I suspect when most people think about yoga they think about yogis standing on their heads or seated in Lotus while meditating. People who say they can’t do yoga are thinking that they aren’t flexible enough, that they are unable to move their bodies in the ways needed to achieve the various postures. The reality though is that yoga supports everyone in becoming more flexible. In yoga, paying attention to both our breath and our body’s alignment supports us in learning to stretch and do more than we ever imagined we could do.
Let’s consider the forward bend, a relatively simple pose that is difficult for many people to do because of their tight hamstrings. And if the only measure of success is whether or not you can touch your toes, some people may never achieve success. However, when we pay attention to our alignment and use our breath to support us, all of us have the ability to stretch further than we could when we first tried the pose.
It’s important to understand that the hips function as a large hinge. To do a forward bend while paying attention to alignment, we lengthen the back and bend from the hips – only as far as we can go with a long back. When the back begins to round over, it’s time to stop and breathe. During the pause for our breath, we lengthen the back again as we inhale and during the exhalation, deepen the bend. After two or three rounds of this, we can round the back and relax into a deeper forward bend than we had been able to do before.
The same principles apply to our leadership and are more important than ever as we work to lead in this challenging and unusual time. As we face the difficult decisions that need to be made, find ways to lead a team in a virtual environment or take care of ourselves as we are taking care of others, it will be important to think about your alignment. What are the values of your organization and how will your decisions reflect those values? What are your personal values and how are your actions a way of living out those values? When our actions, our personal values, and our organizational values are aligned, we are better positioned to make difficult decisions. When we take time to breathe and deepen our focus on our purpose, we will trust the hard decisions we have to make even if we don’t like making them.
This current situation is pushing us in ways we never anticipated. Our organizations need us to be able to meet these challenges. We are being stretched as we are asked to take on new tasks in unfamiliar circumstances. The challenge for each of us is to find ways to stretch without hurting ourselves or others and the lessons of yoga can help us do more than we ever imagined we could do.