives, many have children and other personal commitments outside of the office. So if we don’t give team members the opportunity to make time for these healthy lifestyle choices during the workday, there won’t be another opportunity. And here At Home, we want to empower all team members to make healthy choices and take care of themselves.”
I jump in my car and just like any other day, I go completely across town. From Plano to Uptown, Cityplace to be exact. Third floor. This is where I will meet my six students from Kitano LLC. They are one of my favorite corporations to work with because their CEO not only encourages them to practice Yoga for their health, but leads by example with his presence as often as he can.
I enter this studio space that Kitano rents for this class, and we commence our practice right away, only sixty minutes to decompress, refresh, and strengthen the body. We have no awkward moments as we get started, a seasoned group here, we have been practicing together for over three years now.
These six students I know so well that it is easy to read their energy. Many days we find a deep stretch and a good slow flow that cures several days of spinal compression from sitting at desks and keyboarding. We don’t hesitate to get out the props such as straps and listen to the hamstrings- something most of us rarely make the time to do. My Kitano students relish the opportunity to lengthen everywhere they can, and take their core strength to their edge. An hour flies by, I push down their shoulders for an extra bonus one person at a time, and then the tingshas are struck to bring them back to awareness. They roll to one side, just for a few more moments of deep relaxation and a moment to have gratitude to themselves for making it to their mats. The look of contentment on their faces is so rewarding for me as an instructor.
Kitano’s CEO, Per-Magnus Andersson, said this when I asked him for feedback on Corporate Yoga classes: “The benefits of having happy, healthy employees cannot be understated. Healthy employees save the company money. We rarely have employees out sick for long periods of time and we have less absenteeism due to doctor appointments, physical therapy, etc. Happy employees perform better at work and I notice that we have come together as a group since we started Yoga. The camaraderie that comes from that has had a positive impact in how we interact with each other at work. Happy employees are also more loyal to the company and thus reduce turnover. Think about how many Yoga hours I can pay for instead of paying a recruiter a fee to replace a disgruntled employee! That math is easy.”
And the part that makes me love and cherish what I am blessed to do every day is in Per-Magnus’ last sentence
“For me personally, it’s probably the only hour of the week where I’m completely relaxed. It feels like I’m recharging my body, mind, and spirit.”
All in all, I think I teach about eighty students weekly in my corporate classes. Many of them are now my Facebook friends, messaging me pictures of poses they’d like to learn. You see, I am their private Yoga instructor, there is no studio agenda here. These hard-workers get what they need every time they make the decision to change in that locker room and participate in their corporate Yoga class. And I am the lucky girl who gets to nurture these bright, talented, caring corporate folks who give it all they’ve got to fuel Dallas’ economy and make our city special. Oh, and on Mondays, I get to kiss the CEO of Med Couture goodbye after Yoga class there, too, because he is my husband. Zen in a corporate Yoga class? You tell me.
By Debbi K. Levy
Registered Yoga Instructor