By S. Rae Peoples
Originally posted on LinkedIn on September 29, 2014
Recently, in becoming more intentional about the way I "look" not just on the outside, but also on the inside, I've started practicing various forms of yoga. I have been surprised at the short amount of time in which I've been able to experience the positive mental, physical, and emotional effects of yoga. Fearing that this near immediate advantageous impact was just my being enamored with a new physical activity, and giving yoga more credit than it's worth, I looked at some of the research out there on the benefits of yoga. One of the most intriguing facts I found in the research is that although aerobic exercise such as walking and running, greatly increases our brain's performance, Dr. Neha Gothe, in a recent article in Women's Health maintains:
"...unlike the benefits of aerobic exercise, which take a while to kick in, yoga has a pretty immediate effect on your mind-so you'll feel it just 30 minutes after you say "Namaste."
Apparently, the expedient benefits of yoga I've been experiencing are not a muse, or just the "honeymoon phase" after all! these benefits have transferred over to an enhanced performance in my job as a student affairs professional in three specific areas:
I'm sure many of you can relate to my struggle here: I'm in the office, working on a project, in my zone, and getting sh%t done like a boss!... then out of nowhere-BOOM! I run straight into that creative block. It's literally as if the creativity clock ticked its last tock. At this point, I'm fresh out of ideas, words, and thoughts. I have absolutely nothing left to give. For me, getting over this block was the worst. Oftentimes, I'd give into the block, take my loss, and just call it a day on whatever I was working on, being forced to come back to it at a later time (which usually meant between 2-4 days...sometimes even longer).
I assumed that by practicing yoga that I would no longer have a problem with creative blocks. That wasn't the case. However, though the creative blocks still come, I have noticed that the period of creative productivity (the time before I reach any block) lasts longer, and when I do hit those inevitable blocks, yoga techniques such as focusing on my breathing, stretching and meditating (even if it's just 5 minutes) helps me to push through the blocks much quicker than 2-4 days, in fact, I am able to get back into my zone that same day, instead of prolonging the project any longer than it needs to be.
2. Focus & Stamina
Confession: I have attempted, and fallen out of at least 55% of my asanas during any given yoga session. To this confession, I should also add that my attempts and falls have been anything but graceful. In fact, more often than I really do care to count, my clumsiness and frustration have reached new heights with every class. For me, I've found that whenever I have fallen out of position, it has been right after I've allowed my mind to wander to things like, "What am I going to have for lunch after class", or "I wonder if I remembered to turn off the stove before I left this morning..."
However painful and embarrassing this lesson may be, I am learning that there is an intimate relationship between my being present in the moment, and my ability to be focused, and get through the physical and mental challenge of each posture. In order for me to pick myself up from my mat, and get back into position, I have to let go of my ego, and clear my mind from thoughts on the past or future. I can't be in the past, I can be in the future. I have to be in the present.
The ability to be present in the moment supports my ability to prioritize tasks and focus on what I need to accomplish at work, in any given part of my day. When I begin my workday, I now make more of an effort to keep my mind clear of thoughts of the "woulda, coulda, shouldas" of the past. I also commit myself to not being bogged down with what I think awaits me in the future. Instead, nowadays, all my energy is directed to my here and now. I become involved only with present tasks that need to be addressed. With such clarity of mind and a pool of energy that is not spread so thinly all over the place, I complete tasks much more efficiently, and projects are completed with a higher degree of care and genius.
3. Patience & Empathy
My yoga sessions have provided me with the physical and mental space to understand and accept myself. With nothing to feel but my sweaty limbs, and nothing to hear but the rhythm of my breathing, I have become more aware, and accepting of my shortcomings. I am developing a deeper understanding of my own sensitivity, and I have come to appreciate the inherent respect I deserve as a human being.
Transferring this particular aspect to my job, it has become increasingly easier for me to see my colleagues, and students in the same way. The dignity, light, and potential I recognize in myself, I now recognize in others around me. This recognition enables me to extend to others the same amount of patience and care that I give to myself. Engaging with others from the foundation of acceptance, patience, and empathy allows me to create and maintain more positive relationships with my peers and students.
Ultimately, I've come to realize that yoga is so much more than successfully executing an asana. In learning how to get into, and hold each posture, you learn more about yourself. In your journey through yoga, you become transformed, and your transformation adds value and meaning to those around you. Whether those around you are at home, or at work, this value and meaning we give to others is, in my opinion, the true study of asana.