The rise of yoga in corporate India is evident in the increasing number of organizations introducing yoga programmes for their employees. Reebok introduced free in-house yoga sessions for its employees five years ago. Since then, 20-30 employees have been attending yoga sessions conducted by a certified trainer who comes for an hour, five days a week. The sports and fitness brand has a 3,000 sq. ft space dedicated to fitness, complete with weights, treadmills, machines and yoga mats, where the guided yoga sessions are held. “We see yoga as an important part of the mix as it helps our team members to relax their bodies and minds and develop core strength. It also helps them in becoming healthier, happier and more effective at work,” says Silvia Tallon, Reebok India’s senior director.
Tallon’s team members who practise yoga have reported varied benefits, from sleeping better to feeling energized at work.
Assistant manager Mini Rana, 31, preferred weights and the gym and didn’t really care much for yoga till she decided to give it a try at a marketing event to promote the fitness routine. “It was an absolutely blissful experience. After that day, I decided to regularly attend the office yoga sessions. It was difficult to get the asanas right in the beginning. But, nowadays, no matter how busy I am at work, I devote 30 minutes to yoga. It makes me more focused and clear headed,” says Rana, who comes in early to complete her yoga sessions and reserves the weekends for football or running. “I think yoga has changed my life for the better, without yoga, I don’t think I would be so calm, composed and full of energy in the mornings. I have even started sleeping better,” she adds.
For Paramita Basu, executive assistant to the managing director, yoga is one of the most efficient tools out there to help one de-stress, relax and rejuvenate. “It is a physical and mental discipline. Yoga does more than just burn calories and tone muscles, it’s a total mind-body workout. It helps improve concentration and achieve a sense of inner balance. When I found that we can practise it in office, I couldn’t stop myself… it’s fun too,” says the 39-year-old who manages her office hours in such a way that she can do yoga almost every working day.
A large number of the staff members prefer to attend the group sessions, which can accommodate up to 100 people, rather than doing yoga all by themselves. The group sessions, they say, help motivate them as well as build connections. The yoga classes take place even if there is just one person attending, while, on special days, like International Yoga Day, the entire office of 300-plus participates.
“I have made friends in the yoga classes. It’s absolutely a strong way to build connections and improve teamwork,” says Anshika Singh, 30, assistant manager for content implementation (global sales retail). Singh has been practising yoga for four years and feels that life would be much more stressful if not for it.
Rana finds doing yoga in a group offers her a chance to connect with team members and experience teamwork. “When there is a new asana and we find it difficult to do, our teammates motivate each other to complete it,” she says. And, as Basu says, “One does get motivated on seeing others.”
Senior manager for retail excellence Hareesh Goutham, 37, believes that a team that works out together, works well together. “Yoga brings bonding like any other team workout,” he says.
Though a successful initiative at Reebok, yoga at work does pose challenges. The most common one is finding time. “There is always a time crunch in life. But, for me, health is a priority and I will find time for keeping myself fit,” says Goutham. This could mean stretching your workday a bit by either coming in early or staying back after work or juggling meetings around yoga sessions. The other obvious hurdle is new postures can be difficult to achieve initially.
Despite all that, the benefits of yoga at work outweigh the challenges. Yoga also holds lessons that can be applied to work-life. As Rana points out, “All the philosophical lessons you learn in yoga, such as mindfulness, focus and balance, are all applicable at our workplace.”
Asana in the office is a series on how employees practise, embrace and enjoy yoga in their workplaces. Shrenik Avlani is the co-author of The Shivfit Way, a book on functional fitness