Yoga Will Make You A Better Professional
Yoga Will Make You a Better Professional
We are all looking for ways to work better, make more money, and rise to the C-suite. But how many networking events do we attend, or extra hours do we put in, before it just stops working? The answer lies on your yoga mat.
I have been practicing yoga for three years, and teaching for one. Yoga has helped me cultivate a set of skills that propelled and continues to propel me forward in my career.
You might be asking yourself: “How could yoga possibly help my professional life?”
Yoga can be for everyone, and if you’re interested in how it could help you get that promotion, command a higher salary, or be better-liked at work, it SHOULD be for you.
Build Your Focus
According to a 2013 study in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health, people who practice yoga experience heightened focus as compared to those who perform aerobic exercise. The study states: "…following yoga practice, the participants were better able to focus their mental resources, process information quickly, [and] more accurately.” Each of these benefits enhances your professional ability. If you focus better, you’re able to ignore distractions (your overflowing email inbox, chatty coworkers) and devote all of your attention to the task at hand. Focusing leads to greater productivity and, likely, higher quality work.
Additionally, if you process information more quickly and accurately, you’re better equipped to keep up with fast-paced conversations. In fact, not only can you keep up, but you also “…learn, hold and update pieces of information more effectively than after performing an aerobic exercise”. So, yoga helps you become a better listener and improves your memory. Talk about a win-win!
The aforementioned skills go a long way in the workplace. Richard Branson, in an interview with Entrepreneur Magazine, said that “Great listeners are often terrific at uncovering and putting in place strategies and plans that have a big impact.” I couldn’t agree more. Listening skills help you hear great ideas, the roots of problems, and more: abilities managers must have in order to succeed. We all appreciate feeling listened to, whether we’re sharing our big, new, awesome proposal, venting about a project gone wrong, or just chatting about weekend plans. By hearing others and retaining what they say to you, you become a better colleague and a better leader.
In our jobs, it is easy to become stressed, irritable, and anxious about almost anything. But what if your exercise routine could help or even reverse those tendencies?
Well, it can. The Mayo Clinic states that “a number of studies have shown that yoga may help reduce stress and anxiety. It can also enhance your mood.” Reductions in stress and anxiety bolster your ability to be calm and patient, which enables you to rationally and capably handle issues as they arise. I have never heard anyone complain about working with a calm, un-anxious colleague. Have you?
Both a source of frustration and inspiration, there is no ultimate end goal in yoga; you can’t “win” it. As humans, we need to feel like we are working toward something. And in yoga, you are. You come to your mat to breathe deeper, think clearer, stretch further, and hold poses longer. Because progress is slow and difficult to discern, you are forced to be patient with yourself. Glenn Llopis, writing in a Forbes Leadership article, purports that “employees will see patience as a sign that their leaders are more compassionate, open-minded, and willing and able to manage any circumstance.” Not only will becoming more patient make you a better leader, but it will also help you prevent conflict, improve communication, and lower your blood pressure to boot.
A popular cue given by yoga instructors is “Find your limit.” What does that mean? Yoga is a practice that encourages you to stretch your mind and body’s capabilities. Once you gain confidence on your mat to push yourself further and try new or challenging poses, you realize you have strength and courage you never knew existed. Your newfound confidence radiates throughout your life outside of the studio, and yoga teachers know it (trust me!).
Greatist.com, a health and wellness blog, suggests that “yogic breathing techniques help establish certainty about your inherent value,” which gives you the confidence to speak up in meetings, express your dissenting opinions, approach higher-ups, and take other risks you otherwise wouldn’t. So you’re not 100% qualified for that dream job? Suddenly, you’re applying for it. The magic of yoga!
Pull It All Together
A student of mine (we’ll call her Megan) was very unhappy with her day job. She started practicing yoga to cope with stress and stay fit. Finding more confidence on her mat, she decided to push her limits and tried an arm-balance pose. However, she struggled to master it. Megan refused to give up and after three months of attempting “crow pose”, she finally got it. To Megan, this mastered pose symbolized months of being patient, focusing on her goal, and taking risks.
Soon after, Megan left her job to build her own company. She shared with me that without yoga, she never would have realized her true strength and self-worth, and would not have felt enough confidence to take such a daring leap.
So, the next time you’re about to attend a networking event, go to a yoga class instead.