Close your eyes. Relax your mind. Breathe.

Many SEIU Healthcare staff hear those phrases whispered every week when they participate in weekly yoga classes.

For the past six weeks, SEIU Healthcare staff have the chance to get out of their office chair and onto a yoga mat for a chance to relax their mind and body through meditation, stretching and breathing techniques. The classes are held every Wednesday at lunchtime to break up the week and day and give staff a chance to refocus their mind.

Yoga at SEIU Healthcare

Human Resources Administrator Cecilia Ng was overjoyed that she could participate in Yoga, as her former workplace had the same routine. She says, “I love the idea of doing Yoga at work as it helps me with stretching especially after long hours of sitting in front of a computer.”

The initiative was launched by SEIU Healthcare’s Wellness Committee, which formed in the beginning of 2015 to address high stress levels which are all too familiar for our staff, our members and Canadians in general. To address these issues, the Committee has led a number of initiatives to address mental health, physical health and nutritional health – with Yoga being one that melds all of these aspects.

As a result, Yoga has been the most popular initiative by far, where approximately 30 people showed up to the first Yoga sessions.

Angie Jacome, an administrative support employee, who has worked at SEIU Healthcare for 33 years, is a regular now as it helps with her body aches.

Angie says, “The stretches I showed you the other day makes me feel taller. It must be that my tight muscles are stretching therefore making me more relaxed.”

Not only have these classes helped build individual strength, but it has also developed into a team building exercise. Every week, there are also new faces joining in, many of whom are trying Yoga for the first time.

Natasha Luckhardt, a researcher and member of the Wellness Committee says, “I love how it brings everyone in the office together. I get to talk to people from different departments who I’ve only had the chance to talk to when I’m passing them in the hallways.”

Alex Murphy, a Pay Equity Representative, says that she feels energized and rejuvenated after every Yoga session. She says, “It’s wonderful to get the exercise and practice in mid-week. Thanks to the Wellness Committee and the organization for giving us this opportunity.”

Her colleague, Lisa Wong, also works as a pay equity representative and is equally as excited about the weekly classes. Lisa says, “I would say it helped me to reduce stress, focus and concentrate on my work better after a session.”

Dave Pielas, SEIU Healthcare’s HR Manager and wellness committee member, also noticed how calm and focused he is after the sessions. Initially, Dave was a bit nervous about joining in because he had never tried Yoga. Since trying it, he’s really grateful as he feels a “rush of calm” for the rest of the afternoon and even into the days following.

Matt Cathmoir, a researcher at SEIU Healthcare, tried Yoga for the first time last week, walking bravely to the front of the class. Afterwards, Matt said it was “a challenging, yet rewarding experience both mentally and physically.”

As well as being helpful for employees, the benefits of Yoga extend to SEIU Healthcare as an employer as well.

As worker representatives, we know that high levels of job stress can lead to employee absenteeism, physical and mental health issues and an unhealthy work environment. We also know that the employer is responsible for ensuring a healthy and safe environment, which is why SEIU Healthcare has created a wellness committee for their internal staff.

According to the Conference Board of Canada, every dollar invested in workplace wellness, on initiatives such as Yoga, companies can expect $3 in cost savings or benefits.

By strengthening our staff’s health, both in their body and mind, we can work even harder to ensure that our members’ well-being is protected, encouraged and fought for.

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