Can yoga increase productivity in the workplace?
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Is yoga the business when it comes to creating a happy, productive workforce? asks Jo Haywood
Sun salutations, cleansing exhalations and time-out meditations look set to become key motivational tools in modern, forward-thinking businesses alongside more traditional driving devices like fast-track promotions, team-building away days and generous bonus schemes.
Leading the charge are a new, bendy breed of yoga and wellness practitioners, like Kelly Thistlethwaite (and the award for best Yorkshire name in this edition goes to…), Huddersfield’s Yorkshire Yogi, who offers a range of workshops across the county for a diverse roster of clientele that includes students and corporate groups.
‘I’ve always been interested in living life well, both mentally and physically,’ she explained. ‘I want to be my best by challenging my body to see what I can achieve and to, hopefully, live a long life.
‘Over the years, I’ve come to realise that if I want to be confident and content, to enhance my self-belief and to trust the process of life more, it’s all down to me. I want to help others have this same realisation of ownership and empowerment.’
Even before setting up Yorkshire Yogi in March 2017, Kelly’s career was all about helping people to rehabilitate, recover and adapt both mentally and physically following injury and trauma.
‘I worked at the Military Centre of Excellence for Rehabilitation in London, taking people out for walks, runs and bike rides,’ she said of her time with the Help for Heroes team. ‘I’ve always recognised the importance of sport in recovery and got involved as much as I could.’
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She was a key part of Team True Spirit, training people recovering from injury to complete the Ironman UK Triathlon. She also became an adaptive water ski instructor and set up a wheelchair basketball programme.
After three years in London, she moved back north to lead a team of sports recovery experts at a new centre created to support wounded, injured and sick service personnel, veterans and their families.
‘I consider myself incredibly lucky to have worked with the people I did,’ said Kelly. ‘Their strength, courage and spirit are what sticks with me the most. To keep going no matter what, to pick yourself up each time you fall and to never give up. They taught me that I can achieve anything I put my mind to, and that life is too short to ignore opportunities. They also taught me a lot of swear words.’
She initially turned to yoga in an attempt to quiet her own busy mind, signing up for classes with a friend to learn to chill out. She also found it useful following a hip injury, and soon became hooked on its calming, body and mind-soothing properties.
Yoga is now a key part of Kelly’s work, which sees her travelling the county bringing wellbeing workshops into all manner of workplaces.
‘The pace of people’s lives is now so fast,’ she said. ‘We are constantly striving for more, planning more and expecting more, which is fantastic but has its negative effects too.
‘Our body is trying to communicate with us all the time, and if we ignore it, it will get louder and louder. This usually manifests itself as illness, injury and breakdown. To avoid ill health, you need to listen to your body and give yourself time to repair, recover and rest.’
On a personal level, yoga can improve mobility, flexibility, balance and strength. It can also help to reduce stress, negative thoughts, self-doubt and enhance relaxation and sleep. But what can it do for a workforce?
‘If staff are relaxed and have controlled levels of stress, they feel happier, are healthier, more focused, make better decisions, are more productive, communicate better and sleep well, which is vital for overall wellbeing,’ said Kelly.
‘Taking time for yourself is not wasting time. Sometimes, the best thing you can do to achieve more is just to slow down.’
And if she could give one piece of advice to make us all more centred and productive, whether at home, at work or at play?
‘Breathe,’ she said. ‘Take five minutes every day to sit and breath with no distractions. Believe it or not, most of us are not breathing well. With practice, breathing – especially our exhale – can have huge relaxation benefits.’
Kelly’s top tips for a healthy New Year
:: Listen to your body.
:: Challenge yourself to do something you think you can’t.
:: Learn to meditate.
:: Move your body every day.
:: Eat well 80 per cent of the time (and enjoy the 20 per cent without the guilt trip).
:: Drink more water.
:: Laugh often.
:: Practise mindfulness and gratitude.
:: Spend more time with your loved ones (and less on your phone).
:: Love yourself, warts and all.
For more information, visit Yorkshire Yogi at yorkshireyogi.com.