Move aside, gyms and fancy equipment — corporate offices across the country are stretching to a new tune. Yoga is in vogue and its benefits at the workplace are manifold
Chow Siddhartha has every reason to fall prey to the stress of his daily grind. With an array of meetings lined up with representatives from top companies such as the Royal Bank of Scotland, Ernst & Young, General Motors, Deutsche Bank and the Taj group of hotels, his day is jam-packed and exhausting. On the contrary, Siddhartha looks relaxed. As the founder of Siddhartha Yoga, he practises what he preaches — the art of dealing with stress at the workplace. Siddhartha conducts corporate yoga classes in 10 major cities, and provides employees of several companies with solutions to their physical ailments, especially neck and shoulder pain, caused from excessive hours spent in front of a computer screen and because of incorrect postures.
“The corporate industry is looking to promote healthier practices for their employees to boost productivity. There are a lot of health issues and a high risk of burnout,” says Siddhartha, who charges between Rs 1,500 and Rs 5,000 for his corporate yoga modules — desktop yoga, yoga for computer users and yoga for corporate stress management.
The yoga exercises for computer users and desk employees include meditation to release stress, Sukshma Vyayama for the joints, asanas to mobilise the lower body and upper body for proper blood circulation, pranayamas, visual cleansing exercises, and guided relaxation techniques. These are often introduced for an hour daily, from Monday to Friday, or for three days a week on alternate days, depending on the employees’ requirements.
The widespread popularity of corporate yoga is attributed to factors such as minimal space requirements, the flexibility of timings and that it can be practised in most outfits. These classes take place in presentation rooms, cafeterias, and even at an employee’s work station.
Whenever Mona Singh, senior executive at a leading IT company in Pune, gets caught in the web of immense fatigue, resulting from her long commute, she heads to the yoga sessions conducted at her office. Between 5.30 pm and 7 pm, she unwinds and relaxes her body and mind. “I was stressed out. But with my shift wrapping up at 11 pm, I was left with no time to catch up with friends or even hang out somewhere. That’s when I decided to join the yoga classes offered on campus and the best part is that it is so convenient. I can walk in for a session even during my shift and do a few breathing exercises.”
A fortnight ago, HDFC Bank roped in Isha Yoga, an institute founded by Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev, and so far, nearly 900 employees have registered their names for sessions. Abhay Aima, group head, HDFC, has been a regular yoga practitioner for many years, and feels that it provides him with a sense of balance, which in turn facilitates his professional life. “If your thought process is in place, your investments fall into place as well,” he says. While the bank has started two sessions daily at its Kanjurmarg branch in Mumbai, it plans to extend the programme to other centres across the country soon.
Yoga trainer Nirmal Kumar Nirana runs Om Yoga and offers yoga classes at BHEL, Dorling Kindersley and Mindmill Software in Noida. “In today’s corporate culture, you know you have to reach office by 9 am but you don’t know when your shift will end. There is a lot of mental work and immense stress on the nervous system,” he says. Nirana also maintains annual attendance reports to compare the list of absentees, prior to the onset of these yoga classes, and after.
Close your eyes and drop your chin down to your chest. Keep your shoulders loose. Move your neck in a circular motion by moving your right ear to the right shoulder, tilt your head backwards and then bringing your left ear to the left shoulder. Rotate your neck three to five times and then switch directions.
First, stretch your arms straight in front and parallel to the floor. Palms must face the ceiling. Cross your right arm over the left (bend your arm slightly at the elbow if needed). Bring both palms together. Lift both elbows. The shoulders slide down your back. Repeat this exercise with the left arm over the right.
Keep your feet on the floor. Then, bring both your hands on your knees. Inhale and stretch backwards. Now turn your face upwards and look at the ceiling. Exhale and lean forward and drop your head down. Repeat this exercise for three to five breaths.
Seated Spinal Twist
Sit sideways in your chair. Place your feet flat on the floor. Hold the back of the chair with both hands and twist your waist to the right towards the back of the chair. Turn to the other side. Repeat this exercise a few more times.
Seated Forward Bend
Push your chair away from your desk. Remain seated, keep your feet flat on the floor. Take your arms behind the lower back, keep your back straight and interlace your fingers behind your back. Bend forward from the waist, bring your hands over your back. Rest your chest on your thighs and relax your neck.
Keep your elbows on your desk. Place your fingers on your temples and concentrate. With small circular motions, gently rub your temples, first clockwise and then anti-clockwise. It is important that you do this for approximately 10–15 long deep breaths. Repeat till you are completely relaxed.
The yoga exercises for computer users and desk employees include meditation to release stress, Sukshma Vyayama for the joints, asanas to mobilise the lower body and upper body for proper blood circulation, pranayamas, visual cleansing exercises, and guided relaxation techniques.