Can We Apply Yoga Philosophy in the Business World?
Updated: Oct 17, 2019
This is something I’ve been pondering for almost two years. In April 2016, I had just left my Director level position, had almost finished my Yoga Teacher Training and had taken off on a solo trip to the Andalusian Mountains in Spain. I had a successful career within the healthcare industry, financial stability, wealth, a great car, a beautiful home; but to me, something was missing. One of the biggest influences in my life has been my Dad, an entrepreneur, who has never made millions but has always managed to pull through any challenges that have been thrown at him (by the skin of his teeth at times) and who has always acted with integrity, honesty, kindness and by holding out a helping hand to all those around him.
So today, I want to ponder with you can we apply Yama (moral restraints), a moral code which is based on a 5000-year old body of knowledge from India to our modern-day business lives, be you CEO, Director, Manager or Team member. Yama is the ‘first limb’, of the 8 limbs of Ashtanga Yoga which is a framework used as guidance as we wander along our life-path toward fulfilment. Can these teachings lead to greater fulfilment in our working lives? The Yamas are split into 5 headings: Ahimsa, Satya, Asteya, Bramacharya, Aparigraha.
Ahimsa/non-harming: Of course, we do no harm you say, we take ourselves off into our offices or places of work and we do good! In the field of our choice. Great! But can you broaden your perspective, think of your thoughts, words, actions. Can we conduct ourselves covering all avenues in a way that truly does no harm... a little more challenging perhaps. Think of the way we speak to each other, speak about each other during our coffee breaks and the environment that creates. Examine the way we think about and talk to ourselves internally. Are you doing any harm? Can our businesses and corporations look wider to the environment surrounding us, can we go paperless, reduce our energy footprint, adopt renewable energy, there’s plenty to work on and endorse. Can you go the extra mile and really look out for your work colleagues and teams by ensuring they are equipped with the tools in their own lives to encourage avoidance of harmful practises through diet, exercise, meditation and that they have the time to dedicate to truly looking after themselves so they can also thrive in the work-place. Can you speak up for others if you do see inappropriate harmful, bullying behaviours?
Satya/truthfulness: Yes, we are honest and abide by our company’s ethical code. Again, that’s great, but take things a little further. Can you be true to your own essence in your place of work, can you think, speak and act in alignment with how you actually feel. Can you speak your mind without fear of being down-trodden or ridiculed? In my experience, when we don’t think the same way as the status quo, more respect for yourself and from others can be gained by speaking up with your perspective and ideas even if it goes against the grain. It may not always be taken into consideration, but if you can communicate your point of view in a calm, grounded and positive manner not only will you feel better inside, you may just spark a change in heart from another. Don’t just be a yes-man/woman… there is nothing more demoralising to yourself and to your team/those around you. All the best client and business relationships are based on solid foundation of trust, it might just be the attribute that wins your next contract.
Asteya/non-stealing: I don’t mean physically stealing someone else’s property or money, although of course that’s something that can occur. Asteya can also apply to cultivating an environment where everyone is allowed to speak up without being interrupted and stealing the conversation back to them. Ensuring that team members and managers respect each other’s space and you respect your own space. Especially in open plan offices and where we can constantly bombard questions and requests to willing people-pleasers that are already drowning in their to-do lists, we learn through experience. Allowing the creative inputs from team members to be rightfully praised to whoever puts forward new ideas, rather than the person who shouts loudest.
Bramacharya/energy-channelling; moderation: Traditionally Bramacharya meant conservation of sacred creative energies including sexual energy. Of course, it’s best never to mix business with pleasure... ! But aside from that, if we consider the energy we expend to be revered and finite, are we really directing our energy the way that we wish to and in the most productive manner. Constant emails firing, multi-tasking, end-to-end meetings and home-life challenges can drain our creative energy leading to burn-out, apathy and total overwhelm. Therefore, ensuring that your place of business; your management style; your empathy for colleagues takes into account the importance of moderating work-load and encourages each individual’s unique creative spark and inputs will lead to a more productive, focused, happier team. We all have creative abilities, but in many cases, they have been dumbed down by our education system and society placing greater emphasis on left-hemisphere tasks, goals, endpoints. Ignite that crucial creativity in your place of work and if you’re not in a managerial position, don’t think you don’t have the power to endorse what you believe in. This really is how we experience greater fulfilment rather than being a mere pigeon-holed robot in a bureaucratic system.
Aparigraha/non-greed; non-possessiveness; non-grasping: Aparigraha has been life changing for me to take into account. In the lives we lead today, we are constantly reminded to strive and push for the next pay check, the next deal, the next step on our career ladder, the next pay rise… it can be rather exhausting because of course, it never ends, that ‘endpoint’ is never reached. Therefore, can we adopt more mindful practises with our business goals, can we actually be in a state of detachment and calm with where we are today, winning or losing. By loosening our grasp just slightly, we allow our goals to materialise more easily or perhaps a new direction to explore can appear that we hadn’t even considered through our constant grasping and pushing. This requires a little faith and acknowledging that there are some things out-with our control, and sometimes making the next break necessitates that we stop pushing just for a minute or two and allow the forces of magic surrounding us to deliver what we had been striving for all along, and if not that, then something better.
I hope you enjoyed exploring these concepts and get the chance to play with the Yamas in your work-place and at home. More coming soon.
All best wishes,