Downward Facing Boomers – Is Yoga the Fountain of Youth?

A few weeks ago I wrote a post for a LinkedIn blog called, “Downward Facing Manager.”This post presen20498801ted ways that yoga can help people at work. I thought I’d adapt  the content here on my new blog because I believe that yoga is one of the best tools that Solid Living Boomers can have to lead a happier and healthier life. Trust me – I surprised myself by starting a yoga practice at age 54 (and when I was in REALLY bad shape). I can’t believe the discipline stuck. In the three years since I started a yoga practice, I’ve evolved from struggling to hold myself up in Downward Facing Dog pose to striving to capture all the physical, mental and emotional benefits yoga offers. To my surprise, I’ve discovered that yoga is more than an exercise class…yoga offers an essential approach to all aspects of our lives. Here then is a short list of some ways that yoga helps:

Practice — No one is perfect at yoga; thus it is called a yoga practice. No one is perfect at anything, when you get down to it. It’s helpful to view our development in anything – work, hobbies, relationships — as iterative, ongoing learning experiences. We should always strive to learn new and effective ways to deal with the myriad issues facing us, from family issues to communications. There are so many ways we can continue our learning:

  • Take classes
  • Participate in groups and teams (a book club or a tennis team, for instance)
  • Find a mentor or coach
  • Be a mentor or coach
  • Read a book – one book I read when I started my yoga practice is (don’t laugh) Yoga for Dummies, which can you peruse or order on Amazon by clicking here if you want to learn more.

Just Breathe – On the yoga mat, breathing is the key to success. Breathing in a prescribed and rhythmic manner helps focus and provides a host of health benefits. For me, conscious breathing is critical for whatever I do, whether exercising, working, dealing with stressful situations, or basically any situation. Whenever I’m frustrated or angry, I force myself to stop and do a few minutes of focused yoga-type breathing. Often that pause makes the difference between being impulsive and ineffective to being thoughtful and effective. The next time you’re tempted to leap before you look, try this. Sit somewhere you can be undisturbed for five minutes. Put your hands in your lap, close your eyes, and breathe in and out of your nose, counting to 5 or 6 for each intake of breath and the same amount for the outtake of breath. Try to empty your mind. After about five minutes, you’ll feel refreshed and likely have a whole new (and better) perspective on the current situation.

Balance – Balance is another critical success element for a yoga practice, and is often a struggle for baby boomers juggling home life with work life. To me. this means work/life balance and balance in the work you perform. I think of balance at in two ways:

  • Delegating – if you’re not good at delegating, you may have a really uneven workload and feel stressed. That stress is evident to others, even if you don’t think it is. Plus, not delegating is detrimental because you’re not giving other people a chance for their own development. By not delegating, you may also be doing a lot of tasks that you either dislike doing or are not good at doing…that doesn’t benefit anyone.
  • Work and Play – We’ve all heard the saying about “all work and no play.” If you are a workaholic, you may be jeopardizing your health and your effectiveness, as well as setting a bad example for your employees. You can work hard and smart, yet still find time for other important things such as exercise, community involvement, family, etc. For example, I enjoy a lunchtime yoga class at the gym next to my office. Before yoga, I would have a slump each afternoon when I wasn’t nearly as effective or productive as I’d been in the morning. In order to go to lunchtime yoga, I’m willing to get up earlier and come in earlier. It’s a simple trade-off that allows me a true mind and body balance.

Stay on Your Own Mat – In yoga we generally stay on our own mats (with the occasional diversion for work up against a wall or with a partner). My real life interpretation of staying within the confines of my mat is that I should focus first and foremost on what I’m doing. It’s so easy to stray off our virtual mats in life and we can easily become entangled when we shouldn’t. Before you jump into a fray, think about whether that is appropriate. This is especially difficult if you have teenage or grown kids, so next time you want to jump in think, is this issue really your business?  Would it be better to give the other person tools so they can learn how to work things out on their own? Sometimes it’s best to wait and see, or to provide resources that allow your child (or employee) to figure out their own solution.

Strong Support – Yoga gets better and better with each passing week. There are a lot of reasons this is so, but one big factor is that my muscles and bones continue to get stronger so I have more support for the twists and turns of a yoga practice. How true this is in life, too. If you’re going it all alone, it can be…well, lonely. You also reduce your chances of personal and professional growth. To be successful you should seek your own strong support network – friends, your boss, and co-workers are all great people to turn to for support.

If you’ve got a yoga practice of your own, I’d love to hear your comments about lessons you’ve learned from yoga. Namaste.