Friday, February 11, 2011

Yoga Values

Lessons for Life More Broadly

After more than a week away spent moving, I got back to yoga practice today. Every day on the mat is a bit different. Unlike my experience with other things I have done for exercise, I haven't felt a steady progression of mastery in doing the asanas (poses.) Some days I feel strong and enthused; others are tiring and demand more self-motivation.

While mastery may never come, yoga does provide many things of value that each can grow over time. There are values from yoga I take away into other areas of my life, especially as a leader and entrepreneur. Three on which I was reflecting today:

  • Flexibility. So much of yoga involves the conscious effort to bend, stretch or compress farther and deeper. Today for the first time I was able to touch my forehead to my shins while standing with my knees locked out. Developing this flexibility has been a deliberate effort of challenging myself and overcoming the default rigidity that settles on each of us as we age. Getting to this point has taken trying my best more than 50 times. Flexibility takes effort, but can be learned.
  • Focus. Some days it can be very hard to bring my best effort consistently for the full 90 minutes. I can catch myself thinking ahead to a later asana, or calculating how many remain. But such thinking must be quickly squelched and replaced by a focus in the moment to do one's best in the current asana. This focus is invaluable in building and running a startup where it is easy to be overwhelmed at the number of tasks that remain and to neglect to apply one's best effort to the task at hand. Do each task with focus and excellence, and the overall effort will be better.
  • Patience. Developing flexibility took patience. Being focused on the now is also an exercise of patience. Giving each asana a full attention and a conscious effort requires patience; one cannot rush through yoga and expect to gain much benefit. So too with being an entrepreneur--steady effort succeeds.
Calm, regular breathing helps too, as does not taking oneself too seriously:

Yoga Tip #37 | Breathe through your nose

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