Office Yoga – now you’re really working flexibly

Posted on Feb 19th, 2016 | Productivity

Remember on New Year’s Eve, when you were telling everyone who would listen – and yourself – that this year was the time to finally start getting your money’s worth out of that gym membership? Don’t fret! It’s perfectly understandable that your attendance quickly subsided as soon as the inevitable cold snap kicked in. Maybe next year, eh?

But what if there was a way of living up to that ‘#NewYearNewMe’ gubbins without the need for expensive equipment? Something you can do to look after yourself from the comfort of your own office? Well, you’ve seen the title of the article, so you can surely by this point tell where I’m going with this…

Indeed, there are heaps of apps, DVDs or online yoga classes you can use without even having to go outside. I personally use DDPYoga, a routine put together by ex pro wrestler ‘Diamond’ Dallas Page. I’m not as regular a user as one is supposed to be, but I can vouch for it being a game changer for someone who hardly did any exercise. Here’s a chap completely turning his life around using it (warning: like 90% of emotional videos made in the last decade, this does contain ‘Fix You’ by Coldplay):

With business owners already suffering from the stress of wearing many different hats at once, time spent at home can be sparing enough without having to travel to the gym and back. So why not bring the gym to you?

It’s well documented that yoga makes you more alert, gives you better sleep and improves your immune system – all tremendously helpful for someone under the pressure of running a business. There’s also some evidence, according to the NHS website, that regular yoga practice is beneficial not only for people with stress or high blood pressure, but also heart disease, aches and pains – including lower back pain and depression.

Sitting down = ‘the new smoking?’

This claim may seem a tad hyperbolic, but research by the American College of Cardiology linked prolonged sitting to an increased risk of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, cancer and even early death. US-based ‘Doctor to the stars’ David Agus has even claimed that 5+ hours of sedentary sitting is the health equivalent of smoking a pack and a quarter of cigarettes.

If you haven’t got the work/life balance down as a freelancer, contractor or small business owner, you may find yourself sitting at a desk through your lunch break and way past your regular working hours, doing insurmountable damage to your spine over time.

Thus, it isn’t just hairy folks in tie-dye, Hollywood celebs and Dhalsim (that stretchy guy from the Street Fighter games) who reap the benefits of the ancient discipline; the business world is beginning to catch up.

“Just standing up or doing some stretching or physical activity every 30 minutes greatly increases blood circulation and will aid productivity” writes veteran CEO and small business trainer Melissa Thompson.

It may sound bizarre, but clearing out a bit of space in the workplace for staff to strike some poses could seriously boost productivity.

“Yoga’s meditation and breathing exercises help to silence the noise and clear the clutter, letting you be more mindful, alert and focused” says Thompson. “As yoga helps you better concentrate and focus, it also opens the mind so the creative juices and energy can flow.”

The Business of Yoga

With yoga seeing a resurgence of popularity worldwide, it was quite inevitable that instructors would have to offer more specialist classes in order to stand out from the competition. You may have seen this Canadian fitness group on social media lately who received global attention due to their ‘Bunny Yoga’ sessions.

Richmond, Canada based charity Bandaids for Bunnies held their first classes in November 2015 and January 2016 with the hope that classes would encourage people to adopt rescued rabbits. But in a similar vein to the cat and dog cafés popping up around the world, they knew that the classes would attract folks who live in rented accommodation and can’t adopt a pet.

Fitness Club owner Julia Zu told Buzzfeed that although the bunnies stay close to their cages at first, “as soon as people started posing on their mats the bunnies starting running.”

You may be thinking “but wouldn’t the bunnies get in the way?” Well, you’d be right.

“They like to choose their human” said Zu. “You’ll have two or three girls in the room and the bunnies really like their mats. One girl in the room had five bunnies on her mat. She couldn’t even do her poses.”

Yes, the idea has its practical flaws, but Bunny Yoga is a non-regular charity event rather than a genuine business venture. It’s also created a lot of publicity for the Sunberry Gym where the classes take place.

Unsurprisingly, once you reach the darkest corners of the internet, it’s possible to find bespoke yoga businesses catering to for pretty much everybody, including people who struggle to wear stilettos (stilletoga?), fans of winter sports (snowga?) and, erm, dogs (doga!). There’s also classes that cater to nudists, pot-heads, horse-riders…. the list goes on, and leads us all the way to Punk Rock Yoga.

Challenging stereotypes

Jo Smith, from much nearer home in Guildford decided to merge two of her passions into one project last year when she launched Bad Juju Yoga. It may sound like quite the juxtaposition to the unacquired ear, but fast, aggressive music actually has cathartic qualities, as detailed in this study, which was actually conducted in order to prove the opposite – that it makes you angrier.


“The feeling I get from listening to decent punk and hardcore is a completely enveloping body and mind experience, and I get this same feeling from yoga”, Jo told me. “Yoga has this feeling of elitism to it, and it shouldn’t. To me, doing yoga to punk rock or other forms of ‘extreme’ music opens it up to a wider community who may not have considered it before because of the image it’s developed.”

Starting a business is a big decision, so I asked Jo why she decided to take the plunge:

“After doing the 9-5, five days a week for the last nine years (straight out of uni), I decided that I needed to get my ass into gear and break the cycle.”

Inspiration came a convention in 2014 from meeting the team behind Punk Rock Yoga, an international collective of similarly unconventional instructors. “It inspired me to keep working at it and develop Bad Juju Yoga. It’s still early days but I think that’s what’s so exciting. For a long time I didn’t think I had a passion, but now I’ve found it.”

As with any startup, finding the time to build it alongside a full-time job can be tricky. As it happens, Jo is still in the process of building a client base substantial enough to leave her 9-5 job; currently restricting the classes to the evenings and weekends. Juggling class preparations and promotion with work can be challenging, but she gets by, she says, with a little help from her friends.

“I have a great group of friends who are incredibly supportive, they encourage me in my endeavour and prep me up when I feel I’m at a bit of a loose end.”

Yoga, punk rock, and in fact any interests, can bring people together and create a support network, which is important to have when embarking on any life-changing venture. Perhaps then, the time is right for a ‘Yoga for Small Business Owners’ class? Leave your words of support, and perhaps with enough enthusiasm we can convince our CEO Darren to break out the sweatband and host the first one… although that might be a bit of a stretch.

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Written by Tom West

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