Yoga: A vital tool for business, mind and body

Emma Lawrence of the Yoga Tree is startled by the rise of anxiety in our society - but luckily, the means of fighting back are within reach...

Recently, I’ve been invited to go into a variety of businesses to try to significantly reduce stress levels and anxiety related depression in employees between the ages of twenty-two and fifty-five.

While business owners and HR leaders understand that this cannot be done in one day, they are now starting to realise that exhaustion and stress-related illness is becoming more ‘the norm’ than 5 years ago. They are also aware that there are tools to help, but in most cases they have little knowledge of these.

In this world of 24/7 communication, where everything has to be done as fast as possible, and where evenings and weekends at home probably don’t mean being uncontactable by colleagues and superiors, this is becoming more of a common problem. Lack of actual time away from phones and laptops, as well as burn out from long hours, play a huge part in this.

The ever-impressive psychotherapist/counsellor/entrepreneur, Ales Zivkovic, conducted some simple research into this matter using Google Trends, which indicated that depression and anxiety show up as two of the highest ranking mental health searches - and that searches for anxiety increased 18% in 2016 compared to 2015, with an astonishing 96% increase over the period of last 5 years.

For depression and anxiety, the growth is almost twofold in the UK compared to the rest of the world. (You can find a more comprehensive analysis at Zivkovic’s blog here: aleszivkovic.com/blog/).

There are, of course, other mental health conditions that have seen a sharp rise in the last five years across the UK. Searches for stress increased by 18%, bipolar 14%, panic attacks rose 30%, social anxiety 49%, burnout 19%, and relationship counselling by as much as 58%.

As an employer, it is important to know that the latest estimates from the Labour Force Survey (LFS) show:

  • The total number of cases of work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2015/16 was 488,000 cases, a prevalence rate of 1,510 per 100,000 workers.
  • The number of new cases was 224,000, an incidence rate of 690 per 100,000 workers. The estimated number and rate have remained broadly flat for more than a decade.
  • The total number of working days lost due to this condition in 2015/16 was 11.7 million days. This equated to an average of 23.9 days lost per case.
  • In 2015/16 stress accounted for 37% of all work-related ill health cases and 45% of all working days lost due to ill health.

So, what can we do? Teach life tools through yoga, relaxation, pranayama (breathing techniques) and simple meditation. The earlier we teach the tools, the easier they become. Having said that, it is never too late to start.

And the more you practise in non-stressful environments, the easier they are to do, when you really need them. Whilst you can be your own worst enemy by letting yourself become anxious, you can also be your own best friend by applying techniques you have learnt and using them to look after yourself.

Yoga connects body and mind. It is an all-round therapy for all ages and abilities. And it can be practised wherever there is space for you to lie down. Hotel rooms, gardens, kitchens, roof terraces, student halls of residence, beaches - you just need a space the size of a yoga mat. The meditation, breathing and relaxation techniques can be can be conducted anywhere. You just need yourself.

These tools are not only useful for stress, but they are great for clearing the mind so you can focus on something specific.

Some schools, at least, are starting to realise the need for these kind of practices. The amount of pressure put upon teenagers these days is incomparable to the norms of thirty years ago.

The more business owners that do, the happier their staff will be and the better they will perform. So look after yourself, your mind and your body. But as starting something new can often feel a little intimidating, I’ve assembled some reassuring testimonies from the yoga classes I teach.

I enjoyed the yoga day and the relaxing nature of it. It provided interesting and effective stress reliving exercises and relaxation techniques. As we have such busy lives and can find ourselves in stressful situations, these techniques could certainly assist in staying cool and calm. (Male, aged 33)

At first I was apprehensive and had preconceived ideas of what Yoga would entail. However, I attended with an open mind and was very pleased with the session. Emma made us very welcome and relaxed from the start [and] clearly explained the clear goals of each technique and encouraged us to push ourselves. I thoroughly enjoyed the breathing techniques and it is something I still use today. I recommend that everyone should try Yoga and explore the benefits. (Male, aged 29)

I found the yoga day a really welcome reprieve from the stresses of everyday life. Taking time to learn techniques to properly relax, along with stretches and postures to help keep you fit, seems like the perfect combination. Emma was helpful, patient and motivating. I wouldn't hesitate to go again.’ (Female, aged 26)

Having been sceptical about the concept of yoga retreat, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I thoroughly enjoyed the day. The yoga nidra especially was a great chance to escape from reality for a short while, and concentrate on relaxing. (Male, aged 39)

The Yoga Retreat was very calming. I have never done Yoga before and felt Emma was excellent in her teaching, very knowledgeable and inspiring. She made me feel comfortable exploring yoga for the first time. I thought the day was planned out well and the food cooked for us was incredible. She made the whole experience easy and fun. The yoga nidra was so relaxing and I was able to switch off completely, taking away all my stresses. I would definitely like to do Yoga again and especially with Emma at The Yoga Tree. (Female, aged 42)

Find out more at www.theyogatree.com