Entrepreneurship has always been stressful. But these days, it's not just the stress of fundraising or meeting quarterly goals that might be keeping you up at night. It's also the daily onslaught of troubling news about the decline of the economy and the rise of a global pandemic.
Now more than ever, it's essential to manage this stress skillfully. In fact, it's fair to say that taking time each day to build the skill of resilience is no longer a luxury. In these challenging times, it's a necessity for staying calm, focused, and productive in the face of radical uncertainty.
But that raises a real problem. Given that you may now have more to do than ever and less time to do it, how can you justify taking time away from your highest priority work to sit around doing yoga for 90-minutes a day?
The answer is that you probably can't. What you can do, however, is carve out small blocks of time each day devoted to bringing your mind and body back to a state of calm.
To use these yoga tools in the most time-efficient way, consider these three powerful practices, listed in order from least to most time consuming.
1. Breathe the stress away.
One of the central principles of yoga is that the quality of your breath is linked to the state of your nervous system. When your breathing is unconscious, or when you're sitting in front of the computer for hours at a time, the breath becomes short, choppy, and strained. This, in turn, leads to the state that psychologist Linda Stone has labeled "email apnea," a state of stress, anxiety, and worry.
When you bring your attention to the breath, however, a radical shift takes place. You have the ability to change your mental and physical state, from anxiety to calm, from stress to ease, in a matter of minutes.
Yoga traditions offer all sorts of techniques to experience this transformation. Perhaps the most basic is the 4x4 breath. Simply breathe in for four counts, out for four counts, four times. It's a practice that takes less than 60 seconds to complete but can radically change your state of mind.
Want to try a more advanced breathing practice? Experiment with the 4x8 breath. Breathe in for four counts, out for eight counts, and you will begin to observe the powerful yogic insight that by lengthening your exhale in a relaxed way, you further release the grip of stress and tension.
2. Raise your legs up to calm down.
Here's another powerful insight from the yoga traditions: one of the best ways to calm the mind and body is to invert your body-- to go upside down. The advanced version of this practice includes poses like headstand and shoulderstand.
To experience the benefits of inversion in the midst of your workday, however, try simply lying on the ground with your back against the floor and your legs extended up the wall. If you want to go even deeper into this inversion, place a block or bolster at the base of your spine. Spend five or more minutes in this pose and then slowly return to your ordinary, vertical, working position (making sure to avoid giving yourself a head rush).
What you will likely find is that even just five minutes of this pose is like drinking a yogic martini. It's one of the fastest ways to calm your mind and body.
3. Experience the extreme relaxation of yoga nidra.
An emerging body of scientific research has shown that yoga nidra, which translates as "yogic sleep," has a powerful impact on reducing stress and anxiety. This practice is basically just the part of yoga that everybody looks forward to. It's a practice where you get to skip all those challenging postures and go directly to that sublime moment at the end of a yoga class, when you lie back into savasana and relax deeply.
To try this practice at home, it can be useful to use a guided yoga nidra track. Lie down on your back. Let your arms drop at each side, palms facing up. Then, let go of any stress or tension you're carrying in your mind and body, and see if you can hover in that subtle state between sleep and waking consciousness for ten, twenty, or even thirty minutes.
Try out each of these yoga techniques and see which one works best for you. Then, see if you can turn at least one of these practices into a daily habit. Do it before lunch. Do it at the end of the workday. Or do it in between meetings. Set up some sort of regularly repeating habit-forming cue as your reminder to take just a few moments each day to calm your nerves.