I’m probably not your typical yogi. My chair pose looks a little bit like walrus pose and if I fold down enough, breathing takes an awful amount of work. And yet, through the first 20 days of January, I’ve been to 12 yoga classes. It’s been a lot of work; mental, physical (and scheduling if I’m honest) work but I’ve found it to be incredibly beneficial.
What I’ve found most interesting is not that I can stand on one leg and tie crazy knots with my arms but rather how I’ve been able to apply yoga to the rest of my life, in particular my business. So I thought I’d share with you 3 Business Lessons A Fat Guy Learned At Yoga.
Breathe, Stupid. Otherwise, You’ll Die
Yoga, more than anything else, is about your breath. The whole entire practice boils down to, “can you breathe?” And for most of us, in our work, the answer is, “no”.
Do you ever hold your breath? Do you ever realize that when you are working on something or even thinking, you don’t breathe? All the sudden you take this big gasp for air like you’ve been swimming underwater for what seems like an eternity? Yeah. That’s not good. That’s actually pretty bad.
In yoga, one of the things that you learn is to breathe THROUGH the move. That means that instead of holding your breath and trying to look like a chicken pretending to be an ox holding a tree while it eats a crow (I’m almost pretty sure that’s a pose), you’re supposed to breathe through the entire move. That means that you take a breath to get ready to move and that you breathe while you’re moving.
Imagine that you’ve got a project that you’re working on. Rather than hold your breath until you’re done, you need to breath the whole time. There’s a secret about breathing that many people don’t know. It’s an ancient secret, almost unheard of in western civilization, but one that I have been lucky enough to stumble upon.
Breathing sends oxygen to your brain and you need oxygen to think and also, to live. So breathe. Don’t hold your breath while you’re thinking or doing. You’re literally getting dumber by the second.
Pain Is Not An Indication of Success
I come from a football background. Pain is part of the equation. When I was rehabbing from a knee injury I was told that the more I could stand, the better for my rehab. So imagine my surprise when, during my 3rd yoga class, my instructor told me that pain wasn’t the purpose of yoga. I mean, thus far it had not been my experience that yoga and pain weren’t the same thing. But then I started to think about it.
People don’t do yoga because they want to feel bad. They do yoga because they want to feel great. And you shouldn’t start a business because you want to feel bad. Why would anyone want to start a business in order to feel bad? Turns out…SO many people.
“I’ve been working 80 hours a week.”
“I don’t sleep. I just work.”
These are the kinds of things that people say when they’re talking about their jobs. And it’s painful. They don’t sleep. They don’t eat properly. They ignore their family. And honestly, their failure rate is really high.
Will there be occasional pain? Yes. But it’s nothing to be proud of or brag about. You’re supposed to be doing this because you couldn’t imagine yourself doing anything else. If you can’t imagine yourself doing anything other than being in pain…well… I’m not sure what to tell you.
I started my own business because I really loved doing all the things that people were paying me to do. Occasionally there were things that I didn’t want to do and I did them because I thought, “that’s work, right?” Sometimes you have to do things that you really don’t want to do.
Actually, you don’t. You can actually just do things you enjoy. You don’t have to do terrible things that you hate to do. You could not do that. In fact you should not do that. Will there be small aspects you might not like? Sure. But the main components need to be things you enjoy.
You’re Trying Too Hard…Relax
There are a bunch of poses in yoga that are resting poses. Basically, while in the pose, you’re supposed to let everything relax. Your whole body should be totally at rest. It’s pretty great when it happens but what I’ve recently discovered is that when you think you’re totally relaxing, you’re probably not relaxing as much as you think you are.
Let’s try a little experiment. I want you to sit down on a couch or a chair or whatever and totally relax your whole entire body. Let you feet relax and then your legs and then your torso and your shoulders. Now drop your head to your chest and rest your neck.
Great. Now you’re totally relaxed, right? Yeah. Probably not. How’s your jaw? Your shoulders? Your toes? Most of us CANNOT let go. We just can’t. That’s a yoga thing, but it’s also a life thing. We put effort into things that don’t require effort. And we ignore the things that require the MOST effort.
When I twist my lower body and upper body into a pretzel and then squat, stand on one leg and try not to fall over, crushing the lithe gymnast-type figure beside me, that takes a hell of a lot of energy. So much. So I need to conserve it during the times that I can. I need to let myself rest when it’s time to rest.
YES, you need to do a dump truck full of work to get your business moving. But there are times when you need to stop and relax. There are activities that you can use to make yourself calm and when you’re doing those things, JUST do those things. My wife is very fit and she can do all the yoga poses but she spends all that time thinking about balance sheets and patients and training and administration and at NO point during that period is she relaxed. Fit? Yes. Relaxed? Hell no.
Relax. You have to. It will literally kill you if you don’t. And if you do, you’ll find that when you need to use that power, you’ve got it.
Yoga has been an eye (and hip) opener for me, not only in respect to what I’m capable of physically but what I’m capable of mentally. I’m more focused. I’m more productive.
And it all comes back to one simple idea;