Desk to Mat: Cultivating Calm at the Long Center with Baylor, Scott & White Health

There are lots of reasons working at the Long Center is ✨the best✨ but one of our favorite things has to be staff yoga. Once a month, local yoga instructor Tori Johnson (who also happens to be on the LC Marketing team) offers an all-levels yoga class just for staff. This Mental Health Awareness Month, pull up a mat and get the scoop on how Tori’s practice began and what she loves about teaching, plus a note from our friends at Baylor, Scott & White Health about how yoga supports mental health. 

Tori in Les Syphides at the University of Utah
Howdy, y’all!

Like lots of yoga teachers, I got my start through dance. Before moving to Austin, I trained in ballet, starting in Houston while also bopping around Washington, DC, San Francisco, and Boston, before landing in Salt Lake City at the University of Utah School of Dance. It was at the U that I got serious about cross-training, and my practice of choice was yoga. 

Although I was taking weekly yoga classes at a studio near my apartment, I felt like I was only scratching the surface of what I could learn. Yoga in the West is very focused on asana, or physical postures, and I felt myself craving something deeper. I’m a big nerd in case you can’t tell 🤓

I did some snooping through the U’s course catalog and found that the College of Health offered a 200-hour yoga teacher training… and it was covered by my scholarship! I finished my 200-hour around the same time I graduated in 2019. Fast forward a few years and I completed my 500-hour certification through My Vinyasa Practice here in ATX. Besides the occasional continuing education course, I’m taking a little break from teacher trainings… 500 hours is a lot, y’all! Now I teach monthly staff yoga here at the LC as well as some special events for The Phoenix and Communities for Recovery.

Teaching yoga to my colleagues is one of my favorite parts of my job because it gives us a chance to interact in a way that’s very different from our day-to-day. The Long Center employs so many different types of people in so many different types of jobs, but when we practice yoga together, our titles and departments don’t matter at all. We’re all just people seeking peace through movement.

If you’ve taken a look at our calendar, you know that at the LC, we work hard and we work fast to make sure all our events go off without a hitch. Don’t get me wrong—we love it!—but that’s all the more reason it’s so special that our work encourages us to take an hour to decompress. 

Here’s what Kelsey from our HR team has to say 👇

Yoga allows our staff an opportunity to step away and refresh during busy days at the Long Center. Moving our bodies and calming our minds supports both physical and mental well-being and is something our staff looks forward to each month.

Tori assisting Kelsey from HR during a staff yoga class

Wellness practices like staff yoga have a direct impact on productivity, too. After a yoga session, my colleagues and I go back to our jobs feeling lighter and sharper. We’re ready to hit the ground running so we can make events like The Drop-In exciting for guests (that’s you!).

If you’ve ever taken a yoga class, you’ve probably felt the same thing, but to put the stamp of science on it, we asked Joanne Sotelo, MC, a psychiatrist on the medical staff at Baylor, Scott & White Clinic – Round Rock 425 University for her thoughts. Here’s what she had to say 👇

Yoga can help reduce stress by helping control your breathing and mindfulness, which can activate the parasympathetic nervous system, promoting relaxation and lowering stress hormones like cortisol. It can help you improve depression and reduce anxiety by regulating neurotransmitters associated with positive mood and well-being.  

Additionally, yoga encourages mindfulness and present-moment awareness, which can help individuals become more aware of their thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations. This increased self-awareness can aid in better emotional regulation and coping strategies.

Photo by Emily Bolt

🗣 All that being said, don’t forget that yoga is a valuable and complementary practice, not a substitute for treatment. If you experience a severe mental health condition, definitely talk to your doctor. They can help you find appropriate care.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Tori, how do I get my work to have a company-led activity like this?!” I’m so glad you asked 😉 First of all, ask them for it! Staff yoga at the LC started with me just talking to HR about it. It also helps if you offer up your own skills. If you’re a certified fitness instructor of any kind, it’s a lot easier for your employer to say yes to you, rather than them having to go find someone to teach the class.

Second, don’t limit yourself to “traditional” types of exercise. Yoga is great (obvi), but don’t forget about accessible activities like walking. Maybe you and some colleagues put together a walking group and you make a lap around the block after lunch! 

In the nonprofit world—and honestly, just in these days and times—having external and internal support for activities like this means a lotYou work hard at your job, and sometimes that means it gets harder to take time to unwind.

Tori teaching yoga to Long Center staff members

Well, y’all, thanks for nerding out with me about why I love teaching yoga! When you swing by The Drop-In this summer, look for me. I’ll be the girl taking pictures of everything on her phone, probably balanced on one leg 🤳


At the Long Center, we’ve always got a new partnership or something cool we know you’ll want to check out! Find and follow us @longcenter on your social media platform of choice, and we’ll see you real soon.

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