What is it about yoga that has gripped the world in its fever? Is it the flexibility and mobility it gives to the body? Or is it the mental relaxation it provides? For employees at Mahindra & Mahindra’s various plants and corporate offices, yoga has made them more aware of their health and fitness needs.

“At Mahindra, we truly believe that if there is one factor that impacts employee engagement the most, it is wellness. From creating awareness to providing nutritional counselling and healthy food options to employees, the idea was to inculcate the culture of wellness," says Rajeshwar Tripathi, 57, chief people officer, Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd.

The company rolled out its health and wellness policy back in 2010, encouraging employees to take part in activities such as walkathon, power-walks, Zumba and yoga sessions.

Tripathi believes that “yoga is integral to this since it is the union of mind and body which helps to improve focus and immunity and reduces stress and anxiety. This subsequently increases productivity and fosters a culture of engagement and belongingness for the employees." He says a comparison of health index of the Mahindra & Mahindra employees across plant locations has shown an overall health index improvement every year.

A group leader for tractor production at the company’s Nagpur plant, Abhay Sabnis, 56, has been with the company for over three decades. He has been regularly doing yoga for the last two years. “I have been planning to practise yoga for some time now but never got around to trying it out. I was diagnosed with diabetes a couple of years ago. In the office, the wellness drive introduced yoga to me as a way to work on my health," he says. Sabnis always wanted to get fitter but kept putting it off because of expensive gym membership. So, he took up the yoga classes, which are provided at a subsidized rate to all Mahindra employees. Now, he also practises it at home and has motivated his wife to join him. He says he is less stressed and sleeps better at night.

For Vijay Juvekar, who works in the company’s Nashik plant, yoga has been instrumental in reducing his hypertension. In his late 50s, Juvekar started practising yoga a year ago when during a health check-up, the company found that a lot of the employees in the plants—a majority of them above 45 years of age—needed some form of physical activity.

Photo: Aniruddha Chowdhury/Mint
Photo: Aniruddha Chowdhury/Mint

“As someone suffering from hypertension, I have had to take medicines for some years. But with yoga, I realized I could see a change in my body. It is now much more in control, almost in the normal level," says Juvekar. He says his temperament has changed as well—he is more patient and less likely to lose his temper.

But for the corporate, white-collar employees, the benefits of yoga are more mental than physical. These are people who are sitting at their desks for 8-9 hours and for them the company has desktop yoga. Fitness experts guide them on breathing exercises, stretching and meditation.

“There might be initial hesitation in employees to join a yoga class, or take an hour off from work. But it depends on the company’s culture too. If they encourage employees to take care of themselves, it shows in their work, as they are less stressed and more productive," says Atin Dasgupta, founder, Wellintra Fitness Consultants, one of the fitness services providers for Mahindra & Mahindra’s Kandivali office, Mumbai.

While some of the benefits of yoga at work are easy to notice with people enjoying a healthier life, some benefits are intangible. As Dasgupta puts it, the benefits, both physical and spiritual, take time to show but have a long-term impact.

Asana in the Office is a series on how employees practise, embrace and enjoy yoga in their workplaces.