9 Career Lessons I Learned From My Yoga Practice

Photo: Twenty20

It is often said that what shows up on your mat during yoga is pretty much what is showing up in your life. This has proven to be true quite a few times in my life, and none have been more obvious than in my career. Yoga has helped me remove mental (and sometimes physical) blocks that keep me from moving forward in my career.

Here are a few lessons yoga has taught me about my career:

1. When you say you can't, you won't.

Although I have been practicing yoga (inconsistently) for 18 years or so, only recently have I been able to hold a crow pose for more than three seconds. Why? Because I kept telling myself "it's hard." Believing you can't do something before you have even tried is a sure way to fail. If you think you don't deserve that promotion, chances are you won't get it.

2. If you don't stay the course, then you will never meet your goal.

I enjoyed yoga from the start but found numerous excuses not to practice, like "I'm too tired," "I don't have the money for classes," or "I can never seem to get that pose right." There is always a reason not to do something. Instead, focus on the reason why you should do that something.

"I'll feel better afterward," "I enjoy it," "I'll eventually accomplish the goal." Change your thoughts and eliminate the struggle.

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3. Don't avoid things that challenge you.

The poses you most hate doing are the ones you need to do most. For me, that's chair pose. It's uncomfortable, and the second the instructor prepares us for it, I'm already ready for it to be over. It's a tough one, but it's the one that tells me I need to work on strength and patience. Sometimes the hardest events are the things that have the most lessons to teach. Don't run from the challenge; it's where the growth is.

4. It's not supposed to be easy.

If everybody could do a scorpion pose on the first try, then there would be no benefits to learning the pose. If everything was easy in your job, anybody could do it. Embrace the challenge and remember that the difficulty is where the lesson is.

5. Manage your expectations.

Just as you would not get a seat in the Boston Philharmonic one month after picking up an instrument, you are not going to get into bird of paradise pose in just one week of practice. There must be consistency, commitment, patience, and discipline.

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6. Don't make too much of a bad day.

You'll have your good days and some bad ones. Don't let bad ones define your overall experience. Some days you will feel more flexible than others, and on other days, you'll feel stronger. No two days are the same, so try not to dwell on the days when you are having some difficulties.

7. Pay attention to the signs.

Again, your yoga mat is a mirror. When it's tough to do strength, flexibility, or balancing poses, it's time to take a look at areas where you may be weak, rigid, and unstable. If you are too rigid, weak, and unbalanced in life, you will feel that on the mat. The same goes for your job. If you are unorganized, unfocused, and unhappy in your personal life, it will show up on the job. Be honest with yourself.

8. Respect your journey.

The path to success is different for everyone. Some people are good at binds while others seem to naturally take to backbends. We all have strengths and weaknesses, and you may have no clue as to why. I'm good at binds simply because my arms are long.

Comparing yourself to others is only going to take your eyes off the prize and slow you down on the path to success.

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9. Stop beating yourself up.

Stop comparing your yoga and career trajectory to others' and accept where you are. The more you struggle, the longer it takes to advance the pose. Be easy on yourself, revel in the process, and you will reach your goal before you know it.

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