WorkWell NW - Workplace Wellness Program

Increasing your employee health, productivity, and wellbeing.

meditationYoga and Meditation Classes Are Sweeping Corporate America

“ Companies increasingly are falling for the allure of meditation, too, offering free, on-site classes. They're being won over, in part, by findings at the National Institutes of Health, the University of Massachusetts, and the Mind/Body Medical Institute at Harvard University that meditation enhances the qualities companies need most from their workers: increased brain-wave activity, enhanced intuition, better concentration, and the alleviation of the kinds of aches and pains that plague employees most." - Bloomberg Businessweek

Why Yoga & Meditation in the Workplace?

Stress is responsible for 60-90% of doctor visits according to the Benson-Henry Institute. The World Health Organization estimates stress costs U.S. companies at least $300 billion a year through absenteeism, turn-over and low productivity.

Across the country, companies are embracing yoga, mindfulness, and meditation to increase productivity and reduce stress in the workplace. Yoga provides both physical exercise and meditation to create alert, healthy, and productive employees. Stress in the workplace can lead to lost work days or an inability to work long hours. Evidence-based research is revealing what many companies have already discovered: meditation, mindfulness training, and yoga improve employee mental and physical health. In today’s increasingly competitive workplace, these programs support your employees to successfully face the daily challenges and demands of their positions.

Yoga in the Office - Video Instruction with Suzy Green

Stress
Stress management through mindfulness training develops the skill of being attentive to what is happening in the external environment while simulataneously aware of the internal thoughts, emotions and physical sensations. This kind of self-awareness can by systematically strengthened with mind-body interventions.

A significant body of evidence points to mindfulness and mind-body interventions as effective means for reducing anxiety, depression, and perceived stress while increasing empathy, self-compassion and gaining a greater sense of self-actualization, self-responsibility, and self-directedness. (6-9)

59% of new yogis say they come to yoga specifically for stress relief. (3)

“Participants in a yoga intervention group showed significant improvements in working memory capacity, which involves continually updating and manipulating information,” said Edward McAuley, a professor at the University of Illinois and co-author of the study, “They were also able to perform the task at hand quickly and accurately, without getting distracted.” (18)

Working memory capacity has been linked to emotional regulation. (19) According to Jha, head of the Jha Lab at the University of Miami, "Working memory seems to correspond to how well people can control their behavior, especially in the face of distractions—emotional or otherwise."

Headaches
In a study in 2007, yoga therapy was shown to reduce the frequency and severity of migraines over a three month period in a randomized controlled trial. (1) Yoga can also assist with neck tension and help prevent repetitive stress injuries.

Low Back Pain
The National Institutes of Health concluded from several studies conducted by NCCAM that yoga reduces symptoms of chronic low-back pain including less disability, pain, and depression. (2)

Fatigue
Weekly yoga can provide more energy and vitality in your workforce. Breaking up a long workday of meetings or a repetitive day of stressful activities with yoga can refresh your employees and prepare them for the afternoon ahead.

Companies Leap Ahead Using Health Programs

According to the Wellness Council of America, a company who invests in health management programs: (4)
Reduces sick-leave absenteeism by an average of 26.8 percent
Reduces health care costs by 26 percent
Reduces worker's compensation and disability management claims costs by 32 percent
Gains an average of $5.81 for every dollar invested in health management programs

Employees Report Increased Productivity

According to the Principal Financial Well-being index for American Workers: (4)
51 percent of [wellness program] participants say they work harder and perform better
59 percent say they have more energy and are more productive
Employees expect their employers to offer wellness programs
45 percent say that health-related programs encourage them to stay in their current position
43 percent say they miss fewer days of work as a result of wellness programs

The Science behind Yoga and Meditation

Stress induces the sympathetic nervous system to kick in to higher gear.  It activates corticosteroids, adrenaline and noradrenalin which help us deal with crisis.  Our immune system is down-regulated, few neurons are created, blood pressure increases, large muscles tense in preparation to fight or run, the brain shuts down non-essential neural circuits.  As a result there is a decreased capacity to learn, feelings of anxiety, nervousness and low mood are experienced.  When the sympathetic nervous system is aroused people perceive things that others say or do as threats or negative and more stress is experienced. (10)  This stress response is helpful in emergency situations, but over time it can induce health issues from hypertension and infertility to depression and insomnia.(11)
As stress continues creativity and resilience diminish and people begin to see the world as a constant threat. They stop doing the things that used to keep them in balance and their experience narrows and they may enter what psychologist Marie Asberg calls the exhaustion funnel. (10)

The body has a natural counterbalance to the sympathetic nervous system – the parasympathetic nervous system or “relaxation response”.  Another set of hormones is released including oxytoxin which enhances social bonding and vasopressin which lowers blood pressure.  The hippocampus is stimulated which proved memory and allows for new learning.  Increased secretion of immunoglobulin A strengthens the immune system.  One feels optimistic, positive and are more likely to interpret events in a positive way. (10) 

Yoga is recognized as a powerful intervention for stress management; encouraging a shift from the sympathetic to the parasympathetic system.   Long recognized as pathway to greater fitness and peace of mind; a mounting body of evidence points to yoga’s ability to bring a sense of wellbeing, feelings of relaxation, improved self-confidence, improved efficiency, increased attentiveness, lowered irritability, and an optimistic outlook on life. Anxiety, heart rate, respiratory rate, blood pressure and cardiac output are reduced in students practicing yoga and meditation. (12)

Practicing yoga and meditation as a means to manage and relieve both acute and chronic stress helps individuals overcome other co-morbidities associated with diseases and leads to increased quality of life. As a non-pharmacological form of treatment, yoga based interventions are an alternative option for the treatment of mood disorders. (12)

These kinds of mindfulness practices, which are the polar opposite of multi-tasking, keep the brain vigilant and fast acting.  This lends itself to greater productivity in the workplace.  The cortex, which is what we use we need to solve problems, experiences a reduction in grey cells after the age of 25 in the average person.  Studies show that mindfulness practitioners increase gray cells through adulthood.  Sustained attention scores (10 minutes) also decline as one gets older, yet they improve in the mindfulness practitioner.  Likewise, reaction time ordinarily slows as one ages except for those practicing mindfulness where it remains steady. (13)

There is a true biological effect,” says John Denninger, a psychiatrist at Harvard Medical School and director of research at Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, “the kinds of things that happen when you meditate do have effects through the body, not just in the brain.”  He recently completed a study showing how mind-body techniques can switch on and off some genes lined to stress and immune function.(11)

Rather than falling into reactive patterns under stressful situations, the ability to observe what is happening in one’s own mind and body while also attuned to what is happening in the environment brings with it greater creativity and emotional stability.  This skill can be actively fostered and strengthened leading to changes in the brain that support new habits of response to stress.  (5) 
The research is backed up by real life results that show less conflict in the workplace, greater cohesiveness in teams, increased creativity and problem-solving. 

 “I’m in business so I need results,” says Dave Jakubowsi, vice president of business development for Internet Service Provider United Online.  He found his 18 hour work day stress mounting and turned to yoga and meditation for an hour each morning. “It’s amazing. I’m able to sort through work challenges in this state of calm much faster than trying to fight through it. And I make fewer mistakes.”  (14)

He is not alone. Michael Forlenza, PhD, MPH, School of Leadership and Professional Advancement, Duquesne University, says, “ I find the practice helps me deal with the stress of constant information overload and shifting demands and priorities.  It also helps as I manage my staff; I am more present, more thoughtful and deliberative in decision-making...." (14)
Companies that have adopted yoga & meditation as an integral part of their corporate culture include General Mills, Their findings:

  • 83% of participants said they were “taking time each day to optimize my personal productivity” – up from 23% before the course.
  • 82% said they now make time to eliminate tasks with limited productivity value – up from 32% before the course.
  •  80% of senior executives reported a positive change in their ability to make better decisions
  • 89% of senior executives said they became better listeners. (15)

Harvard Business Review contributor William George, Goldman Sachs board member and former CEO of Medtronic, is a long time meditator and advocate for the practice in the corporate world.
The main business case for meditation is that if you’re fully present on the job, you will be more effective as a leader, you will make better decisions and you will work better with other people.  I tend to live a very busy life. This keeps me focused on what’s important.”  (16)

IF Insurance, a large insurance provider based mainly in Sweden with over 6400 employees  implemented a mindfulness based training program and saw these results:

  • 88% of participants reporting “a highly increased ability to stay focused”
  • 76% of participants reporting “highly increased positive relationships within their teams”.
  • 68% of participants reporting “highly increased personal efficiency and productivity”
  • 60% of participants reporting “highly increased ability to counteract stress” (17)

Work Well NW is run through Three Trees Yoga, a well-established yoga studio with nine years of excellence in yoga teaching. Three Trees operates a yoga teacher training program, ensuring a staff of highly skilled, well-trained, and insured teachers who are knowledgeable in a variety of types of yoga and emphasize safety.
We will work with you to create the type of class that meets your unique needs.

Full or half day retreats are the ideal way to kick off a program.
On-going classes one or twice a week keep employees engaged and motivated.

Retreats:
$550 full day
$300 half day

Classes:
$100/hour for up to 10 employees
$8 for each additional employee
(Six-week commitment is required to get started)
Yoga mats Free for the first six weeks

Offered Classes:

Stress Reduction
Mindful Leaders
Weight loss

Most classes include:
Breathing techniques for reducing stress
Meditation for calm and mental clarity
Yoga poses—on a mat or poses you can do at your desk
Mindfulness

References

1. John PJ, Sharma N, Sharma CM, Kankane A. (2007 May). Effectiveness of yoga therapy in the treatment of migraine without aura: a randomized controlled trial. [Abstract]. 47(5):654-61.Abstract retrieved from http:// www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17501846
2. Cramer H, Lauche R, Haller H, Dobos G. (2013 May). A systematic review and meta-analysis of yoga for low back pain. [Abstract]. 29(5):450-60. Abstract retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23246998
3. “Yoga in America Study 2012.” Press Release. Yoga Journal. 5 Dec 2012. Retrieved from http://www.yogajournal.com/press/yoga_in_america?print=1
4. Hendrickson, Barb. “Increasing Employee Participation in Corporate Wellness Programs.” Occupational Health and Safety. 1 Sept 2013. Retrieved from http://ohsonline.com/articles/2013/09/01/increasing-employee-participation-in-corporate-wellness-programs.aspx
5. Kearney, MK, Being Connected . . . A Key to My Survival” JAMA. 2009;301(11):1155-1164
6. Arora S, Bhattacharjee J. Modulation of immune response in stress by yoga. Int J Yoga 2008;1:45-55. [PUBMED]
7. Scheinbaum, C. The Many Dangers Posed by Burned-Out Doctors. BloombergBusinessWeek. August 2012) Available from www.businessweek.com/articles/2012-08-22/the-manydangers-of-burned-out-doctors  
8. Chiesa A, et al. Mindfulness-based stress reduction for stress management in healthy people: a review and meta-analysis. J ALtern Complement Med 2009 May: 15 (5):593-600.doi:10.1089/acm.2008.0495
9. . Khoury B, et al. Mindfulness-based therapy: a comprehensive meta-analysis. Clin Psychol Rev. 2013 Aug; 33(6):763-71.doi:10.1016/j.cpr.2013.05.005.
10.Cited in Chaskalson, Michael. The Mindful Workplace Developing Resilient Individuals and Resonant Organizations with MBSR.. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, 2011. pg 66-67 Print
11. Makiko Kitamura. Harvard Yoga Scientists Find Proof of Meditation Benefit Bloomberg Businessweek (serial online) November 2013
12. Woodyard C. Exploring the therapeutic effect of yoga and its ability to increase quality of life. Int J Yoga (serial online) 2011;4:49-54
13. Holzela, Britta K. Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain gray matter density Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging. January 2011 Volume 191, Issue 1, 30, pg 36–43
14. Mara Der Hovanesian Zen and the Art of Corporate Productivity Bloomberg Businessweek (serial online) July 2003.
15. Hansen Drew. A Guide to Mindfulness at Work. Forbes (serial online) Oct 2012.
16. David Gelles. The Mind Business. The Financial Times Limited  (serial online) August 2012
17. Project Healthy Workplace, If Industry, May 2010, Health Group
18. The Effects of an 8-Week Hatha Yoga Intervention on Executive Function in Older Adults J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci first published online July 14, 2014
19. Jha, A. P., Stanley, E. A., Kiyonaga, A., Wong, L., & Gelfand, L. (2010). Examining the protective effects of mindfulness training on working memory capacity and affective experience. Emotion, 10(1), 54-64