One of the wonderful things about yoga in today’s modern world is that it has made its way out of the studios and is taught in a variety of settings. Corporate yoga has taken off, with many taking advantage of classes offered at their office. Corporate yoga is seen by employers as a way to contribute to employees’ overall health but it’s also a great way to help employees work better together and improve their perceptions of their job as well as feel positive about their employer.
As yoga classes can be a low cost investment (compared to other larger wellness initiatives) it’s no surprise that many employers are jumping on the yoga bandwagon. But what does that mean to yoga teachers? If you’re teaching yoga in a studio, does that translate well to an office setting? Should you offer the same sequence as in a corporate class? What about the liability aspect of teaching outside a studio? Here are some tips for teaching yoga in a corporate setting:
1. Be ready for beginners. Students in corporate classes may be unfamiliar with yoga and may be using the offer of in-office classes as a way to try it. If you only teach an all-levels or advanced sequence, dilute what you’ve got to the basics. I often use a 6 or 8 class corporate series of classes to teach students alignment (as in a workshop) so that when we’re done with the series, they are armed with valuable information they can take to any class they attend.
2. Bring mats, even if they say they have them. The negotiation of a corporate gig is an article unto itself, but generally speaking, even if the host says they will have mats, bring at least four. People inevitably forget them and you don’t want a student to miss out, simply because they left their mat at home.
3. Focus the sequence on opening the chest, shoulders and hips. People that sit all day in front of computers will be permanently hunched forward. They’ll also have a chin that juts forward of the sternum and tight hips and lower back. Present poses that open the chest, hips and shoulders and let them know why you’re doing these movements and the benefit of each.
4. Leave the complex arm balances and twists for your workshops. Outside of special requests, give students a general sequence that stretches, strengthens and relaxes. Along with many students who are beginners, these classes are often taught mid-day and students need to hop off their mat and back to work. Exhausting them and leaving them in a pool of sweat may not be conducive to their transition back to their desk.
5. Unless you can supply blocks, focus on postures that are generally accessible for students. Many students need blocks for postures like twisting crescent lunge and twisting triangle. If you can’t supply them, it doesn’t hurt to offer the pose but keep in mind that what you suggest will be better appreciated if the students are grounded. I usually stay away from poses like Half Moon and Twisting Triangle because they can be frustrating without the proper support at the floor.
6. Understand the physical demands of their jobs and create sequencing that helps. One of my corporate wellness presentations was to an organic food delivery service. Before the meeting, I had a pre-meeting where I learned more about the various jobs in the company. Based on that, I presented poses that addressed some of the physical conditions that people might experience, given they were standing, lifting and then driving for the latter half of their day. After the presentation, a few people said their wrists and hands were tight, so I created a You Tube video they could refer to with poses specifically for the wrists and hands.
7. Bring layers for variable room temperatures and encourage students to do the same. I have found that in corporate settings, it’s impossible to change the room temperature. As a result, sometimes it’s too hot and sometimes it’s too cold. As a teacher, I do not like to be cold while teaching, so I always bring an extra layer just in case. Suggest your students do the same.
8. Adjust the lighting but don’t leave students in the dark. When you hold your corporate classes, do everything possible to avoid blasting fluorescent lights on your class. That’s what they experience all day. However, don’t turn the lights down so much that they are in the dark. Dark classes, except when restorative, tend to make people sleepy, so keep the lights up and if you only have fluorescent, consider turning them off and bringing in a lamp to use.
9. Consider leaving the chanting for the studio and explain the meaning of “Namaste”. The choice of whether or not to chant before or after class and/or to say “Namaste” is up to you. In some corporate settings, you may feel like it’s not a fit. Only you will be able to gauge this. However, if you do say “Namaste” after class, preface stating it with a short statement about what it means. This way, your students will know and it won’t just be an automatic word they say after class.
10. Ask students for feedback and report this back to your business sponsor. As a point of conversation, ask students for feedback about how they feel after class. Ask them how they feel returning to their desks and in the latter part of their day. You’re not asking them for feedback about the class, per se, but looking more for information about how the practice affects their bodies, minds, clarity of thinking, stress levels and attitude about their job. This is all valuable feedback for you to pass onto the business sponsor for the class, to help them see the impact the classes are making on the employees.
One more thing: Liability. Make sure you have insurance and it’s up to date. Have students sign in on a sign in sheet that has a liability waiver at the top. Ask your business sponsor if they need a copy of your insurance policy and if they need their site specifically mentioned on the document.
Teaching in corporate settings is a wonderful way to get outside the studio, be on your own and to take charge of a class. It’s a great way also to work in partnership with the students and create something that applicable to them. It’s also a fantastic way to build awareness of your teaching and get your name out as a teacher.