The Six Sigma Way of Yoga

Business is driven by what we choose to measure, and most often the first things measured are the easiest and most obvious. Unfortunately, this doesn't always create the best results. When building cars, for example, the easiest thing to measure may be throughput: how many cars did we make this hour? Straightforward and easy to see. But what happens if those cars don't work?

Six Sigma is an approach to business invented by Motorola in the 1980s, which shifts focus from obvious measures like throughput, over to a new measure: errors. How many errors occurred, for every million opportunities that exist to make an error? A Six Sigma operation makes less than 3.4 errors for every million opportunities. This creates cars, televisions, and companies that work.

In yoga, we can all repeat the familiar mantra that it's what you can't see that counts the most. Yet what I see people most often measure is, predictably, what's easiest to measure: the poses. We can see them, we have some pictures of what they should look like, that person over there is doing them. So we're going to work hard until we can nail them. This approach might produce some poses. But it doesn't produce the best outcomes.  

Another thing we all know: yoga can help us live calm, peaceful, capable, and happy lives. None of us would choose to practice frustration, force, and struggle in yoga. But when we hold up a picture of someone else's body, or a pose, as our key measure -- there is no way to control what we're actually producing. Struggle and frustration are likely.  

We're all running our own lives. Choose the right measures, and we create great products. Choose the wrong ones, and we may find some unexpected clunkers. If given the choice to a) feel easy, calm, and happy, or b) feel tense, aggressive, and stressed, we'd easily choose the first! But if that's not our measure -- if what we measure is an exterior picture rather than an interior feeling - what we get is the second.

For goal-driven types, there's an important twist to understand here. When our focus turns to feeling easy and relaxed in yoga, rather than striving to achieve a certain picture, what we get is increasingly limitless capability to create any picture we want, both inside and out. The hardest poses become easy, no struggle needed. We achieve great capability.  It's easy to understand that capable lives aren't created through tension and force.  We only need to put that understanding into what we practice, which is how we live.   

If you haven't already, it's time to change what you measure.