“Fulfilment is structured in achievement. Achievement is structured in action. Action is structured in thinking. Thinking is structured in knowledge. Knowledge is structured in consciousness”
– Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Guru to The Beatles.
In the fifty years since The Beatles were presented with ‘The Illustrated Book of Yoga” the practice of yoga has become as prolific in Western society as the band themselves. Once shrouded in oriental mysticism, you’re just as likely to find a yogi in East London as you would in the Far East. For many of us, yoga is seamlessly woven into our spiritual and physical lives, but rarely our work life. What happens when the path to enlightenment and our career path intersect?
My own career path took a sharp turn this year that led me to a small town in Morocco. Until this point, the words “culture shock” was nothing but an antiquated term to me, a remnant from the pre-globalised world. However, once I arrived I realised that my schoolgirl French was more mime than Bridget Bardot. The language barrier was easier to cross than the gender gap: each time I paid and the change was given to my boyfriend I felt myself step back. When I asked waiters a question, and they directed their reply to him, my body would contract. Over time, I felt culture shock physically, as ripples through my body. Eventually, I found the cure within this same body. Yoga became my daily medicine.
At sunset I would plant my feet into the sand and face due west. Standing tall, I stretched outwards - diminishing the boundaries between the twilight and myself. With each breath in I felt myself expand. With each breath out I recognised the energy that I put out into the world. After the sun had sunk below the sea I carried this confidence with me through my work the next day.
Research is beginning to show that my experience is hardly exceptional, in fact it’s the norm: The way we hold our self has a palpable impact on our career. It is common knowledge that our body language shapes the way that other people perceive us – We all know that a strong handshake and posture is integral to job interview technique. What is more surprising is that new research shows that our body language shapes the way we see ourselves. Amy Cuddy, a social physiologist suggests that ‘you fake it to you make it’. She conducted an experiment where participants were asked to adopt a high power pose. The results concluded that standing two minutes in this pose led to ‘hormonal changes that configure your brain to… be assertive, confident and comfortable’.
High power poses are the essential building blocks of Yoga. Here are three such poses that create positive energy that will reverberate through both yourself and your career.
Sun Salutations are a series of physical poses steeped in symbolic and mythic overtones. By bowing to the primary source of life we focus on the idea of self-illumination. We recognise external light and our inner light – which corresponds to our heart. This mediation may crystallise self-confidence and faith in one’s instinctive judgment.
You can see an instructional video of Tara Stiles, founder of Strala Yoga, practising Sun Salutations here:
2.) Warrior Pose (Virabhadra’s Pose)
Yoga is pacifist spirituality, built on a foundation of ahimsa (non-harming). So it might seem strange that this meditation centres on the figure of a warrior. However, if we delve into its metaphoric core the Yogi is a warrior against his own ignorance. In the warrior pose we confront our own weaknesses and rise up out of our physical and mental limitations.
See Tara Stiles explain and perform Warrior Pose here:
3.) Tree Pose (Vrksasana)
This pose takes a dedicated effort to maintain balance and thus works to refine concentration and discipline. It can awaken our will-power and an awareness of one’s own strength. A direct gaze and focus is required to achieve our goal. We are reminded to strengthen our roots and expand towards the sky.
Tara Stiles will talk you through Tree Pose here:
These power poses are just three of the many movements and meditations that make up a spitirual and physical practice that has been developing for thousands of years. Whether you incorperate yoga into your daily routine, or practice only ocassionally, it helps to remain mindful of the importance of your body, breath and energy in the workplace. A little divine spark might be all you need to become a trailblazer.
References: Amy Cuddy, ‘Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are” (2012). The Yoga Journal (2014), Tara Stiles, Youtube.
Photographer - Alexandra Lembke
Model - Annie Ross