Yoga, meditation and mental health

Lauren from Time to Change talks about how yoga and meditation have helped her mental health, and how you can incorporate it into your place of work.

I’ve had OCD and anxiety since I was a child and finding ways to navigate school, university and work has been a tumultuous work in progress. As a teen I found myself taking quite a lot of time off, which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, but when I entered the world of work I wanted to find some new coping strategies. I had been practising yoga and meditation for a long time and found that they made a really big difference to my mood, thought patterns and levels of anxiety. I tried to take 10 mins for these activities at lunch time or during breaks but finding the time/space wasn’t always possible.

In my mid 20’s I trained as a yoga and meditation teacher and immediately knew I wanted to bring these practices to the workplace. I started teaching in offices, colleges and town halls, reaching people who might not normally try yoga, and talking about its benefits in the context of work stress, pressure and anxiety.

There is lots of research to demonstrate that these activities improve general wellbeing, as well as creativity and productivity, and though it is possible to use them independently, for example meditating in a nearby park at lunch time, it is much more beneficial if an organisation supports and encourages these practices. If your employer offers yoga, mindfulness or a similar wellbeing pursuit, it could make a surprisingly big difference to your working week.

I currently teach a class at Time to Change, the mental health charity where I work. It’s a brilliant way of getting to know colleagues you never normally talk to and provides a set time every week to focus on self-care.

Here are some tips for introducing yoga and meditation at your place of work:

  1. Speak to HR about bringing in a yoga teacher. It might be that they are willing to pay for classes, alternatively they could provide a room and staff can contribute towards the costs of a teacher (often as little as a few pounds each if enough people are keen)
  2. Book a room and practice yoga using a YouTube channel or app. There are lots of classes available online (some free and some with subscriptions) and though you don’t get the benefits of a teacher this is still a great way to get people moving together.
  3. Utilise any quiet spaces. If you have a prayer room or first aid area these can make great group meditation spots (as long as you don’t disrupt anyone). Alternatively, you can book a room at lunch time and meditate together using an app like Headspace or Insight Timer.
  4. Try to get a corporate discount at a local yoga studio. If there is a group of people keen to join a nearby class they might be able to offer a discounted rate. Especially if you agree to promote their classes amongst staff and clients.
  5. Remind your employer that staff yoga and meditation benefits everyone. Not only will employees be less stressed and dissatisfied, yoga improves concentration levels, creative thinking and interpersonal relations. Less stress means fewer days off sick and money saved for your organisation.

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