Sunday, March 30, 2008

How yoga is going to help me through the recession

I flew to Orlando in February to meet my new niece. I was so filled with anticipation at meeting the littlest member of my family that I arrived at LaGuardia 3 hours early. I stopped at Dunkin Donuts and walked to the gate, passing a magazine stand on the way. The ominous messages about the recession were so numerous on the magazine covers that they were impossible to ignore. The recession, long-predicted, had undoubtedly arrived.

Slurping down my coffee, I wondered how I was worried about how I was going to get through this recession. A newly minted MBA with $100K in school loans, working for a retail company in the toy industry that is in the midst of a turnaround. Is there anyone who needs a plan B more than me?

After my initial wave of panic, I started to consider how my 8-year yoga practice may be able to help me, and in turn how I may be able to use it to help others like me who are worried about the latest economic forecasts. At business school, I taught a free weekly yoga class to help my classmates ease the stress that comes with the journey of an MBA. Could sharing my love for yoga now help people cope with the stress caused by this recession?

Yoga teaches a few main tenants that are helping me cope with the stress of an erratic stock market. Among the ones I most rely on are:

How to be comfortable being uncomfortable

Hip openers like One-Legged King Pigeon Pose (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana) are meant to undo the stress we place on our hips sitting in Western-style chairs. The pose at first is uncomfortable and yet if we commit to the pose and sink into it, in time it becomes a welcome release. We find comfort in the discomfort, and thereby become comfortable everywhere, at all times. 

Sequencing makes all the difference

A yoga practice is based on shifting and balancing energies through a variety of poses. Once poses are categorized (balancing poses, standing poses, twists, backbends, etc.), the order in which we perform them makes a difference in the energies we imbibe. And the desired effect can be achieved so long as we are clear on the goal. For example, forward bends and restorative poses will bring a sense of calm and are excellent to practice before going to bed. If you’re losing sleep over the economy, these poses can help.   

Strength is born out of flexibility, patience, and practice

No matter how strong the trunk of a tree, if it cannot flex with the wind, it will ultimately split. The same is true of the human spirit – to be strong, we must be able to flex with the changing conditions. Flexibility does not have to be innate; it can be gained through practice. All we need is a little patience with our muscles as they slowly stretch, becoming more pliable, and eventually stronger for it.

During my daily yoga practice, I consider my plan B. I weigh my options in the event that the recession forces me to change direction, in one aspect of my life or another. I have developed a scary tolerance for ambiguity and change, thanks to my yoga practice. So until this latest storm blows over and our economy settles back into a predictable rhythm, I’ll be on my yoga mat every day, embracing discomfort, performing forward bends, and working on my flexibility.   

The above photo can be found at

1 comment:

Sharmila Mahalingam said...

I just came across your blog...great work...keep posting.
Me new to blogging!!