Expert insight

How to incorporate health and wellbeing activity into your event

20 March 2018 by Ailon Freedman

Adding simple mind and body practices to your events programme can help to re-energise delegates, says founder of The Lotus Exchange. 

Sitting and listening for long periods at an event can take its toll. People can become engaged in an inner dialogue with themselves and lose concentration. Mind and body practices such as mindfulness, yoga and t’ai chi give delegates the opportunity to empty their thoughts, temporarily switch their focus, and re-energise – helping to improve overall concentration.

There are straightforward and easy ways for event managers to build aspects of health and wellbeing into their events programme.

Consider utilising mindfulness and yoga

Mindfulness is the art of being present in the moment. Our minds are usually busy thinking about what has happened or is about to happen, whereas mindfulness encourages people to focus their attention on the here and now. Mindfulness has become linked to a whole range of holistic and wellbeing practices, all of which stem from the original yoga system around meditation. It can be hard for someone in the 21st century to sit still; our senses are so alert all the time. However, we can train our minds to observe poses and breathe into them – which is the essence of yoga.

Short bursts of exercise are simple to integrate

Let’s say it is a big event with 100-plus people in a room. One of the most accessible and easiest ways to integrate wellbeing into your events programme is through 15- to 20-minute sessions that blend mindfulness, simple stretches and some basic t’ai chi. These exercises will open up and release people’s necks and shoulders, and allow them to focus on their breathing. All the stretches are easy to do in a suit or work attire, and the exercises can be done in any size of room. When I started my business 20 years ago, people were quite phobic and self-conscious, but wellbeing is not an alien concept any more, and yoga is mainstream, so I find people are open and happy to join in.

Or fully embed wellbeing into the event

Organisations could also include a longer yoga or t’ai chi session at the beginning or end of the day. Encourage delegates to take a change of clothes for this in communication before the event. Depending on the aims of the event and how pressing the issues at hand are, you could even go one step further and make wellbeing a theme. A full day in the programme can then be scheduled, with more activities and additional one-hour classes.

Think about extras such as massage, healthy eating and music

Chair massage is relatively easy to set up in the refreshment area, and I’ve found it ‘drops a person back into themself’. As the saying goes, you are what you eat, and we are seeing more and more healthier options in breakout areas. You could also ask a nutritionist to do a short presentation on, for example, energy tips. More forward-thinking companies have used music and dance in their events programmes. A presenter can guide this and do some stretches in time to music – or why not just encourage delegates to have a boogie? Once they have overcome their self-consciousness, dance can help them to snap out of their lethargy and feel alive.

Address stress head-on with your delegates

When people feel nurtured by their organisation, it encourages loyalty and induces a stronger bond. If companies would like to tackle health and wellbeing head-on, particularly if the event is for employees, they could talk about stress directly and incorporate a stress management workshop. This can look at when stress is good and bad, the symptoms of stress and how to manage them.

Don’t forget about practicalities like insurance

It’s important for companies to ensure that their insurance covers any physical activities. For longer sessions, a provider such as myself will email event managers with a list of pre-existing medical conditions for delegates to self-diagnose. Make sure that the instructor is used to working in this sort of environment, too, and will not, for example, inflict high-level ashtanga yoga on delegates – any physical exercise should concentrate on the mental benefits instead.

Four simple exercises to build into your next event

Shoulder release
1. Place one hand in between your shoulder blades with the elbow pointing up.
2. Catch this elbow with the opposite hand.
3. As you hold the stretch, focus on rooting your feet and creating space in the ribs.
4. Breathe slowly and easily.
5. After five to 10 breaths, release and change sides.

Neck stretch
1. Sitting or standing, tilt your head to your right side – ear towards the shoulder.
2. Slowly raise your right hand and give a gentle tug on the top of the head to assist the stretch.
3. Keep the spine straight; maintain steady breathing.
4. After five to 10 breaths, release and change sides.

Lower back twist
1. Come to sit right at the front of your chair and sit upright like a soldier.
2. Turn to the right side and catch the back of your chair with your right hand.
3. Try to keep the knees facing forwards and the upper body 90 degrees to the right.
4. Focus on the lower back, aiming to create space in that region.
5. Hold for five to 10 slow breaths, release and change sides.

Breathing exercise
1. Close your eyes – unless this makes you drowsy, in which case look at the floor or wall.
2. Think of the upper body as a hollow space.
3. Observe whether the ribs expand as you breathe in and contract as you breathe out.
4. If not, try to make that happen.
5. Once your awareness is located in the physical body, try to establish a rhythm to your breath, where inhaling and exhaling last roughly the same amount of time.
6. Go into this process, really observing the duration of each half of the breath.
7. After some time, start to observe the gaps between in breath and out breath. If it’s comfortable for you, let them grow in length.
8. Mindfulness of breathing is at the heart of all meditation/mindfulness activities.

Find out more about The Lotus Exchange and its corporate wellbeing services. You can also read more on stress in the events industry and how to tackle it here.

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