Bringing wellness to the workplace

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Vanessa Groeneveld (left) and Catherine Beler have a started a new company that brings yoga classes to companies to help improve employee wellness.

Vanessa Groeneveld (left) and Catherine Beler have a started a new company that brings yoga classes to companies to help improve employee wellness.


There’s no shortage of excuses one can come up with to avoid exercise. One of the most common is life is just too busy, particularly after work. There’s the kid’s sports activities, volunteer board meetings, yard work, and the fact you’re just too tired from a long day at the office. Well, two Niagara women have started a business that takes those excuses away, while helping to increase productivity and focus in the workplace.

Vanessa Groeneveld and Catherine Beler first met while taking their yoga training program together. One evening after class they decided to have dinner and it was while breaking bread that the idea of a mobile yoga studio first came to light. Groeneveld says her job at the time was very stressful and both women realized they didn’t want to work for someone else any longer.

“We talked about how we enjoyed travelling and we both wanted more free time,” said Groeneveld. They talked about how stress in the workplace causes a decrease in productivity and hurts the bottom line. “One in five people call in sick every week due to stress,” Groeneveld explained. So the two wellness professionals turned entrepreneurs decided to ditch the bricks and mortar traditional yoga studio and set out to take wellness to the workplace. Bodhi YogaWellness was born.

They went out and purchased 10 of each item needed to run a yoga studio, including: mats, blankets, straps, blocks, and pillows. In late spring of this year, the two started to pitch their idea to local businesses.

Thus far, business has been good. “I think employers are well aware of the stress in the workplace,” said Groeneveld. Their clients come from a variety of sectors: first responders, corporate employees, and educators. They are currently in discussions with two local sports teams as well.

Groeneveld says she was a ball of nerves when they arrived at their first client to provide the company’s first yoga class. “Catherine is a personal trainer so she has a lot more experience in leading a class, so I may have let her run that first one,” she said with a laugh. “I just reminded myself that no matter what happens I know more than the clients about yoga and once you unroll the mat everything becomes more comfortable.”

The two women offer a variety of classes and programs at different times of the day. Two of the more popular are the cheekily named “morning quickie” and the “nooner”. “The mid-day one is popular because it allows employees to refocus and bring yourself back into your workday,” explained Groeneveld.

Most of their clients are primarily in St. Catharines and Niagara Falls, however, Groeneveld said they are quickly expanding to places outside of the Region. “We have provided classes in Toronto, just booked a client in Niagara Falls, NY, and are in discussions with a doctor in California.”

Groeneveld said while the evidence is clear that exercise and living a healthy, balanced life improves ones performance in the workplace, they would love to partner with clinical and academic professionals to do a study to see specific results of having employees do a wellness activity in the workplace on a regular basis.

There is still a bit of a stereotype that yoga is for women, said Groeneveld. “We do go into many corporations where there are more men than women and you can tell they are nervous and a bit shy about doing yoga, but more men are starting to sign up for the classes. We still need to get past the idea that yoga is for women,” she said.

The future looks bright for the young company. Currently Groeneveld and Beler carry the load as the only two workers on staff. Though, they are looking to expand the number of employees as the business grows, as well as potentially franchise the business beyond Niagara.

To learn more about the classes and programs visit: bodhiyogawellness.ca


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