It might not be feasible to roll out your mat at the office or drop into a downward dog during your workday. Even so, there are plenty of ways to do yoga if you consider the broad practices offered in the Eight Limbs of yoga.
The Indian sage Patanjali outlined the Eight Limbs in the Yoga Sutras, written between 50 BCE and 100 BCE. The Third Limb (Asana) governs the physical practice that most Westerners are familiar with. But the other limbs provide a rich wisdom and guides for ethical decision-making, personal development, healthy living, and more.
Work and yoga both keep you connected to something larger than yourself. Both can be a source for recognizing your potential — and that of others. It just makes sense to blend work and yoga as a way to enhance both experiences. Here are three suggested practices to get you started, which can be done every day, in any place
1. Breathe — Limb Four, pranayama, is a practice that harnesses the amazing power of the breath. Pranayama techniques can charge your batteries or keep you calm when situations get tense or heated. Energy flagging? Do several rounds of alternate nostril breathing (nadi shodhana), making sure to begin with the right nostril. It will perk you up, (and it’s healthier than a cup of coffee!) Taking a few moments to focus slow your breath and focus on the rise and fall of your belly can sharpen your focus or return you to equanimity. You can even use your breath to become a more authentic communicator. Try this experiment: For one day, commit to a taking at least one full breath before responding to someone’s remark or question. What do you notice?
2. Focus — Limb Six, dharana, is a practice that trains the mind to focus intently. Think about your tree pose in yoga class. A clear, steady focus on a single spot helps keep you balanced and steady. You can get the same benefits at work by training your mind with the same zeal you give to your postures. Start by eliminating or avoiding the self-induced distractions that eat into your productivity (like gossip, procrastination, or mindless snacking). Are you chattering or fretting about things out of your control? When your mind begins to wander, call it back with your breath.
Have you been persuading yourself that multi-tasking is a praiseworthy habit? Research shows it’s not only impossible, it’s counterproductive. Full focus on a single task actually makes you more efficient and productive. Try this for a mental training exercise: During meetings, listen closely to the conversation without judging what is said. Stay present to the conversation, and remain silent unless your input is requested or required. After the meeting, see how much of the meeting you can capture in notes. What do you notice?
3. Detach — Non-attachment is a subtext throughout the Eight Limbs. Practicing the precepts of non-greed (aparigraha, one of five precepts that comprise Limb One) and contentment (santosha, which is in Limb Two) will help. Attaching to a desired outcome can squelch creativity and flexibility because your desire keeps you looking for “the right” answer instead exploring all the possibilities. When things don’t turn out your way, frustration often erupts. Practicing santosha (contentment) means choosing for equanimity in the face of disappointing circumstances. Don’t let go of aspiration or excellence — just recognize that you can’t control how everything turns out and learn to be at peace with however they do.
Aparigraha (non-greed) steers you away from fixating on things that have little to do with good work and can erode happiness. Instead of letting money be your sole source of satisfaction, or yearning for what others have (the corner office, the fancy title), do an inventory of what you do have, and feel grateful.
Courtesy of My Yoga Online.