Spotlight: How Yoga Can Revolutionize Workplaces
Stanton Kawer, CEO and chairman of the Chicago-based Blue Chip Marketing Worldwide, is an outspoken advocate for the benefits of yoga in the workplace. The United Nations invited him to speak at its 2017 International Day of Yoga celebrations.
Kawer, who wrote a blog post on the topic for Forbes magazine titled “Yoga Made Me a Better CEO,” told Worldview that yoga “helped me become a better leader with its emphasis on focus, clarity of vision and developing a strong, positive community.”
On his introduction to yoga
Stanton Kawer: I’ve been doing yoga seriously now for about 10 years — and I say, “seriously,” meaning every day. I didn’t seek out yoga, I went to a yoga class with a friend like a lot of people. It was a little bit social and I was looking for an alternative to a fitness regimen. And I took it and my eyes were wide open and thought it was very fascinating. I was fortunate early on to meet a wonderful teacher and she invested in me and allowed me — understanding that I wasn’t on a spiritual path — to receive the practice as I was ready for it. At the time it felt contrary to what I was trying to achieve — I was a businessman and wanted to be defined as such — just a regular guy. But it continued to inhabit me and I realized it made me a better man. Not better than anyone else, but better in being mindful and serving people. I realized yoga was a wonderful partner in all of my aims, in business, in life, and it changed me for the better.
On the U.N. yoga event
Kawer: It was really quite an experience. I felt admittedly a little funny being there — I was representing the business part of yoga as a CEO — I’m not a yoga teacher, and I’m not a diplomat. But it was inspiring. There were six different speakers there, they broke it up and I was on a panel with a couple of swamis, an ex-NFL player, and a big actor in India who was a big advocate and practitioner of yoga. There was no dress code for that day — a lot of people were in orange robes and I was in a suit. I think it was unprecedented for those at the U.N. for such a unanimous approval of a resolution for such an important event. It was introduced by India — the prime minister brought it up as a resolution and World Health Organization was steadfastly behind International Yoga Day because they believe it can make a difference in increasing world health and life expectancy. I felt I learned a lot. Being there and seeing the ambassadors line up and hearing other dignitaries talk about this, I think it underscored the promise of what yoga can deliver on a larger scale outside of studios. Yoga is about community and community-building, and recognition of others and being mindful. And I think there’s a movement, and it looks at how we can use this as a vessel for positive impacts that are trying to come out of the U.N. and other government organizations.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity. It was produced by Steve Bynum and edited by Amber Fisher. Click the 'play' button to listen to the entire interview.