Updated: Apr 30, 2020
I recently had the pleasure of joining a charity yoga class at PwC. Two of my colleagues had organised the session for our sustainability and climate change team to raise money for SANDS, a stillbirth and neonatal death charity.
I've actually been blown away by how many of my yoga teacher colleagues regularly use their teaching to help those in need.
I know one colleague has raised over £2K for charity teaching colleagues. Another hasn't only organised charity classes in the office, but is also setting up a consciousness network within the firm to support colleagues on their own journeys.
Gary: Let's start with Mary and Marisa, why did you set up this charity class?
Mary: This one was part of "One Firm, One Day," our firm-wide volunteering day where staff across the UK are encouraged give something back to local communities. Besides our team volunteering efforts on the day itself, in our team each year we hold a raffle to raise additional funds for our chosen charity. This year Marisa and I donated a yoga class for the team. It was great how many colleagues signed up and contributed. We reached capacity for our room booking and had a waiting list as well!
Marisa: I love the way the raffle gives us a chance to share our outside interests with colleagues. I actually might not have known that Mary was a yoga teacher if it weren't for this opportunity! The raffle was good fun, the yoga class was good fun, and we raised money for charity, how can you beat that?
Gary: And what about you Lucia and Kate, same question. What has driven you to bring your teaching inside the the firm and especially through charity efforts?
I practiced for six years before going for my first qualification in 2017. As I was travelling through India after finishing my training, I felt an urge to share with others the little things I had learnt about the immense basis of yoga (beyond the stifling limitations of the physical aspects as focused on in the West). I wanted to spark curiosity in people to help them start their own explorations to discover and choose the yoga tools and techniques that feel most natural to them and to empower them on their journey towards improved wellbeing. I also wanted to pass on the idea that we can all teach and share whatever we know and are passionate about, without waiting until we get yet another qualification or finish one more book or training course.
While our firm provides a wide range of tools and support through our "Be Well, Work Well" programme, I felt that bringing yoga to our offices would complement these well in both preventative and self empowering ways, helping people discover and cultivate their passions.
So in November 2018 I set up and started teaching classes in our More London office. Initially, the charitable aspects came in naturally with the ultimate benefit focused on our own PwC people. I feel truly humbled by the feedback I've received over these last months, and by the personal stories colleagues have shared about how yoga has touched and transformed their lives in a wider sense beyond the purely physical. I've also been really pleased to see various teams starting to organise yoga/meditation sessions for charity, and I've been happy to join them to share either office yoga, breathing or meditation techniques.
I too had a drive and desire to use my teaching to benefit the wider community, in line with the principles of karma yoga which teaches selfless action to help others. I began a couple years ago teaching charity classes in our Embankment Place office on Monday evenings and raised more than £1,400 which I donated to the PwC Foundation and to the charity Action for M.E. Besides my own charity efforts, I've also like Lucia taught free classes to help other teams raise money -- one great example a team who supported MIND's RED January campaign.
This developed further when I began my advanced 500 hour teacher training. My course focused on inclusive yoga and I wanted to develop this idea to support people in their workplaces. I was conscious that many people find it hard to even take a lunch break, let alone have the opportunity to do exercise or practice mindfulness at work. So I began teaching Desk Yoga and Mindfulness classes to help people step back from their emails and release tension. Mainly these are 15-20 minute sessions which I stream live via webcast so that people can take part at their desks, in an office or at home (without needing to even get changed!). Again, I have taken the opportunity to donate funds to charity (Women's Aid) to give something back to the wider community.
Wow, you are all so inspiring. I wonder if other companies are like this. What do you think is it about PwC that encourages this type of activities?
As a company, our purpose is to build trust in society and solve important problems. Besides trying to live this purpose through our day-to-day project work, the firm encourages us to take a broader approach, making time to focus on community engagement and fundraising activities. There are loads of programmes supporting us to engage in our communities and the enthusiasm for community service across our team really shows how the mindset is getting embedded across the firm.
Besides, the "One Firm, One Day" activities each Spring, we each get six days of paid volunteering time each year and like Mary said, there are lots of programmes to help us choose how to use this time. So there are programmes for people who like to work with children, with the elderly, for the environment, for ex offenders, and the list goes on.
I think we have an obligation as a significant employer and business leader to support our wider communities, and to use the resources we have to help others - I'm always inspired by what I see people do individually around the firm to contribute to this.
For me, a lot of it is also about PwC's strong advocacy of diversity, inclusion and of understanding and bringing our full and true selves to work that fuels and boosts our creative energies to materialise into actions and activities such as those that us and many others are taking for the benefit of our own people and beyond. It is about the recognition and commitment to our deep compassionate nature and the growth in the importance of our most human skills.
Thanks again for all your hard work ladies, well done!
Mary - Having only recently certified, I am currently venturing into the world of teaching dynamic vinyasa and Rocket yoga in a couple of studios across London. Safe to say, life is busy as I balance this with my work in the Sustainability and Climate Change team at PwC, and trying to master my handstand!
Marisa - I completed by 200hr training in 2011 and have been teaching on and off since. At the moment I'm mostly working on my own practice, focusing on dynamic vinyasa and Rocket as well!
Kate - Having completed my 200 hour teacher training a few years ago, I have recently graduated from an advanced 500 hour teacher training focused on inclusive yoga. I teach vinyasa yoga flow at a local studio and desk yoga for corporates.
Lucia - I've been practising for more than 7 years and obtained my 200 hour qualification in December 2017. Outside PwC I mainly teach private and small groups sessions and inside PwC I teach Tuesday 6pm and Thursday 7:30am classes in our More London office.