Yoga pose photo credit: Adele Baron Photography

In the face of the Covid-19 pandemic, championing employees’ health and wellbeing has risen to the top of the corporate agenda. With an increased focus on wellness, I’m working with businesses to introduce yoga to support employees in a holistic way.

Like many companies, the pandemic changed the way I ran my business. ‘In person’ yoga made way for live online yoga sessions using platforms Microsoft Teams and Zoom. This new way of online working opened my London based yoga business to working with more clients across the UK.

I began leading three online yoga sessions per week for VolkerRail at the start of the first lockdown. Soon afterwards I had added Arriva Rail London and Avanti West Coast to my roster of corporate clients. These industry leaders knew early on that wellbeing classes would support employee’s health and wellbeing through the pandemic.

Yoga is a type of exercise for your body and mind. The physical exercises are beneficial for increasing flexibility, building muscle strength, improving balance, and increasing energy. Not only does yoga help to prevent injury, but yoga can also be adapted for people who have an existing injury or illness – making yoga accessible to everyone.

With the growth of homeworking, many employees have found themselves at makeshift workstations increasing the chance of neck, back and shoulder pain. The physical exercises taught in yoga helps to reduce the tension common to these areas. Yoga is just as beneficial for your mind as it is for your body. Breathing practices, mindfulness, and relaxation helps to calm the nervous system, relieving stress and anxiety. With the added stress caused by the pandemic, my clients are benefiting from yoga more than ever.

Yoga sessions are held before work, at lunch times, or after work. Although the sessions are live, VolkerRail, Arriva Rail London, and Avanti West Coast record the sessions so that their employees have the option to watch at a time better suited to their work schedule. At Arriva Rail London, the recorded sessions have been watched hundreds of times.

Milena Swieboda, Safety Improvement Manager at Arriva Rail London, says: ‘Since March 2020, safety and wellbeing have become embedded within all elements of the business strategy, what the business is and does – a priority consideration for the senior team, management and frontline staff. An Arriva Rail London wellbeing programme has been in place for a number of years. But in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis there has been a radical push to show commitment to the safety and wellbeing of all staff, live online yoga session has been one of the initiatives introduced. Mindful yoga to improve flexibility not only of body but also mind has been very welcomed. Charlotte – our yoga teacher – adapts her classes to all levels. She is really dedicated to her practice and students. We are really lucky to have her as our teacher.’

Other types of wellbeing classes are also positively impacting staff. Along with yoga, VolkerRail offered their staff an array of online wellness classes including Qigong, fitness, and even group Reiki healing. Stuart Webster-Spriggs, HSQES at VolkerRail UK, says: ‘The health and wellbeing of employees was always an important consideration for VolkerRail and this was brought further into the spotlight during the pandemic. The Health & Wellbeing Steering Group determined that it would be hugely beneficial to connect with our employees whilst our office locations were closed, and a large proportion of staff were working from home. To that end we provided a variety of on-line fitness and wellbeing classes – something to suit everyone. One of our most popular offerings was Charlotte’s Yoga classes with some fantastic feedback from those that took part who stated how beneficial it was for them to have a mind and body focus to relieve their stress levels, tune into themselves and increase their fitness/ flexibility levels – especially with being sedentary for increased periods of time working from home.’

Not only can yoga boost the immune system, but it can also be used to help people recover from Covid-19. In May this year, Prince Charles gave a talk at the yoga and healthcare symposium Wellness After Covid organised by Yoga In Healthcare Alliance. In his video statement, Prince Charles suggests that people struggling to return to full health after having coronavirus should practise yoga. Charles says: ‘This pandemic has emphasised the importance of preparedness, resilience and the need for an approach which addresses the health and welfare of the whole person as part of society, and which does not merely focus on the symptoms alone…As part of that approach, therapeutic, evidenced-informed yoga can contribute to health and healing. By its very nature, yoga is an accessible practice which provides practitioners with ways to manage stress, build resilience and promote healing.’

Covid-19 may have forced wellbeing more urgently into focus, but with its multitude of benefits, wellness classes such as yoga will be part of employees working life long after the pandemic. So even if you’ve never tried yoga before, I urge you to give it a go. No matter which area of the railway business you are working in, yoga truly is for everyone.

www.maidayoga.com or email [email protected]