Ashtanga yoga is not only a form of exercise, but also a mindfulness practice that can teach us a new way to approach our work.
Working in a mid-level position in a large company, slogging through the same 9 to 5 routine every day, hoping for a raise or a promotion but never getting noticed – is this you? The people who support an enterprise’s core operations are essential to their organization’s survival, but often have few opportunities to make significant decisions, implement change, or even see concrete results for their work. It is easy to tune out, to go through the motions of the job without much thought. Staying motivated and finding ways to demonstrate your potential are real challenges in this situation.
How does this relate to yoga? Certainly, yoga’s health benefits make it worthwhile in itself. Less than 20% of the population gets the minimum level of exercise recommended by doctors. Yoga offers tangible benefits in terms of physical fitness, stress reduction, and improved focus. The rewards of yoga practice can be especially appealing to people who are not seeing any tangible results for their work on the job. But just as importantly, yoga teaches a way of being that radically changes a person’s attitude towards work.
What can Ashtanga yoga teach about getting noticed at work?
Unlike other yoga practices, Ashtanga does not emphasize learning new poses or movements. Ashtanga is centred on practicing a fixed sequence of movements, with a focus on breathing and the smooth flow of motion. Many jobs involve performing the same tasks day in, day out. Employees seeking a raise or a promotion usually try to differentiate themselves by taking on new activities or projects that don’t really belong to their job description or their skill set. Ironically, despite employees’ extra efforts, any suggestions to managers about changing the way things are done are usually met by the response that it would be too much work. Diversifying your portfolio may expose you to new knowledge, skills, and areas of the organization, but it won’t necessarily get you the recognition you want. What will? Managers notice employees who are genuinely present – those who put thought and effort into even the most routine work. You can repeat the same tasks without repeating the same experience or outcome. Instead of doing more, get really good at what you do.
Stretch your comfort zone
Ensuring that you are working mindfully is a good start, but improving on what you did yesterday will really increase your value to your organization. Ask yourself, how can you improve on what you do, even by one percent? Small improvements go a long way, over time. Continuous improvement and change is a subtle but a key differentiator between an employee and an asset. Someone who takes ownership of their role, defines its meaning, and acts as a balancing factor in a team environment becomes indispensable and will be recognized as a leader.
Follow your breathing
Yoga teaches that being attentive to the flow of breathing improves your body’s capacity for endurance, flexibility and healing. Similar benefits come from paying attention to the rhythms of the workplace: background energies, dynamics and patterns. Observe your daily behavior, monitor your stress level, and be mindful of your personal challenges and obstacles. Watch for patterns related to people, places, decisions, and communication. Understand and regulate the rhythms of your own work, and help to balance and strengthen your team environment.
As corporate addicts, we try to unleash our untapped potential by striving towards an imagined future of success. But what will really help us develop our potential? Running faster on the hamster wheel isn’t going to get us out of it. To break out of a repetitive job, we need to pause and refocus our attention from what we do at work to how we do it.