The ‘one size fits all’ challenge of corporate yoga

I stopped writing my sequences down a long time ago, after I learnt to trust my experience and ability to read the collective energy. Usually a couple of sessions learning who was in the room and whether they had practiced or did practice yoga, any injuries or limitations, and a sense of the work environment and culture was all I needed.

But some recent feedback following a new corporate class I was covering threw me slightly and I reverted to overthinking what I should focus on in order to please two individuals with particularly strong personal practices. I could see uneasy glances elsewhere in the room even as the words crossed their lips and floated across the room into my ears:

“It would be good if you could make it more challenging next week. I like to really get my blood pumping at lunchtime.” 

With studio classes, yogis choose to attend a specific class type, in line with their own yoga preferences – Vinyasa (movement), Iyengar (alignment), Yin (deep tissue and fascia release), restorative (mindful movement and meditation), prenatal (baby on board) and/or abilities – beginners, L1/2, Power Plus, and so on.

A corporate class is a different ballgame. Corporate classes are a melting pot of preferences, abilities and expectations. With a corporate class one size must fit all (at least comfortably enough).

For me, corporate yoga has always been about creating a safe and inclusive environment where (usually office) workers can factor some movement, mindfulness and space into their day, and help counter the perils of a desk job. The timing of the class will help inform my approach – for example I like to focus more on energising during a lunchtime class, and relaxation after work – but the basic structure I follow is fairly consistent: some breathwork; mindful movement and slow flow; longer holds and deep tissue release; and meditation and/or relaxation, in that order.  

My teaching is wholly reflective of my own learning and practice and I am comfortable with that.

I started to panic slightly as the next session approached. “Is the sequence ‘pumping’ enough?” I asked myself. “Will they feel challenged and invigorated by the number of more advanced postures I’ve squeezed into one class? Can I impress them, so they think I’m a good teacher, a more accomplished yogi than they are??”

After satisfying myself that I had firstly, crafted a sequence guaranteed to make even a seasoned Power yogi sweat and groan, and secondly, would probably struggle my pregnant self should the need to demonstrate arise, I kicked off class and hoped for the best.

And then he walked into the room.

“What do I do?” him

“Is this your first class?” me

“Yes.” him

“Have you ever done yoga before?” me

“No, never.” him

“Ok welcome, grab a mat.” me

A moment of panic, but only brief. Change of plan. The carefully curated sequence thrown by the wayside and I happily returned to what I knew, and had always felt right. “My teaching is wholly reflective of my own learning and practice and I am comfortable with that,” I told myself.

As I packed up for the last time a usually quiet attendee who had attended several classes piped up: “thank you so much Hannah. The last few weeks have been so relaxing and stretchy, it’s been wonderful.”

Hannah Hammad