Nobody likes having a sore back. Missed work and escalating health care costs due to back pain are a huge concern for both employees and employers. Back pain can cost a business up to $34,600 per 100 employees each year in addition to compensation for work-related disabilities.
Thankfully, a recently published study found that a workplace yoga practice can not only decrease discomfort for those with chronic back pain but also reduce employee sick days. Research also suggests that a workplace yoga practice can further improve our professional lives by increasing creativity, productivity, and problem-solving.
Conducted on employees of the UK’s National Health Service (NHS), the study split 150 participants into two groups: yoga and education. The yoga group participated in an hour-long class once a week for eight weeks. They received a DVD and asana poster and were encouraged to practice at home for 10 minutes a day for six months. The second group received two pamphlets on back pain management and workplace stress reduction.
If you’ve practiced yoga, you won’t be surprised to learn that after these eight weeks, those who suffered from chronic back pain in the yoga group experienced less pain than those in the education group. These employees also sought out medical attention related to back pain half as often throughout the six-month study. Furthermore, the participants who devoted time to practice outside of these weekly sessions benefited more than those who did not. After six months, employees who practiced at home for at least 60 minutes each week doubled their reduction in pain and reported decreased stress—imagine what 60 minutes per day could do for you!
The yoga group in this study practiced a sequence based on Australian company’s healthy back program, which consists of four parts: warm-ups, stress-relieving stretches for shoulders and hips, a short series of back restoration poses, and a final relaxation. A gentle yoga practice consisting of a few easy backbends would be very similar to what was practiced in the study. YogaBasics also has a Backside Blues pose sequence that is designed to strengthen the back, prevent injury, and to alleviate mild back pain.
Still not convinced to take some time for yoga throughout your day? Apart from the obvious physical benefits of practicing yoga at work (we all know that our bodies are not meant to sit and look at a screen all day!), research indicates that practicing yoga facilitates creativity, since yoga can lead to a slowing of the often-overpowering rational mind. This allows the subconscious mind to shine through, which strengthens both problem-solving abilities and creative capacity.
Yoga encourages us to be fully present, which allows us to experience flashes of lucidity, inspiration, and motivation. If that doesn’t happen instantly, no need to fret. At the least, stepping back from workplace or personal drama leads to a realization that life is bigger than our current difficulties, emotional states or tasks at hand—and this makes our challenges easier to approach. When fully embraced, yoga and meditation can provide a complete retreat from past grief, future worries, and daily struggles.
Can you find at least one way to apply this to your professional life? If not, how can you incorporate yoga into your day at work?