Habits – Mind and Body

A habit is a behavior that takes little or no conscious thought and therefore frees up the mind to do other things. It’s not unusual to have habits that have been with us for so long, and are so ingrained, that we don’t even recognize that it’s a habit. But I didn’t understand how many habits of movement and even posture I had until I began taking yoga classes.

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Try this for a moment. Reach overhead and clasp your hands with fingers interlaced. Now, keeping your hands clasped together, bring them down in front of you. Look to see how you interlaced your fingers. Right over left or left over right? Now, lift your hands overhead again, but this time when you clasp your hands, interlace your fingers in the opposite way.

What does it feel like? Easy or awkward? If you are like most people it feels quite awkward. For some, it’s even difficult to do. Not only do we have a habit about how we interlace our fingers, we have done it for so long that it feels ‘wrong’ to do it any other way. We have similar habits about crossing our arms in front of us – I actually can’t do it the ‘wrong’ way – and walking up the stairs – usually leading with the same foot every time.  Yoga helped me become aware that when I get into the driver’s seat, I often slide in and stay seated on my right hip. Now, I try to remember to shift into a more balanced posture before I start driving.

When we think about stretching in yoga, one of the reasons it can be difficult is due to our habits. If we spend most of our time in a chair, our hamstrings tighten up, and bending forward to touch our toes is difficult, sometimes painful, and often impossible. Thinking to get up, move around, stretch during the day will help our hamstrings loosen and allow us to be more flexible.

When we think about stretching in leadership, it can be just as uncomfortable. I had been working at Trinity University for about a year and a half when a colleague told me he was still having to adjust to having a new supervisor. It wasn’t that he didn’t like to try new things or that he thought what I was doing was unreasonable, it was that he was having to change things. As he put it, “When we did Family Weekend, all I had to do was pull out the relevant folder, change some dates and then do what we did last year. It was easy.” Now here I was asking questions, suggesting changes, disrupting norms, and habits. When we try something new it takes more thought, often more time, and may or may not work. It’s a stretch.

What are your habits of movement, behavior, or thought? Are they helping you or hindering you in this time of disruption? Will they support you as you stretch to make the changes organizations are needing right now or do they leave you out of balance? What can you do to help yourself be ready to stretch physically and as a leader? Practicing the awareness we can learn through yoga can help us answer these questions.

Take care,



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