Why Your Next Team Wellness Challenge Should Be Yoga

Yoga wellness challenge pose of the day: Seated Forward Fold

Team challenges are all the rage, but if you want to see the ROI of a wellness challenge look to yoga. Yoga helps employees become more productive and focused, so they have the energy to make better decisions. And when you look at the data on stress and stress reduction, it’s clear that not having a yoga program in place is costing you money.

Most teams are burning the candle at both ends, without time to recharge. When your team is drained, mistakes increase and employee satisfaction decreases. In studies by the Queens School of Business they found disengaged workers make 60% more errors and defects. In organizations with low employee engagement scores, they experienced 16% lower profitability.

Exercise Equals Happier Teams & Better Productivity

When people are happy, they are more productive, and exercise is one of the best ways to cultivate happiness. The one thing that makes people happier than exercise is sex, so… still a form of movement, but I digress.

Yoga combines physical and mental disciplines for added benefits, including reduced stress, better focus and cognitive performance, and decreased aches and pains.

Why Yoga Should Be Your Next Team Wellness Challenge

1. Stress Reduction

Is stress making your team sick?

Stress seems to worsen or increase the risk of conditions like obesity, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, depression, gastrointestinal problems, and asthma,” as noted in WebMD.

“Although there’s an assumption that stress and pressure push employees to perform more, better, and faster, what cutthroat organizations fail to recognize is the hidden costs incurred,” as Harvard Business Review reports. US businesses lose up to $300 billion a year as a result of workplace stress, according to Occupational Safety data. And that was calculated before COVID-19!

Yoga Keeps Cortisol Down

Increased levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, decrease immunity, raise blood sugar, and negatively impact metabolism. The mindful practice of yoga helps reduces cortisol.

Richard Faulds from the Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health explains, “When you do yoga — the deep breathing, the stretching, the movements that release muscle tension, the relaxed focus on being present in your body — you initiate a process that turns the fight-or-flight system off and the relaxation response on. That has a dramatic effect on the body. The heartbeat slows, respiration decreases, blood pressure decreases. The body seizes this chance to turn on the healing mechanisms.”

And it doesn’t take long to get results. One study found that yoga decreased cortisol in participants after only 10 days of practice. Another study showed that practicing yoga–even for the first time–can bring cortisol into balance, according to research from Thomas Jefferson Medical College.

2. Better Focus & Cognitive Performance

When you’re overwhelmed and anxious, it’s hard to think clearly and make good decisions.

Bill Boyle, HBO’s fitness director notes, “Everybody is under more stress now, and has to perform better, and work more hours per day. The deep breathing and relaxation employees get from yoga help them to be more focused and less anxious. When they go back to work, they’re in a position to make better decisions. You don’t want people making business decisions when they’re stressed.”

A study from the Journal of Physical Activity and Health found that yoga improves brain function more than aerobic exercise.

“While practicing yoga, you are focused on your breath and mindfully aware of your postures. These mental exercises seem to affect the way you think and focus outside of yoga practice. The practice also reduces anxiety and stress, and that in itself can lead to better cognitive performance,” said exercise psychologist and study author Neha Gothe.

“It appears that following yoga practice, the participants were better able to focus their mental resources, process information quickly, more accurately and also learn, hold and update pieces of information more effectively than after performing an aerobic exercise bout,” Gothe explained.

3. Decreased Physical Aches & Pains

The way you feel physically impacts how you function. If you’re sitting at a desk typing all day, it’s common to develop arthritis, neck strain, shoulder stiffness, and tight hips. Yoga helps decrease these and other physical aches and pains.

Did you know back pain is often a result of tight hips?

Tight hips are a result of keeping your hips closed (sitting at a desk, sitting in a car, sitting on a couch). For example, when you drop something and reach down to pick it up, and you use your back instead of your hips (to squat). Next, you’re googling “chiropractor” (or shaman – depending on severity) and saddled with a “bad back.”

Yoga emphasizes alignment and healthy posture, so you learn new habits like bending at the hips instead of reaching with the back. Several of these small adjustments can keep you feeling good (and out of the doctor’s office). It’s hard to deliver your best work, as you’re white knuckling through pain.

Fun fact: In Indonesian social norms keep the body healthy. You’ll often see groups of friends chatting in a squat position (with feet flat on the ground). Can you imagine us doing that Stateside?! #NormalizeHealthyHips (with a yoga wellness challenge!).

Accessible, Inclusive, Affordable

In addition to the physical and mental advantages, yoga is also accessible, inclusive, and affordable.

If you pick a fitness challenge that is too physically intense, you’re going to leave people out. With yoga, you go at your own pace and there’s a style for everyone from the intern to the CEO.

No Expense Equipment

You can run a yoga challenge without any equipment–even without a mat. Team members can practice poses and breathwork at their desk seated or standing.

Yoga is about slowing down, turning your attention inward, and being in the present moment. You don’t need expensive tools to get started. You can start your yoga wellness challenge tomorrow with a “Pose of the Day” program or pausing for a Mindful Moment.

With all the benefits of yoga, it’s no wonder HBO, Apple, Nike, and others offer yoga to employees.

Ready to offer your team a yoga wellness challenge? If you’d like to learn more about planning a challenge for your team, we’re happy to help! Send us more info here.

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