Can Yoga Improve Your Firm’s Bottom Line?

Has anyone ever heard of the phrase “desk dog”?

Well, I certainly hadn’t but the term does, in fact, exist. Surprisingly, it isn’t a reference to the kind of pampered mini pooch you’d see poking its head out of Paris Hilton’s Vuitton or a soft ‘dog teddy’ that sits on your desk so you can use it as a stress ball.

According to a new book from American Bar Association Book Publishing, the ‘desk dog’ is an office-friendly version of the downward-facing dog yoga position for stressed and busy lawyers.

Now, we all know lawyers are stressed out and more anxious than ever before but now it’s gotten so bad, they have yoga poses designated just for us.

So will flinging our arses in the air or launching into a sudden warrior one pose at the photocopier really make frazzled lawyers less anxious, and improve a firm’s bottom line all at once?

We spoke with Pru Chapman, founder of The Owners Collective and State of Creation, to find out about the multitude of benefits a few more ‘desk dogs’ can bring to our legal life.

Why Do Yoga

A 2008 Medibank Private study revealed that stress-related presenteeism and absenteeism are costing the Australian economy $14.81 billion a year, with the direct costs to the employer being $10.11 billion a year, signifying a concerning trend.

“We’re living in the fastest environment ever known to man, with no sign of it slowing down anytime soon”, says Pru. “Our home lives are getting busier, our work is more demanding, the personal pressure upon us is at an all-time high.  Add to this a society that glorifies ‘busy’, bombards us with advertising and has a growing belief that enough is never enough. It’s no wonder we’re stressed!”

In this environment, Sydney-based yoga devotee, trained psychologist and business coach, Pru has noticed an increasing number of companies embrace yoga, mindfulness, and meditation to increase productivity and reduce stress in the workplace.

So for the uninitiated skeptics who say they “don’t have time” to stretch and meditate, how does yoga work its magic?

Yoga Image

Yoga: Overall Health Benefits

The Yoga Journal reported that 96% of yoga practitioners find yoga is a stress reliever. The fact that it helps both body and your mind is crucial to its appeal.

“Yoga brings together physical and mental disciplines with the aim of achieving a sense of peace to the body and mind. At its modern day-core, yoga focuses on a series of postures and breath”, says Pru.

The ongoing benefits vary from person, however, those who commence yoga practice regularly report reductions in:

  •   anxiety
  •   depression, and
  •   perceived stress.

Simultaneously, yogis report an increase in:

  •   coping skills
  •   compassion for self and others
  •   sense of wellbeing and calm
  •   flexibility, strength and muscle tone
  •   improved sleep, mood and concentration
  •   a sense of more purposeful action.

Not bad for a few downward dogs and cat cows. How does that physical agility and mental calmness translate to more productive work practices for legal professionals?

“On a biological level, yoga can shift a person from the sympathetic to the parasympathetic system, lowering anxiety, heart rate, respiratory rate, blood pressure and cardiac output”, says Pru.

As a result, the primary health benefits create people who more easily face their daily work and life challenges.

The Bottom Line: Health, Productivity and Happiness

It makes perfect sense that a happier person is a more invigorated person but what about productivity? Referring to an international study conducted by Jessica Pryce-Jones, author of Happiness at Work and CEO of iOpener, Pru believes that yoga can help achieve a healthier, happier, more productive person and employee.

“That 2010 study found that the happiest employees are 180% more energized than their less content colleagues, 155% happier with their jobs, 150% happier with life, and 108% more engaged. Most staggeringly, they are 50% more productive too”, says Pru.

“The jury is in. Happiness wins”, confirms Pru. “I can put my own hand up here and report on the positive effects that yoga has on my daily functioning. I certainly know when it’s off.  I tend to make poorer lifestyle choices, I’m less present, less productive and less in control of my moods.”

Like many of us, Pru is committed to regular exercise but finds that hardcore activities like running and Crossfit add more ‘fast’ or yang energy to her day and yoga balances out this energy.

“Throw in a few cups of coffee each day, and I’m mentally, physically and emotionally wired! I’m fast, yes, but productive? Questionable. So when I do yoga, I do the really slow stuff.  Yin yoga. For the first few years of practice, I found it nothing but completely frustrating, because I wasn’t getting the results as fast as I was used to, but that’s exactly the point.  Yin yoga makes you still.”

The key question here is, of course: how can this warm and fuzzy health stuff actually improve a firm’s bottom line?

Pru says it is simple: through the “reduction of absenteeism, increased presenteeism, increased productivity and overall staff retention”.

The health authorities agree. The Wellness Council of America, a company that invests in health management programs, has reported reductions in sick-leave absenteeism and health care costs (26%). The Principal Financial Well-being Index for American Workers has reported that 51% percent of wellness program participants say they work harder and 59% report more energy levels and higher productivity levels.

“I would absolutely encourage everyone else with a ‘busy’ life to jump on board”, says Pru. “Ironically, I skipped my yoga class tonight to write this article … but it’s ok, I’ll make sure I get to one tomorrow!”

Well, both my bottom and my bottom line feel much better already. And I’m only reading about the benefits of yoga. Now excuse me while I grab my Penske file, jump under the desk and perform my afternoon Shavasana.

That one where you lie down and sleep counts, right?

Pru Chapman

Founder of State of Creation and The Owners Collective


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