Wellness in the workplace is often portrayed as simply reducing the burden of disease and the cost of the burden of disease. These are important reasons for inviting health and wellness into the workplace. There is another element to wellness that isn't often highlighted; wellness, specifically group fitness, develops and nurtures a sense of vibrant community. Feeling a sense of vibrancy and belonging, in turn, reduces the burden of disease. Right now, there is a great need, even an urgency, for wellness to be taught and learned, and the workplace has great potential as the place for this to happen.
The lifestyle of the corporate employee just isn't working anymore. I don't need to go into if it ever worked. That's for another time. It's not working anymore because employees are not getting the nourishment they actually need. Yes, employees are working to get a paycheck, and that is certainly one form of nourishment. What many are missing out on is being a member of a vibrant community that each employee actually values being a part of. A vibrant community is one in which every individual feels listened to, respected and honored. Each individual, in turn, values the community as a whole and its leaders (such as supervisors and managers).
Why wouldn't a company offer its employees the nourishment of being a part of something? Why must employees sign up elsewhere for needs they could get met at their jobs? They would gain more, too, if wellness and community were nurtured at work because they'd be learning with their colleagues in a place with which they are already familiar.
I teach dance and yoga classes and workshops and lead the Chicago-based Brave and Barefoot Dance Troupe with the vision of instilling a sense of community, wellness and purpose in all my students. I have taught great workshops in which those who were strangers prior to the workshop are now cracking jokes, authentically being in their bodies and being wildly creative in their dance. Bringing strangers together through dance, yoga and laughter is something I'm humbly pretty good at. This is the juiciness of wellness and fitness that doesn't happen if you're lifting weights alone in a converted conference room or if the main prerogative of being at the 24-hour gym is to lose weight and gain muscle.
People are lonely. Under the wraps of tense, hunched over shoulders and constant gossip at work is loneliness. So many are starving for connection, genuine connection. Connection with other people, as I've been sharing, is vital. Connection with your own body is also crucial. With successful wellness programs, employees can become human beings who are lit and excited about being in their bodies. By developing a practice of fitness -- or even better, a practice of dancing (since it beautifully blends creativity and activity) -- humans reconnect with their bodies.
When I reconnect with my body, I also reconnect with the present moment, the here and now. Bringing my attention to the present moment helps me focus better, which therefore helps me work better. Some of my best work is done during and after moving my body. While I'm moving, ideas and projects get to swim around in my mind and body. Then when I come to stillness at my desk, the ideas flow out with simplicity.
Wellness programs can offer a foundation for people to come together to dance, sweat and strengthen their bodies, which simultaneously, will encourage vibrant connections with one's own body and with one's community. Being vibrant and alive is an inherent element to wellness, health and fitness! I welcome this into the workplace culture. This initiative will only work if employees, managers and presidents also see the value of welcoming wellness in. Given that, who's in for welcoming wellness in? Once you do, the benefits will reveal themselves.
Cassandra Dara-Abrams founded Brave and Barefoot Dance and Yoga with the purpose of teaching dance and yoga to all ages to empower through building community and teaching health. Cassandra is also the Artistic Director of the Brave and Barefoot Dance Troupe, a women's dance troupe centered on the intersection of modern and ancient dance technique. For the past five years, she has trained in small group dynamics and processes and develops programming for workplaces of different sizes, private studios, community centers and schools. Cassandra is based in Chicago, IL. Follow Cassandra @bravedance, on Instagram at braveandbarefoot or at www.braveandbarefoot.com.
Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.