Yoga can be intimidating and obscure when you’re new to the practice. There’s hot yoga, flow yoga, laughter yoga, slow yoga, yin yoga and even gin yoga! But regardless of the style, as teachers our job is to meet students where they are and be respectful of what brought them to the mat in the first place.
When we walk into someone’s place of work, this is even more essential. At work we’re part of a distinct culture with formal and informal norms, expectations and rules. There’s a lot to be aware of if you want to secure a regular teaching spot and that’s why the growing interest in workplace yoga requires a different approach.
Here are 5 things to consider before you get started.
1. Mind Your Language
During yoga, we raise our levels of oxytocin which creates a feeling of connection with those around us. This is one of the major benefits of workplace yoga for companies looking to improve collaboration and communication. However, we can’t ignore that even the flattest organizations may still have hierarchies and internal politics.
It can be more challenging to completely surrender among your closest colleagues and superiors than in a roomful of near-strangers.
Being mindful that these dynamics exist is important when planning class themes and language for workplace yoga.
So rather than talking about Anahata chakra or heart opening poses, which emphasize this need to be vulnerable, focus on the importance of correcting posture for desk workers instead. This offers the same physical and mental benefits without unintentionally creating resistance in your students that could cause embarrassment and reduce your impact.
2. Focus on Mindful Movement
The statistics on burnout and stress at work are not hard to find. Training managers are actively looking for ways to help employees become more resilient. This is one of the reasons workplace yoga is becoming so popular. Resilience isn’t about how much we can endure, but how well we’re able to rest and recharge between ‘surges’.
There’s no place for pushing and forcing in workplace yoga. It’s useful to let go of ‘peak poses,’ which promote competitiveness and external validation.
In corporate yoga we prefer to zero in on our fluctuating inner states. This self-awareness is a highly useful skill in our professional lives. To develop this, workplace yoga encourages letting go of comparisons between ourselves and those next to us and accepting where we are right now.
Remember that for your students this might be the only time in the entire working week they’ve given themselves permission to slow down and take a break. Stay aware of this and keep encouraging that inward and compassionate approach without goals or a ‘right’ way of doing things.
3. Be Respectful of Multiple Motivations to Practice
With workplace yoga, you may be teaching groups with different motivations for joining the class. Some may be avid yogis who are delighted to practice during the work day. Others might be there simply because they feel it’s the only boss-endorsed reason to be away from their desk. And for others it might be curiosity that brings them through the door. Staying cognizant of this variety will help you deliver a class that appeals to a wide range of motivations without marginalizing anyone.
To demonstrate this, consider swapping hands-on adjustments for verbal cues to make sure people don’t feel they’re being corrected. What is acceptable or desirable in a studio class doesn’t always translate at work and hands-on adjustments is one of the most obvious because it can be perceived as a signal that someone isn’t doing it ‘right.’
4. No Sweat
Not many workplaces have shower facilities or even convenient places to get changed. Many employees may also feel stretched (pun intended) to fit yoga into a hectic working day. We’ve got to make it as easy as possible to come and go from class. Avoid fast moving, sweat inducing classes because they add a hassle-factor that can limit uptake. A slower practice can help to focus attention inward and let go of competition. Slow can still be strong. Desk workers who sit for most of the day may benefit from building strength in the core and posterior chain which can be done effectively without dripping with sweat.
5. It’s Just Business
In an ideal world, every employer would embrace workplace yoga because they care profoundly about their employees’ well-being. In reality, businesses have goals to achieve. It’s true that workplaces adding yoga to their employee benefits may genuinely care about staff health but every business investment must still show value. To do this in the language of your potential customers, it’s important to understand the most common corporate goals. Primarily to perform better, faster or with less waste.
When speaking to corporate leaders about the benefits of yoga, emphasize the evidence that yoga aids focus, productivity, resilience and creativity. These are all desirable goals for any commercial organisation and there’s not much out there that can compete with yoga’s potential here. You can strengthen your case by referring to research on how yoga can contribute to reducing a loss of money due to employee burnout, stress and back pain.
Workplace yoga is a wonderful way to build your teaching business. Not only will you be able to make a real difference to well-being at work, you can also benefit from filling empty spaces in your teaching schedule while everyone else is at work!
If you’re interested in more in-depth training on these topics, Well Work Yoga run corporate yoga teacher training options for qualified teachers in person and online.