I meet Susanne in Flat White in Soho and we chat over a cup of coffee. Susanne teaches yoga and mindfulness, and my interest in her isn’t surprising. I have recently been inspired by Ruby Wax, who explains how our brains work, why we are all mad and what to do about it in her latest book Sane New World.
What is particularly interesting about Susanne is that her clients aren’t individuals coming to cosy studios about town but financial institutions, technology companies and other corporates, offering yoga and meditation courses to their employees in their offices.
To give you some background, Susanne, who is Austrian, spent many years working as an office planning consultant in London, helping multinational corporations devise optimal office environment for their staff. Some companies now offer creative office environment, equip offices with showers and kitchens, but mostly offices tend to be grey, “corporate” and unappealing places few professionals rave about. So in 2009, having completed yoga teaching training in London and New York, Susanne and her then partner launched BeYoCo, a Business Yoga Company, with a mission to infuse corporate environment with mindfulness through a balanced practice for body and mind in order to improve work ethic, promote creativity, improve communication and workplace culture.
The idea makes sense, and the corporate world seems to be catching up. London’s Evening Standard reports on City bosses taking time off, suffering from chronic fatigue and exhaustion and offering yoga classes and in-house counselling. In 2012 Google founded Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute, offering attention and mindfulness training programmes for business leaders, based on the latest neuroscience research and emotional intelligence studies.
But let’s go back to Susanne. Over the last four years her journey to bring mindfulness into corporate London must have been a strenuous one. Try approaching your HR team and ask to sign up for a 6-week yoga and meditation course… And yet, she did it. Through word of mouth about the effectiveness of her work, top tier banks invite her to help change their culture; curious, their employees join her courses and come out feeling de-stressed, re-energised and re-balanced. I think it takes guts to be a pioneer and to steer the corporate world towards change. I nod to Google, but I take my hat off to Susanne.