Bull Markets, Bear Markets…Cat-Cow Stretch?

It’s no secret that the financial situation in the United States is rather dire as of late. All of us are feeling the crunch, but those closest to the eye of the storm – bankers, stock brokers, and traders – may be feeling a particularly aggressive breed of stress. So what better to mitigate the tense reality of their circumstances than a good, relaxing yoga class?

As The Wall Street Journal recently reported, yoga is gaining a surprising popularity among financial professionals. In fact, some prominent Manhattan financial companies have begun offering free, in-office yoga classes to their employees. Senior partners come together with entry-level associates to stretch, focus, and strengthen their bodies and minds.

Is this a sign that the business world is turning more “new age”, or does it simply imply that a notoriously high-stress industry is seeking new ways to alleviate job-related pressure?

If you’re dealing with rising and crashing markets, or superpower financial institutions suddenly going bankrupt, you’re likely to have a lot of tight muscles and understandably high blood pressure. Even if you view yoga on it’s most basic level, as just a decent form of exercise, the practice can help burn off the negative energy of the day and help uncurl those knots in your neck. But when approached from a more holistic way, a strong yoga practice can teach you to breathe through difficult moments and face trauma straight on, viewing change as an opportunity rather than a disaster. This may be of particular benefit to financial professionals in the current climate.

The Wall Street Journal profiles a company called Namaste New York, a husband-and-wife operation that specializes in yoga for financiers. The couple has modified their classes to fulfill the unique needs of their clientele – cell phones and Blackberrys are banned in class; female teachers are urged not to wear revealing clothing, and the chanting that is such an integral part of so many yoga practices is strictly forbidden. According to Michael Wald, the co-owner of Namaste New York, chanting om is “too far out of the box for our customers.”

While some yogis might argue that this “toughened up” version of yoga detracts from the ancient practice’s main purpose, Wall Street types are slowly opening themselves up to a new way of approaching life, both physically and mentally. One hedge-fund manager told the Journal that his yoga practice helps him “take a step back, have a breath and stay focused.” And even the more “traditional” yoga retreats in the Los Angeles and New York areas have seen a sudden influx in clients who work in the financial industry.

Cost of a private Namaste New York session for a high-powered financier? About $150 to $225. Having those responsible for the fiscal security of our markets and financial institutions feel a bit more Zen? Priceless.

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