10 Leadership Lessons from a Yoga Class

September 3, 2019


Yoga – Leadership – Business

What’s the connection?

Is there a connection?

The journey of business is a journey of learning how to be a great leader, and we can draw on so many lessons from yoga.

People used to think that Yoga was for hippies, or only for very-flexible 20-something young women. As a businesswoman in her early 40’s, Yoga has been a foundational part of my life for 15+ years. I’ve been told on more than one occasion that when I practice Yoga I’m a better leader, a better businesswoman, a better mum and a better wife. 

Well, there you go.

Perhaps the very fact that the people around me are brave enough to tell me something like that will give you an indication of the type of communication and environment I encourage.

My experience with Yoga was unexpected. Living in London from 2004 to 2010, I was focused on travel, my career and my social life. I was busy and working in a high-pressured, stress-is-normal type of job. I didn’t love the gym, but I knew I needed to at least try to be fit and keep myself healthy. So off I would go to the gym a few hours a week in an attempt to offset the many hours at the pub.  One week I chose what appeared to me as the ‘easy option’ and walked into my first Yoga class. While I wouldn’t say that I loved it (took a while for that) it quickly became something that I depended on and enjoyed. 

Fast forward to now and it’s an essential part of my life and the secret to balancing out business, leadership and staff challenges, family, motherhood, relationships…. well, everything really.

In the last 4 years, I’ve taken that love for Yoga one step further, building from scratch a bustling Yoga Studio in Brisbane. I used my Recruitment & HR framework to create a thriving workplace of choice, that runs effectively & profitably as a business, largely without me. 

Having spent the last 15 years in Recruitment & HR, and the last ten in a consulting capacity to businesses of all sizes, I’ve often wondered how to communicate properly the notion that we can draw so much learning from every environment we are in, including a Yoga class. 

So here are the 10 leadership lessons you’ll learn when you attend a Yoga class:

1. Yoga will remind you to be humble

As the leader in your business, you are good at what you do and probably operating at a high level of Unconscious Competence. In every single Yoga class, you will be faced with (at least) one position that you find challenging. Yoga will remind you what it’s like to be a beginner again and perhaps you’ll have a bit more patience and empathy for those in your business who are moving through a learning phase.

2. Yoga will make you feel and look a bit silly

Yoga will put you back outside your comfort zone, unlike in your daily role where there may not be as many things that ‘catch you by surprise’. Yoga will remind you to laugh at yourself when you have no idea what you are doing. It may remind you what it can be like for someone on their first day in a new role, or taking on that brand new, crazy, never-been-done-before idea you’ve just suggested. 

3. Yoga will remind you of what you already know – that everyone is different

In Yoga, everyone has obvious physical differences (anatomically) and less obvious exercise, fitness, mental and life history. Fit, injured, anxious, stressed, flexible, inflexible, everyone — including you — will bring their stuff into the room. What you bring with you will challenge and limit both your physical capabilities and your mental belief systems. This may change the way you look at your team. The next time someone doesn’t do something exactly the way you want it done, you may become interested to know a bit more about what they are ‘bringing with them into the room’.

4. Yoga will remind you that everyone hears information differently

In a Yoga class everyone receives the same instructions from the same person, but people still end up facing different directions and in a slightly different version of the position. As a class attendee, you’ll go through a range of emotions. At first you may find yourself annoyed at the ‘bad instructions’ but after a while you’ll get to know the teacher, and you will know what they mean when they are having a bad day. Then you might start to wonder how much of this is about you and how much is about them, and maybe you’ll ponder how well you explain your own instructions and whether everyone is ‘facing the right way’.

5. Yoga will show you that a group of people regularly coming together doesn’t make a team 

In a Yoga class, a group of people gather together regularly for a common purpose, exchange pleasantries, but operate as individuals with very different goals. Yoga might help you look at what’s happening in your business with fresh eyes and whether you have a team or a bunch of individuals coming together regularly. 

6. Yoga will make you more aware of yourself and your triggers

In a 60 minute class you’ll feel annoyed, frustrated, even angry, but also satisfied, proud and pleased. After a while, you’ll start to smile and understand the when and the why. You might even stop blaming the teacher 🙂 We all know that good self-awareness and understanding our own emotions can be a challenge but is also an essential part of being a calm, consistent leader.

7. Yoga will remind you that no one likes a show-off. 

In every yoga class you’ll see one… someone who feels to you like they are showing off. And then perhaps you can ponder the difference between being inspiring and leading by example, and showing off or being dismissive. 

8. Yoga will hone your concentration skills and remind you how important it is to focus on one thing at a time. 

In yoga, you simply can’t try to do too many things at once, because ultimately if you don’t concentrate on the right thing – you fall over.

9. Yoga will help you clear your thoughts and offer you clarity about what’s important. 

Concentrating on listening, doing and not falling over means that your subconscious ticks away ‘solving things’ which will leave you feeling more decisive and energetic. Great leaders make good decisions and have loads of energy. They create and hold the energy for their team through difficult or challenging times. 

10. Yoga will teach you to pause and breathe.  

Yoga will teach you pranayama and meditation techniques, which are simple tools to teach your mind (and your emotions) to slow down, focus and be calm.  Usually linked to deep breathing, these are tools that your subconscious will store away and eventually draw on when you need it as a leader. That might be when you’ve had a surprise resignation, a serious customer complaint, or lost a key client. Suddenly – one day – you won’t react. You’ll take a big breath in, let it out and then choose what you want your response to be in that moment. And just like that, you’ve become an amazing Mindful Leader, choosing to react as your best self. 

Interested in learning how to transform your current team members into a dynamic high performing team actually achieving your goals?

Hop on a Free Discovery Call with me to discuss your challenges and learn how I have used my HR & Recruitment framework to build my Yoga business to run predominately without me.


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