Everyone has a visual in their mind about yoga. Many lean towards prayers, incense, perfect people with perfect bodies in high fashion leggings. Christian Wigardt, founder of YesYoga and Yoga DJ Sessions, erodes that image by presenting a contemporary yoga that is innovative, concrete, fun and sweaty.
His goal is to become a game changer in corporate wellness.
- Yoga gives higher spirits, less burnouts, increased productivity - and, in the long run, more revenue. Yoga for employees at least once a week pays off.
In a time where businesses compete in headhunting creative minds, offering the benefits of yoga is part of being an attractive employer and an integrated part of brand awareness.
Before embarking on the yoga journey, Christian Wigardt was for years working as a journalist and communications consultant with his own company.
- We were working with corporate media exactly at the time when Internet had its breakthrough. We ran intranets, published flashy clients magazines - and it was awesome to be a part of that revolution. I made good money and at best I could run the business from a chair in my garden.
After consulting, Christian went back to working with moving images for TV and for commercial use. The selling aspect and the role of the project manager took its toll.
"Yoga and meditation give me a steady focus, filter away some of the buzz in the brain and extract ideas or tasks that are truly meaningful."
- I know how creative businesses can consume your self. It's a high, and I love it!
But the fervor can suddenly turn to ashes. And unwinding can be a real downer. Yoga and meditation give me a steady focus, filter away some of the buzz in the brain and extract ideas or tasks that are truly meaningful. And the body becomes radiantly alive, strong and flexible. That’s why I wanted to become a yoga teacher, I wanted to spread the word!
Christian, who started practicing yoga at age 14 in connection with meditation, knew that he wanted to present a new, un-orthodox kind of yoga. His take on yoga is a buoyant flow with ingredients from movement, tai chi and dance, far from the static and rigid traditional postures.
- We don’t stand still in linear, fixed postures, explains Christian. We move, all the time, but slowly, as if we were in water, with the liquid resistance and softness. We return to a few basic movements, but no class is the same. They are all different, of course also depending on the wants and needs in the class. An added pleasure is the positive hormones, the “natural highs”, released when doing yoga.
The No-Studio Yoga Company
YesYoga is the no-studio yoga company. Instead, Christian and his network of yoga masters visit places of work, schools, housing associations. It's a pop-up - within minutes, a conference room or a reception area is cleared of furniture and transformed into a yoga studio.
- The yoga is tailor-made for each business. Computer work generally generates strain and pain in neck, shoulders and back. Yoga delivers relief. We often give tips to employees on what they can do themselves, at home. Often, just a few movements each morning or at your desk can do wonders. Yoga is a deep, slow stretch. You basically massage your own body.
Sebastian Broms, CEO and founder of Oakwood Creative Digital Agency, where YesYoga performs yoga every week with a steady group of employees, knows how the creative process can sometimes come to a dead end.
"I don’t have to rush to the gym. At least not on the day when Christian is leading yoga with us, because it can be quite challenging."
- Yoga can ignite the creative spark, says Sebastian, it's an aid in getting up on the freeway again. Also, in this sometimes mazelike puzzle called life, to have your training done and over with when you leave work is a liberating feeling. I don’t have to rush to the gym. At least not on the day when Christian is leading yoga with us, because it can be quite challenging.
Continuity is key
Christian repeats two “mantras” when teaching corporate yoga.
1. Dead-lines are encountered much better with a strong, energised backbone and a calm mind.
2. Few meetings are impossible to re-schedule - but yoga should be a steadfast routine not to be tampered with.
- Continuity is key. I do a lot of yoga at conferences where yoga is part of team-building and I love it. But frankly, if you want to achieve a real change in how your employees relate to work and to their co-workers, management and HR should take a decisive step towards integrating yoga permanently into everyday office life.
Music is an important ingredient in the YesYoga potion. Electronic music, techno and rhythmic chill, adds to the experience. With the right music, you feel cool embarking on the yoga class, establishes Christian Wigardt.
- Five years ago, I started Yoga DJ Sessions with DJ Curt Lundberg and it's been a highly appreciated ingredient at festivals such as Gagnef and Norberg, at Stockholms largest outdoor club venue The Garden, but also at corporate events, afterwork, kick-offs etc. One client hired the rock venue Debaser for a session with more than 150 employees, complete with intriguing lighting and a stack of smoke machines.
Euphoria, adds Christian, is the one word that can describe the participants state of mind at a Yoga DJ Session.
Downtown Camper by Scandic, a hotel in downtown Stockholm aimed at urban explorers, has been hiring YesYoga and Yoga DJ Sessions for 2,5 years to give free classes, but also for team-building with management, employees and as an add-on for conference clients.
Doing good Business with yoga
Kristian Hell, Lifestyle Concierge at Downtown Camper, re-invented hotel business by adding skateboarding, cycling, kayaking, jogging and yoga to the menu. - At Downtown Camper, we aim to give all our guests a unique and genuine experience, and help them to explore Stockholm in new ways. The activities are open for all, and it’s a good way of bringing the locals and the travellers together and making strangers into friends. Our hotel is targeting curious and active “urban explorers”, and yoga quickly became one of our guests’ favourite activities. With a new, large meeting and events area called Roots, Downtown Camper can now host yoga for even more people, adding value to the hotel's trademark. Besides the resident yoga DJ, acclaimed electronic music veteran and icon Curt Lundberg, the sessions hire some of the most profiled DJ:s in Stockholm, among them Daniel Bertholdsson, resident DJ at the techno club Botanica.
One of the tasks for YesYoga has been to eliminate the esoterism often connected with yoga, such as prayers and chants.
- We have meditation but no prayers. I take pride in not naming the postures in other languages than Swedish and English. Why complicate things? This is no religion, it’s a form of training that has to take into account modern research into the human body. If we do it right, yoga is also the perfect complement to other forms of training like jogging or pumping iron.
In yoga, students strive for body awareness and longer muscles.
- One of my students was satisfied with the way he looked, and he has impressive muscles and all that. But due to his short muscles, he could not help his friend to move without getting lumbago. Now he can volunteer without fear…
Can a yogi drink Martinis?
- Oh yes, says Christian with a smile. If you like it. You can go clubbing until 11 AM too. It's all a question of balance. Yoga is not puritanism, on the contrary, if you do yoga you gain the power to enjoy life at its fullest. And for me, as a dry martini aficionado, that includes just that.
Christian is the proud father of three, the oldest, Valerie, is also heavily into yoga. His sons Neil and Lukas have both been DJ-ing at his yoga and the kids enjoy the fact that their dad has found joy in his everyday work.
He works with a synergetical and lust-oriented efficiency. Besides YesYoga and Yoga DJ Sessions, he somehow finds the time to produce the podcast Yoga Radio Sessions (Yogapodden), host one of Stockholms largest on-line yoga communities, the Stockholm Yoga and Meditation Group on Meetup.com - plus write chronicles and articles for Yogatrender.se, where he can freely express his sometimes opinionated views on yoga.
YesYoga is also into a joint venture with Offispa, with whom he joined forces to add massage and other treatments to the menu offered to places of work.
How does he manage? He smiles and says:
- Teaching is an everyday challenge, but it’s a positive stress. I still do take some occasional TV assignments, but yoga is where my heart is. I love all of it, that’s the answer. To give and receive… wow. It makes my day to see how my yoga can change peoples lives, just as it changed mine.