Yoga in the NHS

How Katie Bray started teaching yoga to colleagues at University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust. By Claudia Brown

Reading time: 3 minutes

If yoga is so good for you, then why isn’t it seen in the NHS? It is! There are plenty of examples today of how talented yoga professionals have been able to bring the practice into the health service, now the UK’s largest employer.

Katie Bray is a yoga teacher and NHS Workplace Wellbeing Nurse who has started teaching yoga to colleagues at University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust (UHBW), so OM went to find out more. Here, she explains her work in her own words:

My way into teaching workplace yoga was completely unexpected; I didn’t set out to do it, it just happened. I had moved from Cornwall to Bristol in 2021, and many of my new peers said, that’s weird, most people leave Bristol and move to Cornwall, and you’ve gone in the opposite direction! But it seemed to be the right direction for me…and yoga!

I’d been teaching yoga in Cornwall, alongside my nursing career, since 2016 after completing my first 200-hour yoga teaching training in London with Bridget Woods Kramer. I then completed a further 300 hours in Cornwall with Jock Orton and Lucinda Pimlott at Limehouse Yoga. But in 2021, I decided it was time to leave Cornwall and change direction with my nursing career and explore city life.

I joined the corporate Workplace Wellbeing team at University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust (UHBW) in September 2021 as a Wellbeing Nurse offering and delivering health checks to over 13,000 staff.

Katie Bray

Around this time a new initiative was in the planning stages to offer on-site yoga to colleagues as part of a package of support during the winter months. This was sponsored by Bristol & Weston Hospitals Charity, and I was fortunate to be selected as designated yoga teacher providing weekly sessions at our Bristol site and a fortnightly class at Weston General Hospital.

I remember only a few students came along to the first few classes but, as a yoga teacher, you understand it takes time to build a new class. I used this time to find out what the students working in multidisciplinary NHS roles hoped to gain, identifying a need for an energetic, yet restorative, yoga practice.

As word spread across the organisation that accessible, inclusive workplace yoga was now on offer, I saw participation quickly increase to an average of 80% per class.”

Workplace Yoga

Katie Bray says setting up your own workplace yoga is definitely achievable, even within the NHS

What are the benefits of workplace yoga? The NHS is extremely fast-paced, and colleagues may experience stress and fatigue and may also be dealing with physical or emotional conditions, so the ability to decompress after a busy shift is invaluable. Workplace yoga affords us the time to pause, combine movement with the breath, restore and allow ourselves 60 minutes without interruption — for many people, this is an absolute gift.

Yoga at UHBW: what’s next? We are lucky to be supported for the rest of the financial year by the Bristol & Weston Hospitals Charity, enabling delivery of yoga for a third year as part of the holistic workplace wellbeing programme available to all Trust colleagues.

How to set up yoga in your organisation Workplace yoga is straightforward to arrange. If you work in an NHS organisation, talk to your Workplace Wellbeing Lead or Organisational Development team to explore funding opportunities and space available.

Katie Bray is a yoga teacher and NHS Workplace Wellbeing Nurse. Connect via Instagram @katiebrayyoga

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