How yoga taught me to be a better manager
What’s up, managers?
I’m back again, this time to talk about how my yoga journey has interwoven itself with my professional experiences to help me become a better manager.
I started my yoga practice out of desperation in 2006, after suffering a spine injury from football that severely affected my lifestyle. I was initially skeptical of doing yoga, thinking that it wasn’t for me — a person who was more into competitive sports — but decided to give it a shot after hearing first-hand about its long-term health benefits..
The first weeks of my yoga practice were brutal, with even the simplest sun salutations adding insult to my injuries amongst classes full of flexible bodies that could seemingly contort at will. But 9 years later and a lot less of an ego later, here I am, having taught my own yoga classes and shared the same patience and determination to newcomers that I had to learn myself.
In this article, I will share the two biggest ways I’ve taken my practice into the workplace to help me become a better manager.
“Yoga is not for me, I’m not flexible enough”
I’ve heard this phrase more times than I’d like even as a yoga enthusiast, years before I got certified to be an instructor. But should we stop ourselves from trying new things and let the possible tough journey ahead deter us from succeeding and becoming better versions of ourselves?
I work on the art team at Mighty Bear, and artists can be a mostly-introverted bunch. This makes it difficult to identify and push people forward into leadership roles, not to mention needing to train their leadership skillset. But someone’s lack of skillset doesn’t mean they can’t pick it up.
Just like yoga, learning to lead and manage a team will take time. I personally had to spend a lot of time learning to be a good manager, and I still make mistakes up till today, but my yoga practice helps me remember that it’s okay to take the time I need. Not everyone starts out being able to hold a crow pose immediately.
If you have been identified by your managers to take on management responsibilities, give it a shot and give yourself the space to grow.
The 8 Limbs of Yoga
To the uninitiated, yoga is a physical practice (Asana), but did you know that there are in fact 8 Limbs of Yoga?
Of course, the only physical instance of Asana being useful in the workplace is to stretch out those tight glutes and hamstrings or correct postures from slouching at the desk for too long. However, there are other limbs of the yoga sutras that align with the culture at Mighty Bear Games:
Yama (restraints and moral disciplines) — Ahimsa (non-harming), Satya (truthfulness), Brahmacharya (right use of energy)
The road to releasing a great game is often paved with stressful situations, and we have to collaborate with people who think differently from the way we do. It’s also not easy having an honest conversation, let alone a difficult one. When met with a stumbling block, I’ve often fallen back to these basic principles to be constructive, truthful and positive so as toachieve the best possible outcomes.
Admittedly, I have found myself lacking in these qualities lately, especially in the past weeks when my team was rushing to meet a major deadline for Mighty Action Heroes (early access coming soon, make sure to get on the allowlist!!). Wherever I catch myself falling short of the expected standards, I remind myself:
Be the energy you want to attract.
Niyama (positive duties and observances) — Tapas (burning enthusiasm)
No, we’re not talking about the delicious Spanish variety here. Tapas, or “Fiery Discipline”, means a sense of self-discipline, passion and courage to pave the way to greatness.
As with most artists, passion is the biggest driver in our quest to create visuals that appeal to our audiences. As the Art Production Lead for Mighty Action Heroes, it was important for me to lead the way for my younger team members with enthusiasm when we faced obstacles in our pursuit to create stunning visuals. Instead of accepting what we thought was previously impossible to visually achieve for a browser-based game, the team pushed forward with their burning enthusiasm and I’m immensely proud of what they have accomplished for our upcoming title.
Pratyahara (Withdrawal of the senses)
When we think of the word “withdrawal”, we often think of “switching off”. For me, this couldn’t be further from the truth, and may be the most important aspect yoga has taught me in my daily life.
While managing the art team, I have often caught myself having multiple things that needed my attention concurrently, on top of the many calls throughout the day I have to take to ensure production was going smoothly. In the midst of the chaos, I found that being still and present, focusing on the breath, even for a few moments, really helps with mental decompression. It’s much needed for me into the right headspace and prepare for whatever’s coming up next.
And there you have it. While I believe I have grown a lot as a manager since my last Medium articles, there is still much for me to learn both in my yoga practice and in being a better manager. If you have learnt any valuable managerial lessons outside through other aspects of your life that you’re using to better yourself at work, make sure to share them so we can learn too!
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