How to be a yogi at work

Sep 03, 2013, 02:06 IST | Soma Das

The principles of yoga can be helpful not just to keep you physically healthy and fit but also to open your mind and make you a better worker. In the book, Yoga Wisdom At Work, authors Maren Showkeir and Jamie Showkeir delve on the workplace benefits of yoga, be it in helping you stay positive through the day or to boost your overall productivity

The ancient wisdom of yoga has been documented to help in healing the body, but yoga is also a mindset which emphasises on how to bring about the greatest good for all. The book, Yoga Wisdom At Work, by Maren Showkeir and Jamie Showkeir explores how yoga’s benefits can extend beyond the yoga mat to the workplace. So be it in terms of applying truth at work (by raising a voice when things go wrong) and being non-violent towards yourself (by not overworking) to shunning procrastination (by not stealing yours or others’ time), there are many practical ways of employing the principles of yoga at work. The book offers simple explanations to complicated concepts and peppers the narrative with examples of people who applied the principles at work. Excerpts from an interview with Maren Showkeir:

There are several books pertaining to the benefits of yoga and meditation at work; what sets Yoga Wisdom At Work apart?
I practised physical yoga for several years before I discovered its philosophy and guiding principles. I found myself wishing I had known more about those aspects when I began practising and in 2005, I signed up for yoga teacher training. That coincided with beginning my consulting career. Jamie and I discovered that the yoga principles were aligned with the consulting philosophy and processes he was using. When we conceived the idea for a book, we did research to see what else was out there. But we didn’t find anything that talked about developing practices that help people integrate yoga’s guiding principles at work as a means of finding greater satisfaction, sanity and success. The book is very pragmatic. It is filled with stories of people who use these precepts at work, which help illuminate the benefits yoga brings to that environment. Each chapter also has suggestions to help people develop personal practices to make their on-the-job experience more meaningful and satisfying.

How did you benefit at the workplace from it?
Rather than worrying about the past (which I can’t change), or fretting about the future (which I can’t control), the practices help me stay focused on right now. Other practices, such as saucha (purity) remind me to rid myself of negative thoughts, and develop healthy habits. I practice santosha (contentment) by reminding myself that I can choose to be content even in the face of difficult or disappointing circumstances at work. And by not getting attached to specific outcomes. I can only do my best and this is always my intention. But I can’t control how everything turns out! Yoga has helped me remember that we are all connected, that we all have potential and we have a responsibility to help each other recognise and develop that potential. One of the beautiful things about yoga is that it’s not dogmatic. There are myriad ways to practise, and you can decide what practise works.

Think about your work habits. How long do you sit at your desk before you get up to walk, stretch and take healthy nourishment — refreshing yourself with mental and physical breaks? Instead of pushing yourself to exhaustion, consider how much better you can serve yourself and those around you when you are well-nourished, well-rested and energised.

Jamie and Maren Showkeir

The three elements of truth
We see truth as having three facets:
> Telling the truth as you know it.
> Being willing to hear another’s truth as they know it.
> Understanding that many things can be true at the same time.

Controlling cravings
When you consistently cave in to your cravings, it fosters creation of unhealthy habits that facilitate non-productive expenditures of energy. A useful question when it comes to these desires and habits is “Who is in control, and how does this craving serve me?”

Discipline (Tapas)
Developing self-discipline is about leaning into the distress that often accompanies an attempt to learn something new or the churning experienced when trying to change cherished but unproductive habits. Tapas helps you “burn off” the things that don’t serve you.
(Extracted with permission from HarperCollins)

3 ways to apply yoga to your work life
1) Connect: Yoga is a practice that connects you to something greater than yourself and heightens awareness of our interdependence. It is the same at work. You contribute to something larger in order to serve others and make a difference in the marketplace. Get clear about what you contribute, how it makes a difference, and connect it to the larger purpose you serve. Thinking about your work in the context of service will create an attitude shift.

2) Focus: The yoga sage Swami Kriyananda says it is more powerful to think positively about one thing than avoid thinking about many things. When you have a lot to accomplish, decide what one task or project will get your full attention for a prescribed amount of time, then set a timer. Let go of the notion of multi-tasking. The most recent scientific research has shown that it is impossible, and trying to multi-task is actually counterproductive.

3) Breathe: We do it without having to think about it. But developing practices that harness the breath gives you powerful tools to be more effective at work. Breathing techniques can help you rev your energy when it’s flagging, or calm you down when circumstances get heated. When you’re feeling tired or disengaged, “take five”: focus on the sound of your breath, feel your chest rise and fall as you slowly inhale and exhale five times. If you still feel frazzled or scattered, consider taking a break. Feel better? Continue working. 

Yoga Wisdom At Work, Maren Showkeir and Jamie Showkeir, Collins Business, Rs 299. Available at leading bookstores.

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