Stretching and Contracting

For some of us right now, the world has contracted around us. As we learn to limit our movements and our in-person contacts with others, our physical world gets more confined. For some of us that world is crowded with people, which can make the space seem even smaller. And of course, each of is responding to the requirements of physical distancing and working from home in different ways. For some, it feels safe and they are enjoying time with the pets and family. For others, it feels confining and difficult.

Photo by Timo Volz on Unsplash

At the same time, many people are feeling more stretched and extended than ever before. The needs of our workplaces have become more demanding and that’s before the homeschooling, supporting back-at-home college students, and cooking more than we were used to doing. As I read various comments on social media, it’s clear people are being stretched thin.

I’m often intrigued by the dynamic of paradoxes such as these – the experience of contracting and stretching at the same time is challenging, but like most other experiences, it brings opportunities as well. The practice of yoga teaches us the importance of both modes of action. In a yoga class, we move into postures that stretch us and then we reverse the action and pull in. Sometimes we move from a tight pose to an expansive one. The lesson is that we need both to be healthy. Being in either mode all the time isn’t good for us.

As our physical space has contracted around us, yoga would teach us to practice being more expansive mentally and emotionally. If we are feeling over-stretched by the demands on our time, our energy, and our emotions, we need to find ways to pull in even for a short time. The practice of pulling in and contracting supports our ability to stretch in challenging times. Understanding the importance of stretching and contracting in our physical experience helps us manage our emotions and emotional energy.

Understanding and working with this dynamic pairing is important for leaders as well. In the past few weeks, most teams have worked tirelessly to solve the immediate problems. They have been stretched to the limit. The challenge leaders are facing now is that this is a long-term situation and people already feel stretched thin. When can you help people have a moment to pull back for a time, to contract for a bit? Giving people a chance to quit stretching for a short time will help them be able to stretch again to meet the next round of challenges.

It’s also important to pay attention to your own rhythms and know whether you need to stretch or contract. Sometimes the act of getting up to physically stretch helps you stretch mentally. Sometimes closing your eyes and taking a few deep breaths (contracting) allows you to cope with the unusual physical limitations. Stretching is a useful practice anytime but has special resonance right now. Trying playing with this back and forth to see what works for you and the people you are working with.

Take care,



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