Reaping the benefits of yoga does not need to be limited to the physical practice that you have on the mat. Yoga also, for most of us, cannot be the vast practice that includes the 8 limbs of yoga and a lifelong effort to reach Samadhi (union of the mind and body) due to the confines of our lives and daily schedules thanks to careers and other commitments. Therefore, most of us should aim to fall in between, lending us the opportunity to benefit greatly from the discipline’s yoga has to offer. If we are lucky we make it to a yoga class once or twice a week and even more lucky if the teacher shares a breathing technique or meditation so that we can consume more than just the physical aspect of yoga. Our ability to make it to a class here and there though should not limit our ability to take our yoga with us everywhere. There is so much valuable content from the science of yoga that can enhance our lives. Here are 5 yogic disciplines that should influence us in the workplace and ideas on how to use them.
- Showing up
How you perceive, feel and react is up to you, and only you can create that narrative.
You hear this all the time, half the battle is showing up and quite frankly your employer probably feels that showing up everyday is half of what makes you a good employee but that’s not all I mean. What I mean here is more than just walking through the door, that is only step one. More importantly; be present, aware and dedicated. Have you ever heard the phrase leave your baggage at the door? If you are present I can assure you that baggage isn’t being lugged around with you all day, use this time as a temporary escape from what is outside of the building as it will still be there for you when you leave if you want it to be. If you have already made the effort to show up you are doing yourself a disservice not to give it everything you have while you are there and remove any distractions that do not serve a purpose to your work. This will allow you to get the most out of your workday. You might find if you walk back in after lunch ready and determined and present, the afternoon may fly by because you’ve become more efficient and you enjoy doing it more than usual.
Being present or aware in yoga is needed as we are expected to listen to our body in each pose. As you move through a pose focus and concentration is needed which allows you to naturally find yourself in the present. Here are three quotes that can be used to inspire you to be present.
You cannot always control what goes on outside. But you can always control what goes on inside.Wayne Dyer
Yoga takes you to the present moment the only place where life exist.Patanjali
As soon as we wish to be happier, we are no longer happy.Walter Landor
We practice being humble in yoga, thankful to be a part of it, why don’t we feel that way about our job, we chose it, the company chose us, there is trust and gratitude to be found. I assure you if you practice this at work even if you feel your employer does not reciprocate, they may eventually not be able to combat the energy you exude and if they still do your mindset will allow you to have an entirely different experience than they are attempting to create for you. This is not easy and will take a lot of time and patience. This is all about mindset and sometimes we lose track and need to hit the refresh button to get back here. Here are a few quick tricks to bring yourself to the present if you are stuck elsewhere.
The ability to organize your priorities and the ability to take care of 2 things at once requires balance.
In order to take this yoga concept with you you’ll need to be open to a little physical movement. When we practice a balancing pose the mind is controlling the body to perform the pose. The pose requires some form of balance where we monitor our center of gravity and adjust limbs to ensure we do not fall over. This delicate movement governed by the mind but executed by the body is a perfect example of how the body transcends the mind thus opening up the communication channel between the two. This can also be done when it comes to balancing a workload or two difficult things at once. First the mind walks through what balance needs to be executed, if it is your priorities take the time to stand in front of a white board and use the body to really draw it out, step back and look and the balance of everything might become crystal clear. Regarding balancing 2 things at once, this is something that gets better over time as you practice yoga in a class. If you are struggling with balance or to improve it allow the mind to connect with the body through a couple of quick balancing poses. Try out tree pose (vrksasana) warrior III (virabhadrasana III) or half moon pose (ardha chondrasana).
This concept is derived from the moral, ethical and spiritual guidelines of the yoga utras, embedded in the first limb of yoga are the yamas (restraints) and the one that relates to non-harming or nonviolence is called ahimsa. If we consciously practice this thought and behave in its observance we will cease to have hostility with teams and coworkers. When this is done all enmity ceases in others presence because of the harmonious vibrations you exude. Essentially if you practice this not only do you exude its benefits to others will not be able to confront you as their efforts will be lost given your mindset.
Have you ever been around someone who was a genuinely good person that meant well and never had an ill intention and have you noticed how it would be impossible to harm them. Sometimes this personality can be contagious. This is the best example I can think of that you may be able to relate to based on your experience.
If we learn to open our hearts, anyone, including the people who drive us crazy, can be our teacher.Peme Chondron
When I practice yoga I always apply this concept. By allowing my practice to be guided by nonviolence I am granted a peaceful and tranquil experience, this often results in impacting those around me as well. What nonharming and nonviolence means to each person will be different so I invite you to play around with the concept until you feel comfortable. In order to take this with you I encourage you to consider it and think about what it means and how to show and share it with others on your commute to work each day. Can you leverage this in the face of conflict with your boss or peers? Use your drive home to reflect on its success or failure and to improve upon it for the next day.
Focus requires mental dedication and the ability to concentrate all of your energy into one thing and this process drives cognitive performance. It is easy in the work place to fumble through the priorities of your to do list trying to decipher which is more important or which you have time to tackle amongst your busy day full of meetings. In an effort to complete all tasks you must focus on one item at a time essentially putting one foot in front of the other and if you stray and lose focus you can end up in a chaotic never-ending math equation and as a result may only partially complete your tasks. I am sure we have all experienced this, maybe me more than others, did anyone else just see that squirrel? Anyway, one of the fundamental elements of yoga is focus, think about it, one pose at a time, one transition between poses at a time, one intentional movement, one breath at a time, one thought with a conscious effort to remove all others that get in the way.
This allows you to complete one thing at a time with dedication and full awareness, you are not rushing rather learning through each thing that you do. You may be convinced that you have to multitask to get everything done and there certainly is a place for multitasking, but I would reserve it for mundane or autopilot type tasks that do not require attention to detail and in-depth critical thinking. This will result in quality over quantity of your work and allow the best version of you to be displayed through your work.
Focus is not something I am not the queen at nor am I an expert in how yoga improves this but there are a handful of studies that highlight this very topic and have evaluated that yoga improves cognitive performance so let’s put some trust there. From a study performed in 2013 out of the University of Illinois the lead researcher Gothe explained “ It appears that following yoga practice, the participants were better able to focus their mental resources, process information quickly, more accurately and also learn, hold and update pieces of information more effectively than after performing an aerobic exercise bout. The breathing and meditative exercises aim at calming the mind and body and keeping distracting thoughts away while you focus on your body, posture or breath. Maybe these processes translate beyond yoga practice when you try to perform mental tasks or day-to-day activities1.” More studies have ensued with similar results 2,3. What I do know which aligns with these studies is that I can be incredibly task oriented and productive after a yoga class or a simple mediation.
If you are able to go to yoga make this topic your theme with a conscious effort to take it with you. During your practice give special attention to the focus of your poses and extra effort to any meditations or breath work that are given, this will allow you to increase your ability to focus during this time and that focus will remain with you as long as you let it. If you do not have time to go to yoga channel this concept by pausing, taking a few breaths, close your eyes and visualize letting go of the tasks that are attempting to compete with the one you need to focus on. Visualizations can be fun imagine plopping unwanted thoughts on a cloud as it floats by or flushing them down a toilet. Once they have been let go, spend a few moments reviewing the task at hand, focus on the current state and what needs to be completed in order to finish the task. Another technique in yoga that generates focus is leveraging the drishti, this is a more literally focus where you with eyes open visually focus on one thing. This is a great practice if your profession is sports. Even if it is not and sports are a hobby use this to improve you talents. Dawn Morse covers this topic well in her blog post at omyoga.
5. Creativity and Innovation
Yoga forces you think about a single thing and create awareness. That added awareness coupled with clarity allows the mind to engage in creative thinking. For a more in depth look at this topic and how to apply it check out my blog on creativity and innovative thought.
Please share this blog with others if you think they need a little more yoga in their work life.
- Gothe N, Pontifex MB, Hillman C, McAuley E. The acute effects of yoga on executive function. Journal of physical activity & health. 2013;10:488.
- Luu, K., Hall, P.A. Examining the Acute Effects of Hatha Yoga and Mindfulness Meditation on Executive Function and Mood. Mindfulness 8, 873–880 (2017). https://doi-org.unr.idm.oclc.org/10.1007/s12671-016-0661-2
- Moore, Susannah M., et al. “The Effects of Acute Yoga Versus Aerobic Exercise on Executive Function: A Pilot Study.” North American Journal of Psychology, vol. 21, no. 2, 2019, p. 253. Gale OneFile: Health and Medicine, https://link-gale-com.unr.idm.oclc.org/apps/doc/A587973374/HRCA?u=reno&sid=HRCA&xid=b2ba6ca0. Accessed 9 Apr. 2020.