When we roll up our mats at the end of yoga class, there’s a part of that session that stays with us. Over time, lessons are learned, and often these lessons apply to other areas of our lives—not the least of which being our careers! Here are six things we learn through yoga that can make a difference in our work day.
Set an Intention
At the beginning of class, your yoga teacher will often ask you to set an intention for your practice. Well, I didn’t grasp the concept at first, so my only intention used to be getting through savasana (corpse pose) without my stomach breaking the silence with a loud gurgle. Now, I view setting an intention as a helpful reminder to strive towards certain virtues. For example, we can set an intention to think positively about our progress (or lack thereof) during class. This virtue may help keep us from getting frustrated in a particularly difficult class when we can’t make it into certain poses.
This principle can carry over into our day-to-day. Some mornings, I will sit in my car for a minute and set an intention for myself before I go into the office. If I know I have a challenging day ahead, I’ll remind myself to think positively, to be strong. It’s almost like a brief self pep-talk, and it works!
Some days my teacher says, “sit in your chair,” and I brace myself because there are few seats less comfortable than the yoga “chair,” also known as utkatasana. As the posture slowly incinerates my quadriceps, my teacher talks about relaxing into the posture and staying in the moment. Relaxation is the furthest thing from my mind at that point, and it’s hard to think about anything else but my whimpering thighs. But I can continue to hold the pose, at least for a while, if I focus solely on each moment and each breath.
I have found this to be a key lesson in the workplace. I work in the transportation industry, and there are days when it seems like every single shipment is going sideways, and I have emails pouring into my inbox faster than I can read them. Instead of getting overwhelmed, I focus on the most pressing matter at hand. Once I have finished that, I move onto the next one. I try not to think about the plethora of problems that remain to be dealt with. I just continue to focus on one issue at a time—until I’m caught up.
Grow with Persistence and Patience
We do not arrive on the mat one day and magically achieve peacock pose. Each pose is a work in progress, and unless we put the time and work into a consistent practice, advanced poses will continue to elude us. Even small progress should be celebrated to help us stay motivated. If we endure, we will achieve!
I spent years in an entry level position before I had an opportunity to move into an (even slightly) higher-paying position. I pushed very hard to be the best I could be, but things like experience and circumstance can’t be forced. All we can do is celebrate our achievements inch by inch, and one day, we will find ourselves in the position we want to be in!
There are some poses in yoga that we’ll never achieve if we don’t brave the unknown. The first time I tried bakasana, or crane pose, I refused to lift my feet off the ground. In order to do so, I needed to lean forward, and I was sure there was no way to do that without landing on my face! But, there came that magical moment when I finally went for it—and found I was capable of supporting my own weight in an arm balance. It shifted my perspective toward realizing that there’s no limit to what we can accomplish if we simply go for it!
Why not take this realization to work? Take on that challenging project. Ask for that promotion. You can’t succeed if you don’t try. Although there will be times when we miss the mark at work, sometimes making mistakes and learning from them is the only way we can move ahead.
Tune Out Those Around You
Some yogis, especially those who are competitive by nature, may look around in distress during class as they watch their classmates contort themselves into seemingly impossible poses. Meanwhile, we may still be yearning to touch our toes. When this happens to me, I try to relax my ego and stay focused on my own mat. Everyone has strengths and weakness, and some poses and yoga teachings will come more quickly than others. All that matters is that we show up on our mats and make the effort.
Likewise, the workplace may encompass a wide range of personalities, and some of your colleagues may have strengths and abilities that you don’t. Or, maybe your co-workers are judging or resenting you for what you bring to the table. But work isn’t a competition or a popularity test (or at least it shouldn’t be). All we need to focus on is showing up and doing our jobs to the best of our ability.
At the end of yoga class, we almost always finish with savasana. In this pose, we are encouraged to let go of everything. We learn to release all the tension in our bodies and all of our thoughts about the practice in order to make room for total relaxation.
When you clock out of work at the end of the day, leave the day’s stresses at your desk. Clear your mind of the day’s events so you can focus on your home life and relationships. In many ways, this is the most important lesson of all!