Yoga has for many years been associated with numerous health and wellbeing benefits, and it’s something we’ve encouraged our team to try out with the help and support of the fantastic Gemma Allies.
Here, Gemma Allies – a Corporate Wellness Provider who is a certified Yoga, Meditation, Breathwork Teacher and Massage Therapist, as well as a good friend of Paycare’s – shares an insight into her own yoga journey, and the connections between the practice and positive wellbeing.
How did you first get involved with yoga?
I first stumbled upon the practice of yoga as a giggling 13 year-old schoolgirl, whose main concern was checking the box for ‘physical activity’ to snag my Silver Duke of Edinburgh Award. Little did I know that this chance encounter would mark the beginning of a beautiful, messy, life-changing journey toward self-acceptance, inner-healing and ultimately finding my purpose.
My attempts to climb the career ladder were ruthlessly met with a hard dose of continuous rejection and ‘you need to toughen up’ was the rhetoric I became resigned to. Only years later, when I reflected and began practising self-love and compassion, did I reframe this notion and consider that perhaps it was the world of aggressive capitalism, and not me, that might need to change.
You experienced anxiety and were diagnosed with Graves Disease, leading you to leave your corporate career and move back in with your parents. How did yoga help you through that incredibly tough time?
Yoga became my beacon of light during dark times, promising an hour of peaceful solitude each time I rolled out my mat. As I put the pieces of my life back together, my spiritual solace remained a constant comfort in my journey towards health and happiness. I noticed the more I practised, the less anxious I would feel. I approached challenges in a calmer and more measured way. During times where I would previously have been reactive, I developed the ability to pause and demonstrate patience (something that had never been my forte).
These simple, unintentional outcomes of regularly showing up to stretch my body and mind ultimately translated into indispensable life tools.
How did you go from there to what you do now?
After following a new career in Massage Therapy, I had the good fortune to cross paths with Paycare’s CEO Kevin Rogers, who was looking to invest in massage treatments for his hard-working team. I was amazed to encounter a boss who embodied the qualities of compassion, empathy and gratitude towards his team. Could these traits really exist inside the boardroom as well as on the yoga mat?
Word spread of my wellbeing business, and I soon began working with other companies, expanding my offering by undertaking Mental Health and Yoga Teacher Training. As my business grew, I recognised a subtle irony. The soft-skills that had been so harshly rejected within the corporate world, were suddenly being celebrated. Other employees just like me were buckling under the pressure of modern living and it was costing companies dearly. Innovators recognised the value of investing in their team, and good ethics became the new commercial currency.
Bridging the gap between work and wellbeing may not be a quick fix, but it is something I am excited to help steer my clients towards.
Can you share with us just some of the ways yoga can promote wellbeing?
Firstly acceptance, non-attachment and letting go: By practising acceptance towards ourselves, others and the world around us, we become liberated from our own mental cages, allowing for greater peace and happiness.
Compassion and empathy: throughout my own journey, I have recognised first-hand our true value as individuals. The kind words of a stranger, or quiet comfort of a true friend have defined my life in more ways than any external measure of success could. It was only when I experienced the significance of self-compassion both on and off the yoga mat, that I was able to authentically extend this gift to others around me.
Your breath is the strongest anchor: the most simple way to calm anxiety, focus the mind and ground yourself in the present moment is by using the most simple tool we have at our disposal: the breath.
Yoga is considered to be a union of mind, body and breath, our spiritual identity and the life we choose to lead. As the conversation around mental health and workplace wellbeing continues to unfold, I hope to see more unity between the drive for commercial success and the investment in those who make it possible.
To find out more about Gemma’s work:
Gemma is currently planning her first Wellness Retreat experience, taking place in Santorini Greece in Autumn of 2022. For all the details, visit www.wellbeingwithgemma.com/santorini-wellness-retreat 💙
And if you’d like more health and wellbeing blogs from Paycare, do pop back to our blog as we regularly upload new content! 🧡