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Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini Talks with alignyo About Yoga

 

CEO Mark Bertolini practices yoga, pranayama and mindfulness everyday and has made it his mission to make it available to Aetna employees. In our interview with Mark, he discusses how yoga helped him heal from a skiing accident and shares statistics on the positive effects of mindfulness programs in the workplace.

 

Can you share how you found yoga and what your "cocktail" is?

I had a skiing accident in 2004 that resulted in a spinal cord injury and constant pain from neuropathy. I did not want to be on controlled substances for pain, so I tried a number of alternative medicines - cranialsacral therapy, acupuncture, mindfulness and yoga. This combination, which I call my cocktail, has worked to the point where I don’t take any pain medication and can be fully present in the moment.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

 

Mindfulness in the workplace - why is this important? 

It can help employees be more productive and make better decisions for the organization, which helps improve the bottom line of a business. Research from the mindfulness program we now offer to all Aetna employees shows that participants are regaining 69 minutes per week of productivity. This increase in productivity equates to an 11:1 return on investment.

 

Mindfulness and yoga-based programs can also help reduce stress, which is a universal issue that can damage people’s health. Our research found that employees reporting the highest stress level had nearly $2,000 higher medical costs for the preceding year than those reporting the lowest stress levels. These programs were successfully proven to reduce stress, which can help reduce associated health care costs.

Office (Yoga) Space 

Yoga Journal, February 2014

 
Mindfulness practices are known to be an effective way to manage workplace stress, and new research shows they may also boost companies’ bottom lines. The cost of stress to American business is as much as $300 billion annually, according to the World Health Organization. And a 2012 study by Aetna showed that employees who participated in mindfulness meditation and therapeutic yoga were less stressed and more productive. Corporations are starting to catch on. By some estimates, as many as a quarter of US companies have meditation and yoga programs, including General Mills, Huffington Post, AOL, Google and Facebook, to name a few. 

This Is Your Brain on Yoga

Fitness Magazine, October 2013; Study published in the Journal of Physical Activity & Health

 

Feeling fuzzy at your afternoon meeting? Trade your lunchtime jog for a quickie yoga session. New research shows that hitting the mat for just 20 minutes boosts cognitive performance more than running does; this may be because guided movements require more concentration and make you focus on the moment. “Running is a habitual movement, and you can get stimulated by everything around you, which makes it tricky to stay in the zone,” says study author Neha Gothe, Ph.D. (and professor of kinesiology and health sciences at Wayne State University) “But meditative exercise are mentally engaging and help you develop awareness and keep distracting thoughts away. Plus yoga reduces anxiety, which can improve cognitive performance.” Reenergize midday, then when you get back to work, knock your boss’s socks off with your on-point ideas.

Wall Street yoga: Finance gets its downward dog on

 

In the fiercely competitive environment of Wall Street, almost everyone is looking for an edge—from traders who spend years memorizing the trading patterns of a handful of stocks, to research analysts who dig through their Rolodexes (literal and virtual) to delve into the details of a company's supply chain.

 

But some have found another edge, at the end of a yoga mat. Bankers, traders and fund managers are practicing yoga in order to build their mental faculties and improve their ability to focus, claiming that it can serve them well at work.

 

You're constantly looking for an edge on the market, and the focus is always on making your client money. That in itself can be all consuming and stressful," said Pete Dougherty, a former director at Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

 

According to the Yoga Journal, the yoga industry was valued at $10.3 billion in 2012, up from $5.6 billion in 2008. The stressful work environment of Wall Street is in many ways ideal for winning new converts.

 

"The life of a trader is wrought with self-doubt and to a large extend the fear - and at times, expectation - of a negative outcome. Yoga and meditation help to remove these negative blocks and promote self-hearling," said Guy Adami, professional investor and a trader on CNBC's "Fast Money."

 

Yoga for Heroes

Yoga Journal, February 2014

 

Yoga can ring calm to those who face life-and-death situations on a daily basis. In Newark, New Jersey, yoga teacher Debby Kaminsky has taught yoga and breathing practices to more than 400 firefighters during basic training. And in Denver, Lisa Wimberger teaches meditation techniques to area police to help them process their emotions. “First responders often experience traumatic situations, and when they get home it’s hard to be a normal parent or spouse,” says Kaminsky. “Yoga can help them refocus on the present moment.”

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