“Muscular Bonding” Strengthens Team Connection and Increases Productivity

How group activities that include coordinated physical activity help us to transcend self interest and work together toward a common goal.

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Have you ever been in a yoga class, singing in a choir, dancing in a group number, moving in a synchronized swimming class, or marching in a marching band and felt a sense of something greater than yourself? Maybe a feeling of wholeness, connectedness, joy? This is because of a combination of muscular bonding and collective effervescence.

“Muscular bonding”, a label created by historian and WWII veteran William McNeill, is the process of moving together in synchrony that allows humans to change the sense of ‘I’ into a sense of ‘we’ (shut down the self and make a single “super organism” out of a collection of individuals). McNeill first recognized it in military marching patterns that allowed people to forget themselves, trust each other, function as a unit, and defeat other groups. In conjunction to this theory, is the theory of “collective effervescence,” coined by French sociologist Émile Durkheim. He stated, “once individuals are gathered together, a sort of electricity is generated from their closeness and quickly launches them into an extraordinary height of exaltation.” You know the feeling, of being at a concert, sporting event, religious function, or political rally? Congregating with likeminded individuals can be a very powerful stimulant.

So how can this information help in the corporate world?

“Organizations that can take advantage of our hive[ish] nature can activate pride, loyalty, and enthusiasm among its employees and then monitor them less closely. This… generates social capital- the bonds of trust that help employees get more work done at a lower cost… Hive[ish] employees work harder, have more fun, and are less likely to quit or to sue the company.”

The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt

Hive mind…. find your tribe… all have similar consequences – higher satisfaction and productivity. Many companies take advantage of activities like sports leagues and new programs like adult recess. But why not take advantage of both aspects of muscular bonding and collective effervescence at the same time? More and more companies are incorporating yoga into their workday to not only improve their employee’s well being and mental balance, but to also reap the benefit of these two phenomena.

When groups come together to take a yoga class, students breath together, move together, and feel together. Yoga fosters the same sense of group coherence, trust, and acceptance among individuals as tribal dances of ancient times, military drilling of the Greeks and Romans, and early morning movement exercises of Japanese factory workers. Having people move together makes them work better together because they feel like they are all in it together. Incorporating group yoga into the work day generates all the benefits of muscular bonding and hive mind!

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