“Everyone has their gifts and challenges.” Those are the words of one of my favorite yoga teachers in reference to the physical and mental aspects of the yoga practice.
As a student, the words ring true every time I step on the mat, whether it’s the gift of strength in a one-legged balancing pose or the challenge of keeping my mind still for an entire class.
As a yoga instructor for the past 15 years, I see the gifts and challenges in a different light. Yoga is the great equalizer. Whether a CEO or personal assistant, all students struggle with the discipline of focusing on themselves, stripped of today’s usual distractions.
According to John Kepner, executive director of the International Association of Yoga Therapists, 10 percent of Americans practice yoga, totaling more than 30 million people.
The benefits are far-reaching.
“When you stretch, people open up,” Kepner said. “Lengthening the breathing calms minds and helps people connect with each other. It creates a whole new dimension with your peers. It can bring group cohesion to a meeting with a sense of community and a sense of shared purpose.”
Kepner suggests beginning a meeting with an “attunement,” focusing on the breath and the purpose of the meeting.
“Attunement brings out creativity,” Kepner said, as it gives time for attendees to orientate their thoughts about their contributions to serve the purpose of the meeting.
He noted that groups can also start a yoga class that way.
More and more conferences have yoga classes in the morning, according to Kepner. A basic class with an average length of 30 to 50 minutes is ideal.
“Yoga helps everyone throughout the day. They can concentrate better,” Kepner said.
Nicole DeAvilla, creator and author of The 2 Minute Yoga Solution and yoga instructor for 35 years, stresses that every 90 minutes, it’s important for attencees to have a break, incorporating two minutes of stretching at their seats.
“A two-minute yoga break between speeches helps people sit still,” she said. “It helps increase energy and focus. Also in the workplace, some meetings are very stressful. Yoga lets participants pause for a moment and gives people the chance to digest, so when they do sit down again they are more focused.”
To meet the demand for business travelers seeking yoga options, Hilton Worldwide’s Meet with Purpose program includes yoga on its menu package, with Yoga & Yogurt offered throughout the 275 hotels participating in the sustainability program.
“Usually we offer morning yoga, such as a gentle flow at 6 a.m.,” said Toni Zoblotsky, director B2B marketing, Hilton Hotels Corporation. “From there, they have a parfait at breakfast with juices, which is a way to build fitness into the conference agenda. Exercise in the morning sets the trajectory of the day.”
Hilton’s Five Feet to Fitness rooms, currently available at Parc 55 San Francisco–a Hilton Hotel and Hilton McLean Tysons Corner, with upcoming markets including Atlanta, Austin, Chicago, Las Vegas, New York and San Diego, allow attendees to practice yoga in their own rooms and also combine routines with other fitness activities. The rooms are equipped with 11 pieces of workout equipment and accessories, and Hilton provides more than 200 workout/training videos, including yoga, in 10-, 20- and 30-minute increments.
“The ultimate goal is to be as flexible as possible and stay up with the latest trends,” said Melissa Walker, director of global brand fitness at Hilton Headquarters in McLean, Va., referring to the trend of hybrid workouts.
Westin Hotels & Resorts offers dedicated wellness programming through its Move Well five-minute yoga videos, among other options. Westin also features yoga for groups at many of its properties.
California’s Westin Verasa Napa has a yoga concierge to help incorporate a class into a meeting, while the Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa at Beaver Creek Mountain in Colorado can host a class in its Studio Anjali.
“The Westin Riverfront in Beaver Creek offers a variety of yoga class options, including full-length vinyasa and aerial yoga classes, as well as shorter meeting break options, making it a great match for many of our group bookings,” said Kristen Pryor, general manager of the resort.
Meanwhile, the James hotel in New York is currently developing a Mindful Meetings program, set to launch later this year, which will include curated meeting breaks that integrate meditation and yoga.