• Shoumika Chodavarapu

Yoga as a Preventative Measure for Burnout

Burnout is the combined effect of emotional and physical exhaustion.¹ A burnt out person can develop stress, anxiety, and lack of job interest as well as health problems. These can include hypertension, ulcers,³ and back and shoulder pain.² Constantly straining the muscles can create excruciating headaches for a majority of employees.


People who are burnt out tend to have a lower quality of life, low self-esteem, and no motivation for work. Some put in extended sick leaves as a result of being emotionally and physically exhausted.¹ Employee burnout is an unbelievably common problem in organizations everywhere.²


As burnout increases, companies are compelled to research different measures to prevent it. One measure that reported positive effects is yoga. 


What is Yoga?


Yoga is an ancient practice that helps to balance the physical, emotional, spiritual, and mental aspects of a person. Yoga is spread out worldwide. First created in India, it made its way to the western world in the past few decades to enhance physical, mental, and emotional health.¹ The most common type of yoga is Hatha yoga. This type has been proven to have a positive effect on quality of life.²


Hatha yoga is comprised of three components:


1. Pranayama: Deep breathing techniques including breath awareness and controlled breathing. 


2. Asana: Various stretches and postural techniques.


3. Meditation: The act of practicing mindfulness and concentration to increase awareness. 


These three components have an impactful effect on both a physical and emotional level. The purpose of Hatha yoga is to garner an increase in awareness of a person’s body sensations and feelings. 


If a person is under an intense amount of work, pressure, and stress, they may be unaware of their body positioning and movements. With the assistance of yoga, they can increase their awareness of their body positioning and surroundings. 


Some employers have suggested yoga to their employees as a method to relieve tension and stress. With the suggested yoga classes, companies stated that employees put in less burnout-related sick leaves. They also report an overall feeling of content and higher self-esteem.²


Some employers have suggested yoga to their employees as a method to relieve tension and stress. With the suggested yoga classes, companies stated that employees put in less burnout-related sick leaves.
Illustration by Nadia Mokadem

How does Yoga Prevent Burnout?


Research has shown countless positive effects that yoga can have on a person. Yoga not only helps the physical dimension of a person, but the emotional dimension as well. Here are a few of the many benefits yoga has:


1. Reduces back, neck, and shoulder pain and relieves tension.²


2. Relaxes the body and mind. Also, develops increased awareness, mindfulness, and concentration in general and while performing tasks.


3. Develops correct and proper posture, regulates breathing, and reduces heart rate. 


4. Reduces stress and anxiety and is reported as a treatment for depression.¹


5. Keeps the body and mind active, increases self-esteem and overall wellbeing and health.


Yoga activates the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS)  and suppresses the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) which is responsible for stress responses. Practicing yoga over time can cause PNS activation (relaxation responses)  to dominate SNS activation (stress responses).Yoga as a mind and body technique has shown to improve stress levels by restoring the sympathetic and parasympathetic balance in one’s body.


Research has shown that yoga poses, breathing, and meditation are effective in decreasing anxiety and improving various moods.It has also shown that regularly practicing yoga can result in improved working memory performance. Yoga not only creates mindfulness, but self-compassion as well. Research has shown that intentionally adding self-compassion with yoga is effective at reducing stress.


The effects of yoga are not short-term. Yoga can prevent burnout and many other health-related problems for years to come. It is considered to be one of the best ways to prevent distress and problems in life, while also creating a peaceful and relaxing environment. If you have been stressed out or under a lot of pressure, try a few asanas and breathing techniques. Soon, you will be creating the emotionally, physically, and mentally healthy lifestyle that you deserve!

References

  1. Gura, S. T. (2002). Yoga for stress reduction and injury prevention at work. Work: Journal of Prevention, Assessment & Rehabilitation, 19(1), 3–7.

  2. Grensman, A., Acharya, B. D., Wändell, P., Nilsson, G. H., Falkenberg, T., Sundin, Ö., & Werner, S. (2018). Effect of traditional yoga, mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, and cognitive behavioral therapy, on health related quality of life: a randomized controlled trial on patients on sick leave because of burnout. BMC complementary and alternative medicine, 18(1), 80. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12906-018-2141-9

  3. Vishwakarma, A. K., Maurya, R. K., & Kumar, S. (2018). Yoga: A complete transformation from burnout towards being healthy. Indian Journal of Community Psychology, 14(2), 251–260

  4. Wheeler, E. A., Santoro, A. N., & Bembenek, A. F. (2019). Separating the “limbs” of yoga: Limited effects on stress and mood. Journal of Religion and Health, 58(6), 2277–2287. https://doi-org.ezproxy.memphis.edu/10.1007/s10943-017-0482-1

  5. Gorvine, M. M., Zaller, N. D., Hudson, H. K., Demers, D., & Kennedy, L. A. (2019). A naturalistic study of yoga, meditation, self-perceived stress, self-compassion, and mindfulness in college students. Health Psychology and Behavioral Medicine, 7(1), 385–395.

  6. Gothe, N. P., Keswani, R. K., & McAuley, E. (2016). Yoga practice improves executive function by attenuating stress levels. Biological Psychology, 121(Part A), 109–116. https://doi-org.ezproxy.memphis.edu/10.1016/j.biopsycho.2016.10.010