A few months ago, Eugene and I gave a meditation talk to his office at Penn State. That thoughtful conversation (we loved it so much!) has led to continued discussions about what workplace wellness actually looks like and what it could look like through a yogic lens. Because, really, what we were able to cover in 60 minutes was barely the tip of the iceberg.
As a former career development professional and human potential nerd, I’m endlessly fascinated by how people learn, what motivates us, how we choose places to work and grow based on our own values and interests, and how those places and organizations support their people. I’m also fascinated to think what workplaces would look like if corporate wellness programs integrated not just the “fitness” aspect of wellness, but also the emotional and social components. And, isn’t that the definition of “health?" That health isn’t merely the absence of disease, but the wellbeing of the person on a holistic level? Yep, according to the World Health Organization, it is.
So, here’s a practical look at how a workplace might function if more people understood yogic principles in addition to yoga postures. Let’s take a peek at just the Yamas of yoga (the first "branch" of yoga) and their brief definitions:
- Ahimsa - practicing non-harm
- Satya - telling the truth
- Asteya - practicing non-stealing
- Aparigraha - learning not to get too attached
- Brahmacharya - practicing non-excess and maintaining positive energy
Think about this...what if:
- People were kind? What if every meeting started with optimism and genuine interest for those in the room and their ideas? What if we all led without judgement, scrutiny, fear, or negativity? What if we encouraged optimism, we got to know each other as human beings with lives and interests in addition to our work?
- We encouraged truth telling? What if we allowed space for people to share innovative solutions without shooting them down (see ahimsa, non-harm)? What if we offered space for folks to share their problems and struggles? What if in doing this, we allowed employees to own their roles, grow and learn? Wouldn’t that provide a harmonious space? A place where people want to be, where their ideas feel supported even if they aren’t necessarily adopted?
- We didn’t steal from another’s time by scrolling through our cell phones during meetings? What if we all acknowledged others for their great work, rather than claiming it for our own? What if we spoke with intention rather than to be heard?
- We didn’t get so attached to the way things have been or what we’ve tried before? With people, technology, research, goals, etc. changing all the time, what if organizations embraced change? What would happen if we adapt as the world evolves without being so attached to what was, or what did/didn’t work before?
- What if we took better care of ourselves in order to be better with our work? What if we paid attention to the food we ate, how much water we drank? What if we made sure to move in a way that energized us, rather than depleted us? What if we listened more than we talked? What would that do for our energy and focus?
You guys, I know I just threw a ton of yoga at you. But, that’s what I do...I like to make what seems lofty and a little woo, and actually give it structure for your LIFE. If you’re like, wow, this sounds awesome, but how the heck will my office/workplace/organization ever get there? Do we need to overhaul a workplace wellness program? Well, maybe...but, even more so, it starts with YOU. Pick one of these Yamas to invite into your work this week, and let me know how it changes your perspective and perhaps your interactions. Maybe someone even notices and follows your lead. That’s our yoga magic...at work. Pun intended.
P.S. I know not everyone works in a conventional setting, but these Yamas apply to work/interactions in the home, too. What I hope this message also does is encourage you to think about your own health in a way that captures your physical, emotional, social, and spiritual wellbeing. And, what’s a great way to do that?! To get outside! You guys, nature has proven benefits to our health. So does yoga. So does being with community. Come hang with us on July 21 at 8:00 a.m. for Yoga in the Park!