Namaste At The Brewery

Yoga at a brewery.  At first, this concept seemed counterintuitive and odd, but the last decade has seen an increase in yoga and breweries. With this has come a wave of brewery and yoga studio collaboration projects. Some great combinations of yoga classes, brewery tours and taproom takeovers have undoubtedly occurred. There also have been some unfortunate cases of distastefully named beers, marketing and merchandise, but cultural appropriation is not the focus of this piece and these examples are hardly the most egregious instances in this country. This blog is not even about yoga at a brewery, it’s about yoga FOR a brewery.

Yoga (of any tradition) can be amazingly beneficial for anyone. Yoga is combination of breathing techniques linked to a physical movement. It’s a system of exercise that helps a practitioner mentally (self discipline, patience, kindness, relaxation, introspection, mental fortitude, etc.) and physically (lowers blood pressure, improves circulation, improves respiratory and nervous system, increases strength and flexibility). For many organizations yoga has been popular for its numerous mental and physical benefits but also for its relatively low cost. Just space, mats and a teacher are needed unlike gyms which require more equipment and maintenance cost.

What makes a company a great place to work? Obviously this is a complex question and the answer will differ between industries and employee preferences. However, one general idea almost all employees can agree on is they want to feel cared for and valued by their employer. For most organizations, traditionally this means a combination of wages, vacation time, health insurance and/or retirement plans, what has come to be known as the “standard items” you might see in a benefits package. However, after decades of data about the cost of employee absenteeism, sick days and health care claims on employers, many are looking for ways to keep their employees both happy and at work. Tech companies have led the way in creative ways to lower employee stress, one of the key factors in productivity loss and health care claims. Companies provide on-site free/cheap access to benefits their employees are often already using. One such benefit, yoga.

So what’s all this have to do with Iron Horse Brewery? Well, we were one of those companies noticing that our employee feedback was telling us they were concerned with a lack of exercise, healthy eating, and being overstressed. Several attempts were made at combating these issues, but nothing was working.

Cue Nic playing golf wondering to himself how he could improve his life and the lives of his IHB cousins (nevermind why). “What about these big tech companies Nic? They have wellness programs for their employees after all, why can’t we?” I asked myself as I happily strode down the center of the second fairway of Ellensburg Golf and Country Club on a chilly March afternoon in 2018, tracing the flight of my ball (Yes, I play golf in March, yes I remember what hole I was on when the thought came to me, yes I remember I hit the fairway, YES I talk to myself out loud when I play alone).

Now, I had started a yoga practice back in November of 2017 to help offset some physical ailments I was going through and to see what it would do for my mental health, and I was having amazing results. I wanted more, I wanted to learn as much as I could about yoga and develop a deeper practice. “How do you know if you’ve learned something Nic?” asked Nic, “You can teach it to someone else,” answered Nic. Cue light bulb of commitment. BOOM! ENCOURAGEMENT! (See Couples Retreat for movie and accent reference.)  New project at work come Monday – convince Greg not only COULD I and WOULD I become a yoga teacher for brewery employees and their families but it was a good idea, and the brewery should pay for it.

Fast forward eight months and the project has come together amazingly. I have completed my first 200 hours of teacher training thanks to IHB. This organization has truly made me feel valued and cared about by helping me to gain this knowledge. I will never be able to thank the people here enough for that, BUT as stated above, the best way to know if you know something is if you can teach it to someone else. And I really want to know this stuff.

We now have one-hour class twice a week at the brewery. All employees and their plus ones are welcome if they are interested. Each morning there is also a short 10-minute session to help get those creative beer juices flowing! I am really excited about this program going into 2019. My own personal practice will benefit from the experience gained by teaching my coworkers, and hopefully they will see the same sorts of benefits I did from practicing over the last year.

The point of this project was to bring something to employees so they would feel that their organization valued and cared about their well-being and that of their families. Even if employees never step on a mat, I hope that message is clear to employees and customers. Iron Horse Brewery is a place that tries to hear the needs of its employees and actively seeks new and creative ways of addressing them. We might still be a small organization but it does not mean we can’t set an example for how to take care of each other.

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