There are no shortcuts in becoming successful in life and work. But there are definitely practises that can help you achieve what you want much quicker. One of them is yoga. I would never expect how many benefits you can get from regular practice. Nor would I expect it could help me in my profession as an investor.
If you asked me a few years ago about yoga my answer would be very different. In the past, I only practised yoga as a stretching exercise along with my other activities — running and cycling. I never understood why people were so excited about yoga. But things have changed since I suffered from an injury after the London Marathon over a year ago. I got excluded pretty much from every sport for a long time. For a guy who couldn’t imagine his life without new challenges and competition, it was extremely harsh. From today’s perspective I know it was one of the best things that could have happened to me.
In search of any viable alternative to my sports activities, I decided to try Ashtanga Mysore yoga. The only thing I knew about it was that it is more physically demanding than other kinds of yoga. Luckily, I found a great teacher. I remember when he told me to practise every day and I would be amazed by how my body and mind can change. What did he say? “My mind?”. I could see the benefits of doing yoga for my body but what does it have to do with the mind? That was the spark that triggered my curiosity and I decided to give it a go.
Today, after having already a year of almost daily practise I know the teacher was not lying. Yoga had a wonderful and powerful impact on both my private and professional life. Here is why.
1. Let’s begin with the obvious one — yoga is extremely healthy for you. In my case, I managed to completely get rid of my injury and release most of the other tensions and pains in my body. Most of us sit in the office for many hours. There is lots of literature and studies proving how detrimental that is for our bodies. Most of us do not even realize how many blockages we develop over time. As soon as we try to get up from the desk and start doing any sport we find out. No wonder that physiotherapists around major office hubs are thriving.
2. It clears the mind. It took me some time before I realized it. It works the same way as meditation. By conscious focus on the breath and movement of the body, I get rid of all the other thoughts. How many times have you found yourself overload with news, thoughts, anxieties even before you get to the office? I used to check all the news, mails and market monitors in the morning. Very often I was already mentally exhausted before I even began working. Now, even when I am anxious in the morning, I manage to let it all go by the end of the class. It allows me to come to work fresh and ready for the challenges ahead of me.
What is even more surprising, I sometimes find new trade ideas just after the class.
3. You allow your body and mind to get enough air. It’s not only yoga. Any exercise you do in the morning would work. But it’s important you do something. Most people do not use their full potential at work. How can they if their brain is not properly “fed” with what it needs — air and water. By doing any practise in the morning you allow your body and mind to get ready for an active day.
You become much more efficient in whatever you are doing.
4. You learn how to focus. How long can you sit still without checking your phone or being distracted in any other way? In today’s world with so many distractions, people are losing one of the key skills — ability to focus. Without it, we are no longer able to engage in any kind of deep work, be it thinking, reading, or writing. Focus is like a muscle — if you do not train it, it disappears. By doing yoga and concentrating on your breath you keep practising that muscle. Meditation works exactly the same.
I can’t imagine successful investing (or any other activity involving deep thinking) without ability to focus.
5. You learn to be patient. One of the things you quickly learn at any yoga class is how miserable your body is. After so much time spent in a sitting position, our first attempts at yoga make it very clear how stiff and restricted we are. It usually takes a long time to work through our constraints. Only consistent and regular practise can unblock what years of neglections have caused. It is not easy. You do not see the immediate benefits. But the results in the long term are amazing. This is the same with anything we try to learn in life. The more patience and perseverance we learn the better for our long term growth.
People over appreciate what they can achieve in the short run, but underestimate what they can achieve in the long run.
6. You learn humility and acceptance. It is easy to get frustrated or resigned when things are not going the way we wished. Every time we pick up something new we have to go through a difficult part when we are beginners. We are surrounded by people who are much better than us. However, rather than comparing ourselves to others, a much better choice is to accept our weaknesses. That is what you learn at yoga. You accept your boundaries and work on pushing them further away. Instead of being embarrassed by your weaknesses you commit to showing up every day and enjoy every micro improvement. After some time you realize that everybody around you has gone through the same process and we all struggle with their own problems. Isn’t it the same in real life?
7. You learn a healthy attitude towards your goals. I used to have very ambitious goals all the time. Finishing ironman, breaking 3 hours in a marathon, etc. Without them, I felt I will not have a purpose. Yet, something changed in my mind thanks to yoga. I learned to be grateful for everyday achievements. It does not mean I don’t have long term goals anymore. I do. But I realized I have to accept things are happening at its own pace. Sometimes unexpected circumstances happen. Sometimes we need to wait or adapt.
When I was learning a handstand posture my yoga teacher told me: “if you keep jumping, you will fall. It’s the same in life — if you put too much energy into something you will lose your balance and fail”.
Keep calm and go ahead.
8. Last, but not least — yoga makes you happy and kind. Simple as that. I end my morning practise and I’m a happy man. I go to work with a smile on my face. I do not get upset or irritated so easily anymore. I’m also more patient and kinder to my family and coworkers. It might be in fact the biggest benefit I am getting from my new practice.
I know how difficult it is to start a new habit. Regular yoga practise is definitely one that is worth the effort.