Skip to main content

Taking yoga to the corporate 'suits' in Hong Kong

By Diego Laje, CNN
updated 9:59 PM EDT, Mon March 24, 2014
Manuele Bosetti, general manager of the Italian Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong and Macao says that yoga has helped his staff to relax and be more productive. Manuele Bosetti, general manager of the Italian Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong and Macao says that yoga has helped his staff to relax and be more productive.
HIDE CAPTION
Workers unwind in Hong Kong
Workers unwind in Hong Kong
Workers unwind in Hong Kong
Workers unwind in Hong Kong
Workers unwind in Hong Kong
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Dario Calvaruso, 39, teaches yoga classes in a different kind of studio -- the office
  • He spent 15 years in India studying yoga before moving to Hong Kong
  • Corporate wellness is still a developing concept in Hong Kong
  • Managers don't always see the link between staff well-being and company profits

Hong Kong (CNN) -- Like other major financial centers such as London, Shanghai or New York, Hong Kong is home to legions of suited workers toiling long hours in vast, glass towers at breakneck speed.

But in this crowded, materialistic city, there's a man trying to build a business from de-stressing the workplace.

"The wellness of employees is the wellness of the company; the very strength of a company is its employees," said Dario Calvaruso, a yoga instructor who set up Holistic Wellness -- a company that offers a series of in-office programs to reduce stress.

He's on a mission to make yoga mats an essential fixture under every Hong Kong worker's desk.

The 39-year old spent 15 years living in India studying the ancient discipline, which seeks to relax those who practice it, through elongation, slow movement and controlled breathing.

Opportunity

When Calvaruso moved to Hong Kong in October 2011, opportunity knocked on his door.

Yoga standing on the water
Maasai warrior embraces yoga
Man and Chihuahua do yoga together

"Many of my friends were major company managers and approached me for private (yoga) classes," Calvaruso said. "After seeing its benefits they thought 'this should come to my company'."

Within this territory's constricted work spaces, practicing yoga requires relatively little room and minimal equipment -- a large ball and a mat are enough. As the instructor plays calm music, everyone stretches, breathes deeply and closes their eyes.

"All the team is present at the lessons and it's a great way to start our day," said Manuele Bosetti, general manager of the Italian Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong and Macao.

This organization has to deal with the day-to-day problems of its member companies and sometimes taking the time to listen can be a challenge, Bosetti told CNN. But performing yoga as a group has helped.

"We noticed that everyone at the office was more relaxed, and we managed to treat our business partners in a more kind way," Bosetti added.

Suited and ready

The sight of practitioners in their work clothes surrounded by computers and other electronics may seem incongruous with relaxation and meditation, but Calvaruso believes yoga performed in his studio is similar to that done in corporate environments -- although people in the workplace may face unique problems.

For example, students at a studio yoga class may practice over many years, while those in corporate settings may be unfamiliar with the discipline.

"In an office, maybe people don't know anything about yoga," Calvaruso told CNN. "They may feel discomfort, frozen shoulders; we try to release all the tension from the shoulders to give them proper alignment."

Desk ergonomics are another common focus for yoga classes in offices.

And the result?

"Employees perform better, produce more, and of course, the company has bigger profits," Calvaruso said.

Nevertheless, it can be difficult to inspire managers to interrupt their team's workday for a few minutes of relaxation.

"In Asia, (employee wellness) is still new, it's growing," said Calvaruso, who believes the region lags behind Europe and the United States when it comes to measures that actively help employees find a balance between work and leisure.

This instructor's uphill battle goes against Asia's economic dynamism. An insatiable hunger for ever-larger returns and continuous growth is the new culture of this region, and it seems to have replaced much centuries-old wisdom that teaches spiritual development through balance, meditation and harmony with nature.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
See CNN's complete coverage on China.
updated 10:30 PM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
Some savvy individuals in China are claiming naming rights to valuable foreign brands. Here's how companies can combat them.
updated 5:11 AM EDT, Wed July 16, 2014
Is Xi Jinping a true reformist or merely a "dictator" in disguise? CNN's Beijing bureau chief Jaime FlorCruz dissects the leader's policies
updated 11:44 PM EDT, Mon July 7, 2014
With a population of 1.3 billion, you'd think that there would be 11 people in China who are good enough to put up a fight on the football pitch.
updated 2:31 AM EDT, Fri July 4, 2014
26-year-old Ji Cheng is the first rider from China to compete for competitive cycling's highest honor.
updated 7:24 AM EDT, Mon July 7, 2014
China's richest man, Wang Jianlin, may not yet be a household name outside of China, but that could be about to change.
updated 12:14 AM EDT, Fri July 4, 2014
Hong Kong's narrow streets were once a dazzling gallery of neon, where banks and even bordellos plied their trade under sizzling tubular signs.
updated 7:57 PM EDT, Thu July 3, 2014
When President Xi Jinping arrives in Seoul this week, the Chinese leader will have passed over North Korea in favor of its arch rival.
updated 7:59 AM EDT, Thu July 3, 2014
Three more officials have been given the chop as part of China's anti-corruption drive, including former aides to the retired security chief.
updated 9:05 AM EDT, Tue July 1, 2014
As thousands of Hong Kongers prepare for an annual protest, voices in China's press warn pro-democracy activism is a bad idea.
updated 12:37 AM EDT, Mon June 30, 2014
Hong Kongers are demanding the right to directly elect their next leader, setting up a face-off with Beijing.
updated 2:56 AM EDT, Tue July 1, 2014
The push for democratic reform in Hong Kong is testing China's "one country, two systems" model.
updated 7:56 AM EDT, Mon June 30, 2014
Along a winding Chinese mountain road dotted with inns and restaurants is Jinan Orphanage, a place of refuge and site for troubled parents to dump unwanted children.
updated 4:36 AM EDT, Thu June 26, 2014
CNN's Kristie Lu Stout invites Isaac Mao, Han Dongfang, and James Miles to discuss the rise of civil society in China and social media's crucial role.
updated 11:34 PM EDT, Wed June 25, 2014
Chen Guangbiao wants rich people to give more to charity and he'll do anything to get their attention, including buying lunch for poor New Yorkers.
updated 7:44 AM EDT, Thu June 26, 2014
Architects are planning to build the future world's tallest towers in China. They're going to come in pretty colors.
updated 7:47 AM EDT, Mon June 23, 2014
Anna Coren visits Yulin's annual dog meat festival. Dogs are part of the daily diet here, with an estimated 10,000 dogs killed for the festival alone.
updated 2:38 AM EDT, Thu June 19, 2014
People know little about sex, but are having plenty of it. We take a look at the ramifications of a lack of sex education in China.
updated 4:12 AM EDT, Fri June 13, 2014
Hong Kongers have reacted angrily to a Chinese government white paper affirming Beijing's control over the territory.
The emphasis on national glory -- rather than purely personal achievement -- is key.
updated 12:14 PM EDT, Mon June 16, 2014
A replica of the Effel Tower in Tianducheng, a luxury real estate development located in Hangzhou, east China's Zhejiang province.
What's the Eiffel Tower doing in China? Replica towns of the world's most famous monuments spring up all over China.
updated 8:13 PM EDT, Tue June 10, 2014
Rapid development hasn't just boosted the economy -- it has opened up vast swathes of the country, says a man who has spent much of his life exploring it.
updated 2:54 AM EDT, Tue June 10, 2014
The World Cup is apparently making a lot of people "ill" in China.
ADVERTISEMENT