yoga

ROI for Wellness Programs

The World Health Organization estimates that stress costs American companies over $300 billion a year in absenteeism, turnover, diminished creativity, decreased productivity, and healthcare expenditures. 

Given these costs, it's no surprise that more and more companies are turning to corporate wellness to decrease stress, boost morale, and reduce turnover. We've done a deep dive and found that it really does pay to invest in corporate wellness. Here's why.

Understanding the negative impact of Work stress

Workplace stress has been called the health epidemic of the 21st century. Sixty-five percent of American workers cite work as a significant source of stress, with more than one-third experiencing chronic work stress, according to the American Psychological Association ("APA"). 

According to the APA, work stress leads to headaches, stomachaches, disturbed sleep, anger and irritability, fatigue, and difficulty concentrating. Chronic work stress is more severe, resulting in high blood pressure, lowered immunity, weight gain, insomnia, anxiety, depression, and substance abuse. In some cases, chronic stress can lead to burnout

Chronic stress also "degrades capabilities with regard to creativity and innovation" says Rick Hanson PhD, a California based neuropsychologist. "It's harder to think outside the box, nimbleness and dexterity take a hit, and the response to sudden change is more difficult to manage."

Not surprisingly, chronic stress is correlated with increased absenteeism as seen in the most recent Willis Towers Watson Survey linking increased work stress to employee absences. 

Increased PRODUCTIVITY

Happy and healthy employees are more engaged, creative, and productive. Chronic work stress erodes employee wellbeing and thus, a company's bottom line.

Mindfulness-based activities -- like yoga and meditation -- help employees counteract the effects of chronic stress and improve performance. Studies show that such mind-body programs: 

  • Reduce stress and anxiety
  • Improve sleep
  • Improve concentration 
  • Improve short-term memory
  • Decrease pain
  • Increase resilience
  • Increase empathy
  • Improve overall happiness
  • Boost creativity & problem solving skills
  • Improve emotional intelligence 

These benefits aren't purely academic, but offer real returns. As noted by Forbes, companies who introduce mindfulness-based programs see higher rates of employee wellbeing and productivity, with Aetna reporting a gain in worker productivity worth about $3,000 per participating employee per year. 

Research by the iOpener Institute supports the idea that a happy employee is a high-performing one. According to their research, happy employees take one tenth the sick-leave of their least happy colleagues, are six times more energized, and are twice as productive. 

Decreased Medical CostS

Stress-related health problems are responsible for up to 80% of doctor visits and account for the third highest health care expenditures, behind only heart disease and cancer.

Mind-body interventions counteract the effects of stress and reduce medical costs. That's in part, because they elicit the relaxation response by decreasing the production of stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, decreasing blood pressure and hypertension, lowering cholesterol levels, and increasing production of the anti-aging hormone DHE.

Counteracting the effects of stress translates to a significant decrease in costs. Harvard affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital recently found that individuals participating in mindfulness-based programs like yoga and meditation used 43% fewer medical services than they did the previous year, saving on average $2,360 per person in emergency room visits alone. Aetna noted similar results, reporting a reduction in healthcare costs of about $2,000 per participant.

According to a recent Harvard Health Publication, this means that "yoga and meditation programs could translate into health care savings of anywhere from $640 to as much as $25,500 per patient, per year."

Attract & Keep Talented Employees

Health programs are consistently listed as one of the top perks to attract, and keep, top talent. Mindfulness in particular was just listed as one of Forbes' Top Corporate Wellness Trends to Watch for in 2017.  That's because on-site wellness programs improve workplace atmosphere, increase employee engagement, and promote bonding between co-workers. 

A recent survey conducted by Harvard Business Review found that employees participating in wellness programs reported a more positive attitude toward their employer and indicated that they were more likely than nonparticipants to stay and refer others to the company. Seventy percent of employee participants reporting that they viewed their company’s wellness offering is an indicator that their company cared about them. 

Real Returns 

For companies tied to the traditional return on investment ("ROI") model, Harvard Business Review reports that companies who invest in corporate wellness see a ROI of $2.71 for every dollar spent. Aetna, one of the pioneers in corporate wellness research, found that their mindfulness-based yoga and meditation program yielded an 11:1 return on investment. 

Tax Breaks

If you're a small business in Massachusetts, you're in luck! The Massachusetts Wellness Tax Credit Incentive program gives small businesses in Massachusetts a state tax credit for certified employee wellness programs. That means qualifying companies can receive a tax credit of 25%, up to $10,000, on money spent on wellness programs.

 

Want to bring corporate wellness to your workplace? Founded by a physician at Massachusetts General Hospital and former corporate layer, Aria Yoga Co. offers a variety of personalized mindfulness-based programs to reduce workplace stress and improve your company's atmosphere and energy. Learn more about our Services or contact us at inquire@ariayoga.co.  

 

About the Author. Elisar Hares, ESQ. is a Yoga Alliance Certified yoga instructor and co-founder of Aria Yoga Co. She has completed 200 hour yoga teaching programs in two disciplines, power vinyasa and PranaVayu. In addition, Elisar studied inner engineering, meditation, and Ayurvedic healing modalities through the Isha Foundation and the Chopra Center. A graduate of Wellesley College and Northeastern Law School, Elisar founded Aria in order to give people tools to live healthier, happier lives. 


Top Tips for Your Best Outdoor Yoga Practice this Summer

Pack the essentials

  • Sunscreen. Sun salutations are great, but sun damage is a different story. Even when the sun's not shinning, up to 80% of the sun's UV rays can pass through the clouds. Protect your skin with sunscreen and protective lip balms. We recommend using eco-friendly, certified organic, mineral sunscreens and balms like those from COOLA.  

  • H20. Stay hydrated during class with a bottle of water or even an iced-coffee!  

  • Yoga Strap.  A yoga strap, like our unfold Manduka strap is lightweight and useful, making it the perfect travelling companion. Bulky blocks and bolsters however, should be left at home.

Bring a friend

Practicing with friends can improve you asanas and your friendship. 

Double the Motivation. You're much less likely to skip out on practice after a tough day at the office or a late night out if you are practicing with a friend. Plus, you can motivate each other through (or laugh off) tough sequences. 

Share Your Zen. Sharing energy with others during meditation and yoga helps us improve our own experience. 

Partner Poses. Try a partner assisted pose like Boat pose (Navasana) together and stretch your hamstrings while you strengthen your core. Or hold hands during Tree pose (Vriksasana). 

Don’t be afraid to get off your mat

Use Your Surroundings. Grass and sand are nature’s yoga mats. New textures allow you to grip the ground in different ways, and can add a whole new dimension to your practice.

Look around for things that can take the place of your props. A tree can give you stability when practicing inversions, or you can hold it to deepen your twists.

Practice Mindfulness

Center Yourself. Living in the moment is easy when you’re in a quiet, comfortable place. Moving your mat outdoors exposes you to new sounds, people, and experiences. Outdoor yoga helps you learn to be centered in unfamiliar spaces.

Practice staying present, even amidst friendly dogs, playing children, and car horns. Alternate nostril breathing (Nadi Shodhana) is a great way to focus your attention inward. Learn how to practice Nadi Shodhana here! 

 

Show us how you practice outside this summer! Follow us on Facebook and Instagram (@ariayogaco) and post your pictures using #liveabovethenorm and #ariayogaco.

Our favorite shots will get featured on our feed!

Boston Voyager Magazine: Meet Elisar Hares

Article originally published by Boston Voyager Magazine, June 5, 2017. 

Today we’d like to introduce you to Elisar Hares.

Elisar, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I’m a former corporate lawyer turned yogi, and took several unexpected turns in my career to be where I am today. I took my first yoga class in 2001 and was immediately drawn to the practice for its ability to soothe the body and mind, but I didn’t consider it as a career choice back then. I went on to graduate from Wellesley College and Northeastern Law School, during which time my practice became sporadic. By the time I completed a federal clerkship and found myself working at a corporate law firm, I was out of shape and suffering from insomnia and anxiety. I returned to yoga and immediately began to notice changes in my life — I was sleeping better than I had in years, I felt happier, I had more energy, I no longer needed my prescription anti-anxiety medication. Ultimately, I quit my corporate job to manage a yoga studio. One year later, I co-founded Aria with my partner Sid Govindan, M.D. in order to share the immense benefits of yoga and meditation that we have experienced in our own lives.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Definitely not! There are a lot of unexpected challenges that arise when you’re starting your own business. Our biggest challenge was letting clients know that our company exists. We bring yoga on-site to client homes, offices, hotels, and hospitals. Since we don’t have a physical storefront, we don’t get the benefit of foot traffic. I remember the day we launched the website and waited by the phone. Nothing happened. After a couple of days we quickly realized that we needed a strong marketing strategy — we reached out to professionals who’d successfully launched startups and got advice on what works. It made all the difference!

We’d love to hear more about your business.
We specialize in on-site private / small group yoga and meditation classes. Our mission is to make yoga more accessible by bringing it directly to offices, homes, hotels, and hospitals. We have a team of experienced teachers, offer a variety of styles of yoga, and bring everything you need to have the perfect class — high-end Manduka yoga props (mats, blocks, and straps), music, and essential oils.

Unlike large group classes, our classes are personalized to ensure that our clients are able to practice the way they want, where, and when they want. For example, corporate clients tend to favor energetic flows that leave participants feeling refreshed, energized, and ready to tackle the workday. Other clients prefer restorative evening yoga, outdoor vinyasa yoga with friends on the weekend, or want to focus on education and developing an at-home practice.

I am very proud to have had the chance to build a business that is in line with my personal values. As a company, we strive to live the ethos of yoga on and off the mat. We donate 9% of our profits to various charities, compensate our teachers above market norms, and offer discounted or complimentary classes to non-profits and low income families.

What were you like growing up?
By the time I was 10 I’d lived in 4 different countries and at least 7 different houses. I’m also an only child, so I learned to be pretty independent from an early age and always enjoyed activities I could do on my own. I’ve always loved being healthy and active. In high school I ran varsity cross country, but I was never that interested in the competitive aspect of organized sports. When I was 16, I took my first yoga class — I didn’t know any yogis at the time but I saw a flyer for a class and decided to check it out. That year, I opted out of gym in order to do an independent study in yoga and Pilates. Little did I know that over 10 years later it would turn into a career!

Breathing for Stress Relief: How to Practice Alternative Nostril Breathing (Nadi Shodhana)

One of the most commonly practiced pranayama (breath control) practices is Nadi Shodhana or alternative nostril breathing. This highly effective technique can be used to soothe an agitated mind anywhere -- at work, prior to yoga or meditation, on an airplane, or anytime you feel unsettled during your day.

This powerful practice takes less than 10 minutes and can yield immediate results. 

Benefits of Nadi Shodhana

  • Reduce stress & anxiety
  • Oxygenate the blood
  • Promote mental clarity and focus 
  • Quiet the mind 
  • Enhance respiratory function 
  • Balance the right and left hemispheres of the brain

How to Practice 

  1. Sit in a comfortable cross-legged position on the floor or cushion or sit upright in a chair with your feet firmly planted on the ground, feet hip-distance apart, knees over your ankles, shoulders over your hips. 
  2. Place your hands on your knees. Close your eyes and breathe in and out through your nose at an even cadence.
  3. As you inhale, feel your belly expand. As you exhale, draw your belly in toward your spine.
  4. Complete three rounds of breath. 
  5. Keeping your eyes closed, raise your right hand in front of your face and place your index finger and middle finger in the space between your eyebrows. Inhale deeply. 
  6. Use your thumb to block the right nostril and exhale through the left nostril. Suspend at the bottom. 
  7. Inhale through the left nostril. Pause at the top. 
  8. Use your ring finger to block the left nostril and exhale through the right nostril. Suspend at the bottom.
  9.  Inhale through the right nostril. Pause at the top. 
  10. Use your thumb to block the right nostril and exhale left. 
  11. Repeat this cycle (steps 6-10) for 5-7 minutes, keeping the length of your inhales and exhales slow and even.  
  12. To complete the final cycle, exhale through the left nostril and lower the right hand to your knee.
  13. Breathe in deeply through both nostrils. Exhale fully.
  14. Complete three rounds of breath. 
  15. Note: Always inhale and exhale through the same nostril. Focus your awareness on your breathing and when your mind wanders redirect it to your breath without judgment. 

You can repeat this practice as often as needed throughout your day. I personally utilize the practice multiple times a day, both before yoga and meditation, or to clear my mind before an important meeting. 

Interested in learning more about simple yoga practices to improve your day? Aria Yoga offers personalized private meditation and yoga lessons to empower you with the tools to feel better in your body and live with less stress and anxiety. To learn more, visit www.ariayoga.co or contact us at inquire@ariayoga.co. 

 

About the Author. Elisar Hares, ESQ. is a Yoga Alliance Certified yoga instructor and co-founder of Aria Yoga Co. She has completed 200 hour yoga teaching programs in two disciplines, power vinyasa and PranaVayu. In addition, Elisar studied inner engineering, meditation, and Ayurvedic healing modalities through the Isha Foundation and the Chopra Center. A graduate of Wellesley College and Northeastern Law School, Elisar founded Aria in order to give people tools to live healthier, happier lives. 


5 Yoga Poses to Release Back Tension at Your Desk

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Earlier this week, we discussed how sitting all day can lead to an accumulation of tension in the neck, shoulders, and jaw and reviewed 5 Poses to Release Neck and Shoulder Tension at Your Desk. Unfortunately, the problems caused by long-term sitting aren't usually limited to our neck and shoulders and can radiate down our back. Today's poses complete the chair yoga spinal series. The following five yoga poses can be done in your office (and in your chair) to reduce muscle tension and improve the functional mobility of the thoracic and lumbar spine. 

These simple poses chair yoga poses take approximately 5 minutes and can yield immediate results. 

A few notes before we get started . . . 

BREATHING

Set yourself up for success by integrating proper breathing into each pose using the following techniques:

  • Breathe in and out through the nose
  • As you inhale, feel your belly expand
  • As you exhale, draw your belly toward your spine
  • Breathe in and out to your full capacity and at an even cadence 

NEUTRAL POSITION

A proper foundation is key to the success of any yoga pose. All of today's practices start in the following neutral seated position: 

  • Straight spine
  • Feet on the earth, hip-distance apart
  • Knees over your ankles
  • Shoulders over your hips
  • Chin very slightly tucked 

1. Cat / Cow Stretch

  • Begin in the neutral seated position.
  • Place your hands on knees. 
  • As you inhale, move your belly forward and press the chest out and up toward the front of the room as you shoulder blades move toward one another. 
  • Imagine the tips of the collarbones expanding toward opposite sides of the room.
  • Exhale and round the spine like an angry cat by tipping the hip bones back, spreading the shoulder blades, and bringing your chin toward your chest.
  • Complete at least 5 sets. 

2. Side Bend

  • Begin in the neutral seated position.
  • Sweep your arms out and up overhead.
  • Clasp your hands together, keeping the pointer fingers facing up (jupiter mudra).  
  • Take a deep breath in. 
  • Tuck the bottom ribs slightly, exhale and side bend to the right keeping your chest square with the front of the room and your arms in line with your ears. 
  • Keeping the hands clasped, extend your right arm energetically toward the right side of the room to deepen the stretch.
  • Breathe deeply into the stretch on your left side for 3-5 breaths. 
  • Inhale back to center.
  • Repeat on the left.

3. Chair Twist

  • Begin in the neutral seated position.
  • Place your left hand on your right knee and your right hand somewhere on the seat behind your right hip. 
  • Take a deep breath in and imagine the crown of your head reaching toward the ceiling. 
  • Exhale and twist to the right, gazing over your right shoulder.
  • Inhale and imagine the crown of the head reaching tall.
  • As you exhale, suck in the belly and twist a little deeper. 
  • Press your left hand against your knee to deepen the twist. 
  • Breathe deeply for 3-5 breaths.
  • Inhale and return to center.
  • Repeat on the left. 

4. Back Bend 

  • Begin in the neutral seated position. 
  • Place your hands on your lower back and squeeze your elbows in toward each other. 
  • Take a deep breath in and image the crown of your head reaching toward the ceiling. 
  • Exhale and lift your sternum up and back until you come into a back bend. Gaze up at the ceiling or (if you're really flexible) at the wall behind you. 
  • Breathe deeply for 2 breaths. 
  • Inhale and return to center. 

5. Seated Forward Fold

  • Begin in the neutral seated position, about 2' away from your desk. 
  • Clasp your hands behind you. 
  • As you inhale, press your shoulder blades together as you press your hands toward the back of the chair. 
  • Exhale and fold forward over your legs, placing your belly and chest on your thighs. Let your legs support the full weight of your torso.
  • Keeping your fingers clasped and your arms straight, arc your hands up and over toward the front of the room.
  • Relax your jaw and let your head hang heavy between your knees.
  • Take 5-10 of your deepest breaths.
  • Release the clasp of your hands and sit up slowly. 
  • Note: If your shoulders are tight and you can't comfortably clasp your hands, use a strap or other material (jacket, scarf, handkerchief) to increase the space between your hands.  

You can repeat these practices as often as needed throughout your day. For maximum effect, practice at least once per day. 

Interested in learning more about Yoga at Work? Aria Yoga Co. offers a variety of personalized corporate wellness programs to empower employees with tools to reduce tension, improve memory, attention, focus, emotional intelligence, and performance under stress. Visit Aria Corporate to learn more or contact us at inquire@ariayoga.co.  

 

About the Author. Elisar Hares, ESQ. is a Yoga Alliance Certified yoga instructor and co-founder of Aria Yoga Co. She has completed 200 hour yoga teaching programs in two disciplines, power vinyasa and PranaVayu. In addition, Elisar studied inner engineering, meditation, and Ayurvedic healing modalities through the Isha Foundation and the Chopra Center. A graduate of Wellesley College and Northeastern Law School, Elisar founded Aria in order to give people tools to live healthier, happier lives. 


5 Yoga Poses to Release Neck & Shoulder Tension at Your Desk

5 Yoga Poses to Release Neck & Shoulder Tension at Your Desk

Sitting at a computer all day can wreak havoc on our bodies. Common complaints relate to the accumulation of tension in the neck, shoulders, and jaw, which can lead to headaches and muscle soreness. While we may not be able to get away from our desks anytime soon, there are simple yoga poses you can do at the office (and in your chair) to reduce muscle tension and improve the functional mobility of the cervical spine. 

Meet Our Founders

Founders

Aria Yoga Co. was founded by partners Sid Govindan, MD. and Elisar Hares, ESQ. Sid is a physician at Massachusetts General Hospital and a director at QPID Health, a Boston-based start-up. Elisar, a graduate of Wellesley College and Northeastern Law School, is a former corporate lawyer turned yogi. Aria is the result of combining their extensive academic and work experience with a shared love and respect for yoga, meditation, and well-being. 

Sid and Elisar founded Aria in order to give people the tools to live healthier, happier lives by providing convenient, personalized yoga + meditation services that are accessible to everyone, regardless of income, age, body type, or health status. 

Aria Ethos

In founding Aria, Sid and Elisar wanted to build a company they could be proud of. The Aria ethos provides the founding principles on which the company is based, such as: 

  • Pro Bono Services. Sliding-scale to pro bono services are available for low income families, not for profit companies, and government agencies
  • Karma. 9% of profits are donated to various charities
  • Ethical Compensation Practices. Staff are compensated above market norms and receive complimentary continuing education
  • Practice What You Preach. Sid and Elisar make it a priority to incorporate meditation, yoga, cross-training, and healthy lifestyle choices into their routines

By living the ethos of yoga on and off the mat, Sid and Elisar seek to inspire others to build better lives, families, businesses, and communities. 

Empowering Individuals

Aria offers both residential and corporate wellness services that include private, on-site yoga + meditation classes, lifestyle + fitness coaching, and corporate workshops. Every service can be customized to fit the diverse needs of their clientele. Through education, personalized feedback and training, Aria provides the tools people need to creating lasting lifestyle change.

Through its private wellness services, Aria hopes to empower people to be the best version of themselves. When you feel good, you do good. It's that simple.