Anna Greenwald is the founder and CEO of On the Goga, a company that specializes in helping corporations focus their corporate culture on mindfulness and wellbeing. On the Goga offers a variety of services like corporate yoga, meditation, nutrition workshops, company retreats, and more. Anna Greenwald has built a mobile corporate yoga studio that takes care of all their clients’ corporate wellness needs. Her holistic approach has brought her clients like L’Oréal, Drexel University, and the Philadelphia Eagles. She uses evidence based practices that increase employee well being, creativity, and productivity.
What inspired you to become an entrepreneur in the corporate wellness sector?
I came into this sector completely by accident. I trained most of my life as a classically trained singer. When I was a sophomore in college, I got a vocal injury that prevented me from talking or singing. To help recover, my voice teacher recommended I do anything possible to relax my muscles including yoga. I had never tried yoga before – in fact, I hated the idea of it – but that first class in a small studio in West Philadelphia changed my entire mindset. Within a year, I was practicing 4-6 times a week and the practice changed my mind and body. It helped me realize so much about myself and what I’m capable of. I wanted share that experience with others, and from that came the original idea for On the Goga: make yoga and mindfulness accessible to people who wouldn’t normally go to a yoga studio.
What was your biggest challenge in founding On The Goga and how did you overcome it?
The biggest challenge in founding On the Goga has been to discover exactly how to present yoga and mindfulness to individuals who haven’t already experienced its benefits. Even I only tried it when I was told it would help my singing. In actuality, yoga is the physical practice of mindfulness, and mindfulness is simply the practice of noticing what is happening right now. This can apply to sweating it out on a yoga mat, or noticing the temperature of the cold beer in your hand when you’re at a happy hour with coworkers. So we teach yoga and mindfulness both ways now. We meet people where they are in terms of physicality level and interests. We teach the tools of mindfulness through traditional yoga, mindful happy hours, hikes, retreats, cooking classes, and more.
What, if any, connection exists between productivity at work and yoga in your opinion?
Yoga improves employees performance through improving their mental and physical health. But since all of our programming is research-based, rather than give you my opinion I’ll share some research on the subject:
- “In a randomized study of employees from a British government authority… in comparison to the control group, the yoga [group’s] scores were significantly lower for perceived stress, back pain, sadness and hostility, and substantially higher for feeling self-assured, attentive and serene.” – Journal: Occupational Medicine (Lond), 2012
- “Yoga practices improved neural performance and reduced fatigue and stress level. Yoga reduced rescue medication use in bronchial asthma, and achieved the reduction earlier than conventional treatment alone. Yoga produced a reduction in resting pulse rate, systolic blood pressure, diastolic blood pressure, and mean arterial blood pressure irrespective of age, gender, and BMI.” – summarized from an article in the North American Journal of Medical Sciences 2012
- After a 6-week yoga intervention for a randomized group of employees, “The yoga group reported marked improvements in feelings of clear-mindedness, composure, elation, energy, and confidence. In addition, the yoga group reported increased life purpose and satisfaction, and feelings of greater self-confidence during stressful situations.” – Summary and excerpt from the Scandinavian Journal of Environmental Science, 2011
What kinds of benefits can a business expect from participating in On The Goga classes?
We look at wellness as a form of professional development. In fact our driving principle is: Happy People Do Great Things. Each one of our programs are designed to make every employee feel cared about and supported, in turn increasing their loyalty to their company and pride in their work. We are also helping employees to learn sustainable habits of wellness that improve their performance at work and physical health over time. It’s a win-win situation for employers and employees. What’s the return on this investment? Again, I’ll point to some research sources:
- Happy employees are 3x more creative, 31% more productive, and have 37% better sales – Harvard Business Review, Positive Intelligence, 2012
- “Highly engaged teams… saw significantly lower turnover (25% in high turnover, 65% in low turnover organizations).” – Gallup, 2013
On an individual level, mindfulness has been shown to achieve the following benefits in as little as 10 sessions:
- DECREASE STRESS LEVELS – Source: “What Are The Benefits of Mindfulness,” a Meta Analysis from American Psychological Association, 2012
- INCREASE FOCUS – Source: “Meditation, Mindfulness, and Cognitive Flexibility,” The Journal of Consciousness and Cognition, 2009
- LOWER OVERALL ANXIETY – Source: “Short-Term Meditation Training Improves Attention and Self-Regulation,” PNAS, 2007
- REDUCE EMOTIONAL REACTIVITY – Source: “Mindfulness Meditation and Reduced Emotional Interference on a Cognitive Task,” Journal of Motivation and Emotion, 2007
- INCREASE QUALITY OF LIFE – Source: Study from Massachusetts General Hospital, 2011
- INCREASE HAPPINESS- Source: “A randomized controlled trial of compassion cultivation training: Effects on mindfulness, affect, and emotion regulation,” The Journal of Motivation and Emotion, 2014
What are some memorable On The Goga milestones, and what developments do you project for this year?
We’ve had the opportunity to work with and for some amazing organizations and individuals so far. Some of our past clients and partners include L’Oreal and Pureology, Philadelphia Eagles players, and The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. 2018 is shaping up to be a big growth year for us. We’ve got an amazing team of top-notch coaches, and have forged some tremendous strategic partnerships that are helping us bring our services to more and more companies.
What is one character trait that defines you and why?
Resilience. This is a character trait I have grown over the years through my yoga practice. I wasn’t always as resilient to failure, rejection, or criticism as I am today (and I still work to strengthen this personality trait). Through my yoga practice, I’ve come to realize the beauty of resilience: you don’t have to do well. You don’t have to handle each failure perfectly, each rejection with grace, or each criticism humbly – you just have to try. Over time, if you keep putting one foot in front of the other, you get better at all these things. When you look back down the road, you realize that the only differentiator between you and the people who have dropped off along the way, is that you kept walking.
What are your tips for aspiring entrepreneurs?
My two mottos since the start of this business have remained the same:
- Value courage, not success. You can’t practice success, but you can practice courage, and if you practice courage over and over and over again, success happens.
- The difference between people who do cool shit and the people who don’t, is that the people who do cool shit do it.