As is the case with many entrepreneurs, my free time is precious, so when I decide to exercise, I want to get the most intense workout possible in the shortest amount of time. That is one of the reasons I love CrossFit. But when my chiropractor told me I had to start working on my mobility and flexibility or my back pain would not go away, I decided it was time to pay attention. I previously thought yoga was a pleasant form of relaxation, not a critical part of my health and fitness, so I decided to get serious and commit to 30 days of yoga.
Now, not only is my back stronger than ever, I also have greater insight into what makes me productive, which I want to share with you here--nine lessons in focus from my yoga instructors:
1. Be Here Right Now.
This was the hardest for me: Leave your email, your to-do list, your thoughts, and just pay attention to your yoga practice for the next 90 minutes. By shutting down the background noise of my brain chatter, I was able to increase my focus during and after my practice.
How often do you solo-task and not multitask?
2. Feel It. Accept It. Own It.
I am running so fast sometimes that I fail to stop and notice. Actually sitting down and paying attention to where I have tension or pain in my body helps me focus my stretching and breathing in that area.
Are you giving yourself quiet time to pay attention to where you need to focus your attention at work?
3. Stop Trying to Be Something You Are Not.
I have been in yoga classes where others can tie themselves into a knot, which is a little intimidating for me when I can barely touch my toes. I am unlikely to ever be able to do splits or a floating leg crossed pose. That's OK with me. Because I know what I want to get out of my yoga practice and I don't care what everyone else in the class is doing, I can focus solely on me.
Who are you comparing yourself to at work? Are you focusing on how you can improve yourself and take care of your customers or are you distracted by your competition and peers?
OK, so I couldn't write an article about yoga without mentioning breathing. Many times I will say to my clients, "Do you want to take a moment?" as they rush in from one meeting ready to rush to the next conversation without taking any time to inhale, exhale, and return to being in the moment. Many of you may skip over this idea, discounting it as unnecessary, and already be reading ahead to idea No. 5!
Try building in a few minutes of quiet time, between parking your car and putting the key in the front door, or take a moment in an empty conference room before walking to your next meeting. Mentally close down one conversation and then prepare for the next.
5. Build in Recovery Time.
My muscles were protesting from too much exertion, and my hamstrings were too tight, pulling my hips and back out of alignment. I wasn't allowing enough recovery time. Too often, I see executives burn out because they are trying to run a marathon like a series of 200-yard sprints. Leaping from one product launch to another without any vacation, downtime, or reflection will ultimately undermine your efforts.
How is your pace today? Are you just ending a sprint or are you in the middle of one? How can you allow for recovery along the way, or take a defined break at the finish line?
6. Accountability Forces Habits.
I decided to share my commitment with a few people who matter: my chiropractor, my CrossFit coaches, and a couple of yoga-loving friends.
What are you working on improving right now? Who could you share it with to gain encouragement and support?
7. Fast Is Not Always Better.
My favorite class is called slow yoga. I am the youngest in the class by a couple of decades, and I get to spend 90 minutes in slow deep stretches. It is perfect for me, especially after a few days of intensive CrossFit workouts. I would never have predicted this would be my class of choice. I imagined that I would be upside down in some clever pose, but I have realized that just is not for me.
How are you experimenting with how you learn and grow? When did you last try something new at work or for fun?
8. Find a Place That Feels Comfortable.
There are a lot of yoga studios that intimidate me--too many mirrors, too many experienced and very flexible people, too many advanced movements, and not enough class times that meet my schedule. When I walked into my local studio, Mission Street Yoga in South Pasadena, California, everyone was friendly, encouraging, and welcoming. All of the teachers have their own unique style but bring experience, enthusiasm, and a genuine interest in helping people improve. There are so many options for me to attend, I have no excuse but to go!
Do you know in what conditions you learn best? Find ways to re-create these as you develop new skills and behaviors.
9. Even 10 Minutes a Day Is Progress.
I don't attend a 90-minute yoga class every day. As an entrepreneur and a mother of three daughters under the age of six, that would be ridiculous. I found that even 10 minutes at home each day makes a difference. So I add yoga to the end of my CrossFit workouts and hide somewhere quiet in the house at the beginning or end of the day to complete my practice.
What could you achieve in a 10-minute chunk of time? When would be an ideal time of day for you to commit to it?
I never intended to do a 30-day yoga commitment. The idea came after I had checked in two days in a row on Facebook at my local yoga studio and one of my friends asked if I was doing a 30-day commitment. I secretly tried it for a few days and then sort of kept going. I have now found a new love for combining yoga with my CrossFit and occasional running and biking. In taking care of my back, yoga has helped focus my mind and improve my productivity.
Sometimes help comes from unexpected places. Are you open to trying something new? How can you give your mind the mental workout it needs to boost your productivity today?