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Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be bent out of shape.
– Michael McGriffy M.D.
Yoga is not just for hippies, young folk, or thin, limber “beautiful people.”
There are an estimated 40 million people practicing yoga in the U.S.; 43% of them are 30-49 years of age, and 38% of them are over 50. Most of them are like you and me. However, many well-known successful people also practice yoga daily, including Sergei Brin, the co-founder of Google. Here is a sample list of other famous leaders that practice yoga every day.
This is not a healthy living blog, so I’ll leave the health benefits to the end. The focus is on improving B2B Leadership.
Once you try yoga, you’ll notice that instructors and participants refer to yoga as “practice” rather than a “class.” When you practice something, it implies that we’re on a journey to get better. As professionals, aren’t we also on a journey to get better?
Here’s the angle you may not have heard of until now. There are eight “limbs” of yoga, and the yoga poses are only one limb. Without the other seven limbs, you are just stretching (which is still a good thing).
Here’s an easy-to-read summary of the eight limbs of yoga:
- Internal and external discipline
- Breath control, Concentration, Withdrawal of the senses, Meditative absorption
After practicing yoga for nine years, these are the connections between the eight limbs of yoga and improving B2B leadership:
Our bodies are different, so we may not be ever able to get deep into certain poses due to our height, past injuries, or other physical limitations. In yoga, we focus on incremental improvements (Improving B2B Sales Organization Performance 1% At A Time). You may not see changes day to day, until one day you can touch your toes or whatever you weren’t able to do when you started.
B2B Leadership and Professional Development are similar. When assuming a new leadership role, we may find ourselves not able to excel in certain aspects of our job. Over time we make mistakes, achieve some success, and eventually become adept.
Last I checked, there are no scorecards for success (although there are scorecards for sales success). In the yoga studio, there is no competition and success emanates from within and is characterized by self-mastery.
Internal and External Discipline
These are the dos and don’ts. Example of the do’s include what we say and acceptance of others. Don’ts include don’t harm others or tell false-hoods.
The workplace is a social experiment since we can’t usually select our coworkers that fit the profile of someone we would have as a friend. Yet, somehow we can make things work at work.
You’ll find a similar dynamic at a yoga studio. You’ll be next to police officers, homemakers, students, seniors, and CEOs. There’s usually not a lot of conversation in the studio, yet there is a shared sense of purpose, similar to healthy company culture. The teacher encourages and demonstrates but never scolds. Students celebrate personal and group accomplishments. At the end of a class, the shared achievement is similar to creating a corporate culture that supports all levels of the organization from the executive team to new hires.
Breath Control, Withdrawal of the Senses, Meditative Absorption
Breathing, letting go of things that stress you out, and focusing inward is vital. Sounds simple, but this is not easy. Unplugging your brain and emotions for even a few minutes can be elusive. It took me a while, but I usually am able to unplug about 15 minutes or so into my practice.
As leaders, we can’t afford distractions as they can carry much more significant implications. If we stumble, there is a high probability that others may feel insecure. This understanding, this emotional intelligence, is the same in business and yoga: It is a demand that we always are present (Click here to find out what it takes to develop a leader).
Orienting to what we’d like to do (touch our toes) and what we can do can be humbling and just the inspiration we need to improve our leadership skills. That is why yoga practice is a precise connection between mind, body, and spirit that no other kind of exercise or meditation can achieve on its own.
Michael Hyatt defines work-life balance as “the art of fulfillment and the science of achievement.” In essence, our ability to evolve as leaders cannot be limited to addressing only business results and KPI’s. We must find ways of engaging deeper dimensions of ourselves, the inside game of leadership to shape how we think, interact with others, and perceive the world around us to create more meaningful experiences and the environment we genuinely want at work and at home.
I promised to mention the health benefits of yoga, and you can find them here in this infographic, as well as some interesting statistics.
When I started practicing yoga in 2012, I could barely touch my toes. Look at me now!