Q&A: Yoga therapy in corporate settings

By Anca Amariei, with IAYT

Where does yoga therapy fit in the corporate world, and how can it bring widespread benefits there? The International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT) asked Anca Amariei, a yoga therapist with more than 14 years of corporate communications experience, about how she offers yoga therapy in corporate settings. 

IAYT: Why yoga therapy in corporate settings?

Anca Amariei: The corporate world is composed of people, and people are composed of emotions that are manifested in their bodies and minds. Lacking proper tools to manage these emotions can adversely impact them as individuals and as employees, diminishing effectiveness and productivity.

Many of us have experienced loss and grief recently—especially through the pandemic, recent wars, and other calamities. Yoga therapy as an employee assistance program (EAP) can be a great tool to help employees have a better understanding and management during turbulent times. Yoga therapy can complement other EAP offerings, such as psychotherapy, as it offers tools to release tension from the body in safe ways via mindful movement, breathing techniques, and, most importantly, a customized approach.

IAYT: How can yoga therapy support employees in their work and home lives?

Amariei: In individual settings, yoga therapy can create a safe space where, with the facilitator’s support, you can express your body and mind in a safe way. It can be done both online and offline, which makes it even more flexible.

In mini-group settings, yoga therapy can create a sense of connection and relatedness with other peers, which is so much needed nowadays—especially after a long time of physical and social isolation. It can help create healthy boundaries between work and life, while still keeping things fluid and flexible.

IAYT: Can you tell us about how you bring yoga therapy to the corporate world?

Amariei: My personal experience so far has been in delivering yoga/mindfulness sessions in both settings: offline and online. Before the pandemic, I had some corporate clients who were open to setting up a dedicated space, investing in accessories, and letting people know that, before and after work, they had this option to attend a yoga class in a very accessible way. 

Some other clients used to organize “well-being shots” 2–3 times per month, where we gathered in their open space to stretch, move, and breathe together. It was indeed challenging to get people out from their back-to-back calls, but I noticed that every time the leadership team members were present at these sessions, staff were also more eager to engage. After the pandemic, these kinds of activities moved online and the context totally changed. People were practicing in their own space, surrounded by families and pets—which made things a bit more challenging, but at the same time fun. 

What I notice now, as pandemic restrictions ease, is that people are far more interested in joining offline sessions in a studio since they feel boundaries between their personal and professional lives have blurred and they need to make some clear limitations. However, yoga therapy requires a different approach and procedures, as it emphasizes more the individual needs and involves an intake before heading into any practical direction. I can see yoga therapy in its early stages for the corporate world. The topic is still new and many people still confuse it with regular yoga classes. There’s a lot of room for educating on the topic—for demonstrating what it is actually about and eventually, for making it impactful.

I’ve personally experienced a bit of resistance toward the yoga therapy approach—that resistance mostly relates to the procedures yoga therapists need to apply; these can involve lots of data to be collected from clients in order to customize the approach. There’s still concern about confidentiality and information disclosure, considering that yoga therapy in a corporate setting would involve a trio: yoga therapist, the employer (which is also the contracting entity), and the employee.

There is also quite a lot of work regarding proper internal communication around yoga therapy, as it needs to be clearly explained, understood, and (why not!) demonstrated beforehand.

IAYT: What do you see as potential areas for growth within yoga therapy and corporate settings?

Amariei: Yoga therapy in the corporate world has the potential to become a legitimate self-care pillar, resting next to other tools available in a company’s portfolio to support their employees’ well-being. For this to happen, it needs greater visibility and in-depth understanding from other professionals (e.g., psychotherapists, physicians, etc.) so it can benefit from a wider referral network. Also, I’m a big fan of the “show, don’t tell” principle. I think there’s room for growth by demonstrating what we do as yoga therapists by inviting decision makers and potential ambassadors to experience the power of yoga therapy so they can bring it into workplace environments.

IAYT: How can employees bring yoga therapy to their company?

Amariei: First, I think they should approach the key decision makers (which might be in the human resources departments of their companies) by making a case for yoga therapy and explaining the need. Then, the actual approach can be discussed with a yoga therapist, based on a clear brief coming from the corporate side. I think it’s important that the trio mentioned above sits at the same table, putting forward expectations—as well as potential setbacks and constraints—so that solutions can be identified together.

Anca Amariei, C-IAYT, is based in Bucharest, Romania. An alumna of the Yoga Therapy Institute in Amsterdam, she specializes in breath coaching, neuromindfulness, and mental health first aid. She is a communication facilitator with more than 14 years of experience in the corporate world.


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