Corporate yoga or office yoga classes are different to the kind of classes that you might typically find in yoga studios and the reasons are fairly obvious. Firstly, classes tend to be shorter in length to fit in with the working day – 30 to 45 minutes before the start of the day, at lunchtime or at the end of the day. Secondly, they are usually less strenuous, sometimes done sitting in a chair rather than on a mat so participants don’t necessarily have to change out of their work clothes, get sweaty or too tired!
It’s important to remember that while yoga in general can be physically demanding, workplace yoga classes are more about mental agility and resilience. It is not a competitive sport and most people cannot reach the acrobatic, almost contortionist type postures so popular in social media posts! The benefits of corporate yoga classes include less stress, more creativity, higher levels of concentration & energy, and better decision-making skills.
A typical staff yoga class will comprise a series of stretching and movement exercises, combined with breathing and meditation techniques. Participants will be told to work within their physical capacity, it’s essential never to push through pain. A little discomfort as you challenge yourself is OK, but never pain. The types of exercises will vary according to the time of day and the people in the class. A good teacher will be able to teach people with different levels of experience and physical ability in the same class. Yoga is suitable for everyone and can easily be adapted to suit any specific needs or restrictions.
Here is an example sequence of exercises that could form the basis of an office yoga class. For many people at the moment, home is the office – so wherever you are, if you do each exercise for about two minutes, this will give you a 15/20 minute taster. Try all of these exercises with your eyes closed for a deeper, more focused meditative experience.
TO START – before starting any class (or indeed pretty much anything!), it’s good to stop and bring your attention away from the busyness of your mind and focus your attention on the present moment. Sit comfortably on your chair with your feet flat on the ground, close your eyes to cut out some of the external distractions, take a deep inhale and hold your breath for 10 seconds, then exhale. Repeat twice more, inhaling and holding, then releasing. This type of meditative breath immediately relaxes the mind and prepares you for the class.
1. Spinal flex – bring your hands onto your knees and as you inhale, lift your chest forward and as you exhale, arch the spine back and bring the shoulders forward. Keep repeating the exercise and focus your attention on the movement of your pelvis. Keeping the head level (as if you had a glass of water on it), as you inhale forward, your pelvis rolls down, as you exhale back, your pelvis tilts up. This exercise massages the lowest part of your spine.
2. Spinal twist – move your hands on to your shoulders, with the fingers pointing forward and the thumbs pointing back. Inhale as you twist to the left and exhale as you twist to the right. Turn your head in the same direction and move without stopping. This exercise keeps your spine flexible and strong.
3. Punching forward – bring your hands into tight fists and start punching the air in front of you, one hand at a time, moving at your own pace. Make the pull back as important as the punch forward and become aware of the churning of the rib cage. Co-ordinate the movement with the breath, this not only massages your internal organs but also has cardiovascular benefits.
4. Heel rises – stand up and with your feet parallel, hip width apart, inhale as you lift both arms up overhead and rise up on the balls of your feet so your heels come off the ground. Exhale as you relax the arms and heels down. Continue inhaling as you lift up, exhaling as you relax down, stretching the calf muscles, expanding your lungs and improving your balance.
5. Squats – if you need support to help you balance, hold on to the back of a chair or a desk. Bring your arms up parallel to the ground with palms facing down. Squat down as low as you can go, inhale as you stand up straight, exhale as you squat back down. Continue inhaling up and exhaling down, working the thigh muscles and joints.
6. Hip rolls – bring your hands onto your hips and start to rotate your hips in circles. After a while, change direction and continue, releasing tension in your lower spine and hips.
7. Head turns – relax your arms by your sides and start turning your head left and right, as if saying NO. Inhale as you turn to the left, exhale as you turn to the right. After a while, change the breath pattern so you inhale as you turn to the right and exhale as you turn to the left. Always be gentle with the neck, never over-extend, this simple exercise releases tension from the neck, which can easily build up if you spend much of your day in front of a computer screen.
TO END – close your eyes, rub the palms of your hands together vigorously for a minute to generate heat energy and then bring your hands over your eyes. Keep your hands there and take three long breaths in and out, then gently open your eyes behind your hands. Slowly move your hands away from your face and down by your sides. Enjoy the rest of your day or evening!
You can follow a 10 minute video of these exercises HERE.
Because of where we are based, we run many office yoga classes in London but we also have clients further afield. Some prefer to work online, enabling staff to join in, no matter where they are in the world, so corporate yoga London sometimes becomes corporate yoga New York, Madrid or Berlin!