This Valentine’s Day, instead of focusing on romance, I will look at loving the pursuit of work life balance through yoga. These 1,000 words and five yoga hacks make work life better. I say pursuit of balance because balance like the practice of yoga never ends. The chanteuse Tina Turner belted out What’s Love Got to Do with It? Love has everything to do with work on this Valentine’s Day exploration.
My stomach rumbled with every court date. My digestion went to pot, as I struggled to manage my legal briefs (literally and pun intended). I turned to yoga to soothe my stressed endocrine and digestive system. While many co-workers took tums to manage heartburn from job stress, I could not make peace with those pastel chalk pellets. Other coworkers spent time in pubs and drank vodka tonics after court. My public interest lawyer salary didn’t allow for $18 martinis, and I had terrible tolerance for alcohol. The legal profession has notorious substance abuse problems and the bar offers many courses on how to manage stress. I have lectured bar societies on using yoga to stave off burn out.
This Yoga Teacher tells Tina Turner: love has everything to do with our brains. Our brains make chemicals that shift our moods. There are physical brain receptors that respond to stress just as our muscles respond to strain. Consequently, Tylenol lessens heart ache when the heart is sad from a lost love. Similar to Tylenol, yoga lessens stress from work so you can get stronger, sleep better, and optimize digestion. Yoga has always been my drug of choice. I offer you some of what I am taking.
Think of me as your yoga pusher….
It seemed like a good idea to jump into law school when the job market slumped in the 1990s. In hindsight, my innovative writing skills didn’t necessarily make me keen on writing legal briefs. I leaned into yoga during law school. My VCR consistently played Yoga for Beginners by Patricia Walden produced by Gaiam. On the lunch break during the New York State Bar, I walked home from the New York Convention center that is now a Whole Foods on Columbus Circle to meditate and do yoga before going back to write out the afternoon essays.
If yoga helped me in law school, I made my yoga habit as a fledgling attorney. When Work stress threw me under the bus, I threw myself into yoga. I took a yoga class before work and then I darted out of court to catch another class at the end of the day. I didn’t do EVERY YOGA POSE. I took a child’s pose for 75% of the class. At the end of class, I felt better even though I could barely move from my stress of litigating.
1. Don’t go for yoga perfection. If you cannot do the full pose, just modify the pose for your skill level.
Our humanity means we are all suffering in some way when we come to yoga. Someone might be good at one pose, while you are good at another pose. I had one student who LOOKED perfect in every pose but when I talked to him after class, I realized that his mental and emotional demons were taking a toll. Yoga is from the inside out and not for you to look at what another person seems to do perfectly. The best yogi may have been Martin Luther King, Jr. and he never did down dog.
2. Don’t worry, no one is looking at you in yoga classes.
Focusing on the breath leads to the practice of mindfulness. Mindfulness, even when something is painful, helps stamp out the unsupportive backstories that we create. I used breathing exercises in court to calm down during high stakes litigation. Opposing counsel never knew it but I paused and breathed. The silence that every Harvard Negotiation Course promotes often works but what do you do in silence staring across the table? I suggest you breathe.
3. Breathing defines yoga. Breathing calms the mind. Learn to breathe correctly. Do you need help?
My MALE business coach led me to one of his favorite books, Barbara De Angelis’ 10 Secrets about Life Every Woman Should Know. These laws work for all genders. Dr. DeAngelis describes how the slant of your mind changes everything. If your boss fires you, you might celebrate and thank your lucky stars because you really wanted to quit. If your boss fires you, you might spiral downward because you have no prospects and no savings. It’s the same job termination. The event is neutral. Your framing of the event decides your stress level. Yoga helps shift the way you frame life’s vicissitudes.
4. Yoga makes you flexible. Mental flexibility is even more useful than touching your toes.
Test out new yoga studios and teachers. Your mind becomes robust with each new experience. Use your yoga to shift your mind. When you change how you look at things, the things you look at change. I left law to teach yoga full time. One perplexed student asked if I felt sad about wasting time, money, and effort on lawyering only to pivot to teaching yoga. One step in the right direction is worth 1,000 in the wrong direction.
5. My best student is 91 years young. You are never too old, too stiff, or too out of shape to do yoga.
One style of yoga is certain to be right for you. Reach out, I am here to help.