When Christine Gaudenzi met Chip Conley, the yogi CEO of California's Joie de Vivre Hospitality hotel group, she sensed that he'd be a good boss. "He's so calm that I immediately wanted to work for him," says Gaudenzi, 42, now the company's director of marketing and business development.
Joie de Vivre occasionally offers yoga classes at its San Francisco headquarters. But hotel-based employees can't attend all the time, so Gaudenzi and her co-workers started their own yoga class three years ago, when they were opening Hotel Vitale on the other side of the city. "There is a lot of stress involved in opening a new hotel," she says. Despite not having office space at the hotel, she recalls, "We brought in an instructor and made space where 10 or 12 of us could practice poses." It helped the team to stay serene through the building, marketing, and opening of the new space.
Halfway across the country, employees at Vosges Chocolate in Chicago have also seen the benefits of yoga in the workplace. Founder Katrina Markoff, 34, decided to sponsor a vinyasa-style weekly yoga class. She says yoga helps her to stay centered and focus on the task at hand, and to let distractions wait their turn.
Her influence is rubbing off. Vosges creative director, Brenda Rotheiser Bergen, now puts off difficult conversations until right after her lunchtime practice because, she says, "It's so much easier to talk when I'm calm and centered." And like others in the company, she has cultivated the yogic habit of taking three deep breaths when a conversation goes off track—even when she's on the phone. "I put people on hold. When I get back on the call, I'm calm, and my responses are so much better," she says. "It's remarkable the way breathing changes the whole tone of a conversation."