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Mark Bertolini is the CEO of Aetna, one of America’s 100 largest companies. He is a different sort of CEO. He has introduced yoga and mindfulness to his employees. And it has paid off big time for the employees and for the bottom line.

After a near death experience skiing, Mark Bertolini was left with a paralyzed and painful left arm. Pain meds did not work in managing his pain. But mindfulness did work for Mark.

Mark is changing the culture of Aetna by offering free yoga and meditation classes to his 13,000 employees. Aetna is leading the charge into wellness that works.

Dr Lonny Reisman, the former chief medical officer at Aetna, did an experiment to challenge Mark’s assumption about the benefits of meditation. One third of 239 employees did Viniyoga, one third did mindfulness classes and one third were the control group.

All employees who did yoga or mindfulness reported less stress and better sleep. This was reflected in lower heart rate variability and in lower cortisol (stress hormone) levels.

Furthermore employee healthcare costs at Aetna were down 7.3 percent which amounted to about $9M in savings.

The productivity gains- measured by the employee’s ability to stay on task- were significant. And with the productivity gains, Mark was able to raise the minimum wages at Aetna by 33%.

Now Mark is going to convince the many millions of customers of Aetna to get engaged in a healthier, less stressful and more productive lifestyle.

New York Times, March 1, 2015, Business Section. page 1.