Swedish Startup Space

Gopi Kallayil has made yoga an addiction at Google headquarters

Written by on October 7, 2015

Nine nears ago Gopi Kallayil founded a yoga program for those employed by Google. Today, he is the chief evangelist at the company and has managed to make everyone from high positioned managers to engineers understand the use of mindfulness.

Tuesday 6th of October was opening night for the two-day conference Wisdom Stockholm. Speakers from around the whole world want to get 500 Swedish executives, entrepreneurs, scientists and politicians to understand the value of mindfulness, meditation and yoga within working life.

One of them is Google’s chief evangelist Gopi Kallayil, who has held speeches during all Wisdom-conferences since the start in 2010.

“In my line of work I tend to start all team-meetings with a few minutes of meditation. I intend to do that at my lecture here later today as well. Two years ago I gave a short yoga session to 11.600 googlers, at a Las Vegas conference. It’s the biggest yoga class ever in the US”, he says as we meet at Oscarsteatern where Wisdom is taking place.

He landed in Sweden on Sunday and can still feel the time difference. Yet, he tried to get up in time for a moment of meditation. The purpose and role as chief evangelist is to help Google’s main customers develop their brands in a world which has become digital. It involves him working a lot, 60-70 hours a week, and he travels frequently.

“Usually, I use the opportunity to meditate at the airport while waiting for my flight and then that moment when the plane is taking off where everybody has to shut down their mobiles. Sometimes I even meditate while waiting for a traffic light to turn green. It doesn’t have to take much time”, Gopi Kallayil says.

When he started at Google headquarters in 2006, he initiated the Yoglers program for the employees, called googlers. He is still leading the Monday lectures and says that he never misses one, except when he travels.

“I have also promoted yoga, mindfulness and meditation. Within Google and at Mountain View alone there are 37 yoga classes every single week, between 7 in the morning until 7 in the evening. The employees can choose a class befitting their schedule. But classes are also available in the rest of the world like Google London, Bangalore and in Stockholm”, Gopi Kallayal says.

His lectures focus mostly on physical yoga practices with 10-25 attendees at a time.

“The body is really what carries you through life, like a vehicle. It can transport you to a higher meditational level”, he says and continues:

“A major problem in our life is that our consciousness and body rarely is in the same place. I am sitting here but my brain might perhaps travel back to an occurrence which took place several days ago”

Can mindfullness really be valuable for businesses?

“Deals are after all made by humans and humans who feel better also build better companies. At Google fantastic new things pop up every day, like self-driving cars and Google maps. Innovation is driven by creativity so mentally healthy and focused engineers is a prerequisite”, Gopi Kallayil says.

He refers to scientifically performed studies showing the positive results from meditation. Neuroscientist Richard Davidson at the University of Wisconsin achieved world fame when he published a paper showing major physical differences between Tibetan monks and people who do not meditate.

“The monks showed much more activity in what is known as the happiness centre of the brain. The study also show that peoples blood pressure lowers while they are meditating. It also lowers the production of stress related hormones and increases endorphins and dopamine production”, he says.

He alsos raises other benefits of meditation. Just to become a better individual is a good enough reason to meditate.

“We tend to dump stuff that we’re unhappy with in our consciousness and that creates bitterness and anger. Just like compost can be used to grow a beautiful rose, our troubles can be turned into something beautiful through meditation”, he says.

What do do the tech people at Google think about this whole mindfulness thing?

“Googlers look at all of this – the body, the brain and breathing – as quite advanced technology. They simply believe that yoga is a way to optimize that technology”.

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