We’ve all heard about the benefits of yoga for reducing stress, but can it directly benefit your career?
The founder and principal teacher of Adore Yoga, Nikola Ellis, says yoga has the potential to improve your confidence and performance in the workplace – and not just because it makes you feel less stressed.
Traditional yoga and yoga therapy uses different practices to address psychological issues, as well as the physiological, changing the way our bodies move and how we perform in a high-pressure work environment.
- Be more powerfulAccording to Ellis, what you do with your body can influence your mindset and this directly affects your behaviour and outcomes in the workplace.
“For women, the benefits of performing strong, powerful poses has been amply demonstrated by Harvard psychologist Amy Cuddy, who noticed that the reticent body language of female MBA students corresponded to their lower levels of engagement in the ‘hands on’ components of the program, when compared to their male counterparts,” Ellis explains.
“She ran a study that showed that ‘power positions’, similar to yoga’s Warrior poses, can change our brain chemistry and behaviour in a way that creates stronger engagement, confidence and performance.”
This, says Ellis, is what yoga has been doing for centuries. Working with students in private sessions up to groups of no larger than six, Ellis helps people prepare for a challenging day ahead or that important pitch or meeting by using physical poses and breathing practices that are designed to create stability, strength and power, allowing people to stand their ground in the office and keep their minds calm.
“This helps to steer them towards the outcomes they want, rather than being reactive to a pressured environment,” she says.
“In yoga we move people’s body in a way that changes how they feel and then that allows them to move forward with confidence.”
- Be better at decision-makingYoga ensures that our decision-making is based in reality and helps us to be more mindful, according to Ellis.
“Our decisions are often informed by past experiences or projections that rely on a flawed understanding of the situation,” she says. “Yoga teaches you to be mindful of every moment, taking your perceptions off ‘auto-pilot’ so that your decisions are based on a real-world understanding, rather than assumptions or reactive triggers.”
Yoga teaches us to pay attention to how our thoughts are affecting our body and our breath. Ellis says it’s through this process of continually watching ourselves and picking up on our own patterns of behaviour that yoga can teach us to become present and not to react to someone in a work environment by projecting past experiences into the future.
- Become a better leaderThe practice of yoga requires us to work on our ‘edge’, which Ellis describes as “the place where we fully challenge and extend ourselves, yet remain calm and comfortable”.
Constantly working along this edge, says Ellis, yoga teaches us how to continually challenge ourselves while staying controlled.
“That is how we achieve and sustain peak performance. When we work with yoga, the idea is that it doesn’t matter what poses you are doing, you take yourself to a point where it’s challenging and sometimes to a place you didn’t think you could go,” she says.
“In a work environment we need decision-makers who are not afraid and who are able to challenge themselves in new ways and push themselves right up to that edge, but know when to pull themselves back before the challenge turns into unmitigated risk.”
Yoga teaches self-discipline and self-control which are key to good leadership.
“A leader is like a parent,” says Ellis. “You cannot have low self-awareness to inspire confidence, trust and inspiration and that’s exactly what yoga teaches.”