Friday, October 20, 2017

The effectiveness of yoga for the improvement of well-being and resilience to stress in the workplace

Summary by Keith Robinson Jr.

Pressure to achieve outcomes and perform well in the workplace can ultimately diminish workplace efficiency, placing employee physical health and psychological well-being at risk. Extant literature has illustrated strong links between stress and related conditions such as anxiety, depression, heart disease, back pain, headaches, and gastrointestinal disturbances. In 2008, National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence estimated 8.2 billion pounds in losses per year due to a lack of physical activity among workers. Studies have shown that participation in yoga has both physical and psychological benefits; reduces stress, increases cardiopulmonary and central nervous system function, reduces blood pressure, fatigue, and symptoms of  anxiety and depression.

The purpose of the study was to examine the effectiveness of yoga in improving emotional well-being and increasing resilience to stress among employees. This study focused on the degree of stress and emotional well-being among university staff. The sample consisted of 48 of a British university's employees self-selected through the school's intranet and flyer postings. Participants were split into two randomized groups, a control group of 24 members and a yoga intervention group of 24 members that were asked to engage in at least one of three 60-minute lunchtime classes per week for six weeks. Additionally, the participants received a yoga CD that included a guided 35-minute home practice session and a form to record. Variables were measured at their baseline and at the conclusion of the study.

On average, participants in the yoga group attended 1.15 classes per week. Any participants that took less than 6 classes over the course of the study were excluded from analysis. 9 participants (45%) returned their home practice forms. Yoga group participants improved 2-5 times more than those in the control group throughout the study in seven out of eight domains. The yoga group illustrated marked improvements in feelings of clear-mindedness, composure, elation, energy, and confidence. Additionally, the group reported increased life purpose and satisfaction and feelings of greater self-confidence during high stress situations. The results indicated that even a six-week program of yoga had positive effects on emotional well-being and resilience to stress among employees at a British university.

It would be interesting to see the effect of the implementation of this study across different professions, specifically those seen as contributing generally higher stress situations than others. The authors understood the limitations of their study which could be examined and analyzed to improve future studies. The authors acknowledge that repeated trials utilizing the same assessment tools, varying yoga styles, and across different populations are necessary before the effects of yoga can be generalized to the wider population.



  1. Unfortunately, organizations may not be able to consider the possibility of increased productivity of such an exercise because it comes down to their bottom line. As the saying goes, "time is money". I think the inclusion of a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis into this would be a good place to start. When organizations are able to see how much more productive and efficient their employees are, it might cause more actions to be taken in this sphere.

  2. As you mention "The results indicated that even a six-week program of yoga had positive effects on emotional well-being and resilience to stress." I agree it would be interesting to assess how yoga impacts workers across a variety of different professions. I think it would also be eye-opening to look at how yoga impacts men versus women. Previous studies have suggested that women are more resilient to stress than men due to estrogen levels. With that being said, does yoga have a greater or less impact in women versus men?

  3. It's not necessarily more or less, just different. Yoga focuses on meditation and relaxing the muscles. Men tend to have tenser shoulders, while women tend to have lower back pain. The difference is how we move relaxed as compared to tense.