The Ultimate Guide to Starting an Office Yoga Program
Everything you need to know to start a workplace yoga class
Offering Yoga at Work
To say that the workplace can be stressful is an understatement. Workers are dealing with long commutes, sitting for hours in front of a computer screen, multi-tasking, working on tight deadlines, doing more with less, and dealing with stress and team conflicts. Top that with the fact that most people are already leading a sedentary lifestyle and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.
About half of all chronic health issues—pre-diabetes, high cholesterol, heart disease, hypertension—are lifestyle-related and preventable. Yoga and meditation classes can be part of a proactive, preventative action plan.
The COVID pandemic only compounded these issues. Juggling work and family while navigating a worldwide pandemic has taken its toll on us mentally and physically. As we return to a new normal, companies are struggling to get staff motivated to come back into the office. Offering incentives like a corporate wellness program that includes workplace yoga classes can be one way of making the transition back to the office a little less stressful.
Sure, you could reimburse employees for taking yoga classes at a studio or gym, but offering an office yoga program makes it easy for employees to participate. Yoga is accessible for all ages and fitness levels and is a low-cost way to reduce stress, improve employee morale, and foster a sense of community.
Benefits of Offering Office Yoga Classes for Your Employees
Improves overall health and fitness level
Improves flexibility, posture, strength, coordination, and balance
Strengthens the immune system
Lowers blood pressure and heart rate
Improves cardiovascular health
Relieves low-back pain, neck pain, and tension-type headaches
Helps manage chronic disease symptoms and improve quality of life
Improves concentration, focus, and creativity
Reduces stress, anxiety, and depression
Improves memory, focus, and concentration
Helps with relaxation and improves sleep
Aids with digestion and weight loss
Benefits of Offering Employee Yoga Classes for Your Company
Reduced health care costs
Increased job satisfaction and increased morale
Reduced turnover and absenteeism
Enhanced focus, clarity, and creative thinking
Improved communications and teamwork
Workplace yoga provides both physical and mental health benefits for employees. For companies, healthy employees lead to lower healthcare costs, fewer sick days, and improved morale. Sounds like a win-win situation for both your staff and the company.
How to Start an Office Yoga Program
The first thing you’ll want to do is gauge employee interest in an onsite yoga class. You can do this by sending out an online survey or email and asking them questions like:
Have you ever tried yoga?
Are you interested in yoga on a mat or chair yoga?
What time of day would you like that class to be offered?
Once you’ve determined employee interest, you can start out by offering yoga classes once or twice a week in an eight- to ten-week series. This allows employees, especially those new to yoga or who aren’t physically active, to try it out long enough to feel the benefits.
You’ll need a large, quiet space like a conference room, empty office, or lunchroom. Ideally, there should be enough space so mats can be set up at least three to six feet apart.
Once you find the space, check to see if the room needs to be reserved, cleaned, or have furniture moved.
Bright fluorescent lights aren’t conducive to a relaxing yoga class. Check if the overhead lighting has a dimmer switch. If not, use lamps and electric candles to soften the lighting.
If you don’t have a large enough room at your office, see if your building has an event room that you can reserve or rent a nearby church hall or community center rec room.
Weather permitting, outdoor classes are an option. You can hold them in a grassy area or a section of the parking lot that doesn’t have through traffic. If you do the class on the blacktop, students may want to bring an extra mat or large folded blanket to put underneath their mat for additional padding.
Yoga Props and Audio Equipment
As far as props go, ask staff to bring their own mat, water bottle, and props (strap, blocks, optional blanket). Most people already have a yoga or exercise mat so that shouldn’t be an issue. Some yoga instructors may supply props. Alternatively, the company could supply props, but you’ll need to find a place to store them.
While not necessary, it’s nice to have music for the class. Most yoga instructors supply their own music and connect to the audio equipment in the room. If the room doesn’t have audio equipment, you can purchase a Bluetooth speaker that the yoga instructor can connect to with their mobile phone.
Determine Time of Day You Will Offer Yoga Classes
There are several time options for offering office yoga classes:
Early in the morning before work.
During lunch hour
During the workday, such as in the late morning or early afternoon
There are pros and cons for all the time slots, but here are some things to consider when choosing a time.
A typical yoga class is 60 minutes. Other options include offering a 45-minute class or two 30-minute “express” yoga classes back to back to accommodate more staff.
Employees will need a few minutes before class to change into comfortable clothes. If you offer the yoga class during the workday, employees will also need a few minutes to change back into their work clothes.
If you offer yoga classes before or after work, employees with small children that they need to pick up, and those with long commutes, who take public transportation, or carpool may not be able to attend.
Don’t overthink it. You can always try a new timeslot to see how it works.
Find a Yoga Teacher
You’ll want to find a certified yoga instructor who’s had a minimum of 200 hours of training. Make sure the yoga teacher has liability insurance and provides you with a certificate of insurance. Additionally, you will want students to sign a release waiver. Talk to your in-house counsel for more information on this.
If you already use a corporate health and wellness provider, they may have yoga instructors. Otherwise, contact a local yoga studio or go to the Yoga Alliance website to find an instructor in your area.
For a corporate yoga class, it’s best to go with a gentle, beginner-type class like Hatha yoga so that it’s accessible for everyone. When selecting a yoga instructor, make sure they have experience teaching beginner and all-level classes. That way they can provide modifications and alternatives for all the asanas (postures) to meet students where they’re at.
How to Pay for The Yoga Classes
There are three options for how you will fund the yoga program:
1) Employees pay 100%
2) Company pays 100%
3) Company subsidizes the class and employees pay a small portion.
The third option is probably the most effective. By having employees pay a small portion of the fee, they are more likely to attend the class and reap the benefits of a regular yoga practice.
Promoting the Yoga Class and Keeping Staff Motivated
Employees may feel intimidated to try yoga or be afraid to embarrass themselves in front of their co-workers. Remind staff that this is a beginner, all levels class and everyone is welcome.
The office is busy and the day can get away from staff. Send out reminder emails encouraging them to attend class.
Start Your Onsite Yoga Program Today
While yoga can’t put an end to all workplace stress, it can provide employees with the tools to navigate it with a sense of calm and ease.
Starting an office yoga program is an easy, low-cost way to reduce healthcare premiums, improve your staff’s physical and mental health, and create a sense of community and camaraderie.
If you’d like to learn more about starting an office yoga program, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.