By Sharon Aschaiek
Special to the Toronto Sun
Corporate yoga: it sounds like an oxymoron, right? What does the fast-paced arena of deal-making, business meetings and PowerPoint presentations have to do with the calm, meditative, spiritual realm of yoga?
Danuta Szwejkowska, president of K-Yoga, brings relaxation and harmonious energy to the corporate world. "People's values are shifting," she says. "Money is no longer the same incentive that it used to be."
In a climate where individuals are demanding more than just stock options and two weeks' holidays from their employers, and companies realize it's in their best interests to respond, corporate yoga is emerging as the newest player in the workplace wellness trend.
"For organizations to keep people, they'll have to provide a workplace that's open to spiritual development," says Danuta Szwejkowska, president of K-Yoga. "Money is no longer the same incentive that it used to be, and traditional perks don't hold as much weight. People's values are shifting."
Szwejkowska has been witnessing that shift first-hand as progressive companies have begun requesting her services. She founded K-Yoga (www.k-yoga.ca
) in 2003 with the express purpose of spreading a little relaxation and harmonious energy to large organizations.
Her own previous experience working in an office all day -- where the air was stale and the energy low -- is what drove her to tailor her services to the corporate world.
"I've done temp work before, and I was really aware of the stagnant energy in the buildings. There were many creative and interesting people, but they were being smothered by the dead air in their little cubicles."
| DANUTA SZWEJKOWSKA
Szwejkowska is convinced that Kundalini yoga -- which incorporates chanting and meditation to raise and refine the energy in the body's chakras -- is a powerful way to transform individuals and improve workplaces.
"It can very quickly reduce stress by working on the glandular and nervous system. It can address eyestrain from looking at the computer all day, and muscle fatigue, joint strain and spine fatigue that comes from sitting in the same spot during the day," she says.
"People report being more productive, feeling calmer, enjoying sharper memories, and best of all, it has a ripple effect throughout the organization -- if one person meditates, the strength of their aura affects everyone in the same room."
Her enthusiasm for the practice coincides with the burgeoning trend of businesses seeking new ways to attract and retain top talent. The Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada has enlisted her services for some of staff members, in addition to its clients. So has Max the Intern, a small Toronto-based software company that was looking for innovative perks to provide its staff.
"We were looking at different ways to keep our retention up and make sure everyone stayed motivated," says Evan Carmichael, president. "We were trying to find something different from other employers -- a physical activity with a spiritual element to it."
| DANUTA SZWEJKOWSKA
Carmichael had met Szwejkowska at a business networking event, and thought her services were just what he was looking for. For the last three months, she has been holding one-hour sessions with the six employees at Max the Intern. Each session involves some yoga as well as meditation, but she tailors the class to address the specific energy deficiencies and aches and pains of the participants.
"Everyone is always eager and waiting for the class," Carmichael says. "It has an impact on everyone here, even those who can't make a class, because the positive energy rubs off on everyone. Teamwork and communication have gone up, and even when we deal with clients, they can feel how happy and excited we are and sense our positive attitudes."
For company executives who worry about whether Kundalini has religious elements, Szwejkowska says that's far from being the case.
"It's not a faith thing -- you don't have to believe in anything," she says. "We all have minds and bodies, and yoga works no matter what you believe in."
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