Business yoga for stressed executives

Nowadays, almost every gym offer yoga classes. It works; it is popular; and it pays off. However, what most gym owners, yoga trainers and most gym members do not realise is that yoga is capable of much more.


Yoga has been around for at least 3,000 years but increasingly, affluent, well-educated and stressed-out, high-performance executives, self-employed people and business owners are asking for another type of yoga.

A yoga that promises a number of benefits: better resistance to stress and crises; improved performance and a good work-life balance. This “other” yoga ensures increased customer loyalty and the exploitation of new and profitable target audiences. So what’s the catch?

It has nothing in common with popular yoga. To avoid misunderstandings, ‘popular’ yoga works. It makes the cash registers ring. Still. Yet, it gives away sales and market potential and, more importantly, it fails to target the especially wealthy and performance-minded audience of the future – executives, managers, entrepreneurs, visionaries, strategists and creators.


Types of Yoga

These individuals want more than the standard yoga. In most cases standard yoga refers to two styles: new-age yoga and gymnastic yoga. New-age yoga involves incense and singing bowls enriching the air. This is fine and it works and fills courses. But have you ever seen a sales manager, attorney or CEO in such a course?

The other type of standard yoga is even more common: the ultra-flexible, 32-year-old female yoga trainer weighing a mere 58 kg swings her nose to the ground three times, while all the regularly flexible participants silently moan trying to even achieve a third of that.

It is bending with a leading gymnast in competition mode. This too, is lucrative and useful for both sides. You may, from time to time, find some executives in this group. But as soon as a nearby gym offers something else, they’re gone.


Stressed Executives

A German yoga association recognised this some time ago and came up with a professional training for business yoga instructors. This training is aimed at a performance-oriented and loyal clientele who don’t care for incense. What do they want?

They want to perform even better, be immune to stress, recover from setbacks faster than their opponents, the ability to confidently argue and reason without becoming emotional, even under high pressure. Can yoga help with all of this? Of course, that’s what it was invented for!

Contrary to popular practice, yoga is not just gymnastics, or New Age. Although it often seems that way, it was never solely intended for these two manifestations. This is demonstrated by the two main original texts of yoga: the Bhagavad-Gita (500 to 600 BC) and Patanjali’s sutras (written 600 years later). Anyone searching these sutras or the Gita for asanas will find none!


Mental Technology

Clearly yoga’s “inventors” did not create it as a modern, esoteric activity or substitution for gymnastics, nor as a rival to floor exercise. Contrary to it, they developed it as a mind-set and winning strategy. The Hindu scholar, Swami Vivekananda, has translated this into a modern idiom: “Learn concentration and apply it in every way.”

Precisely for this reason, stressed managers, teachers, parents, officials and judges have such a keen interest in the original yoga. The reason is that if there is one single factor for success in professional, business, management and all aspects of life, then it is concentration, the focus.

If you’re not focused, you’ll lose. Keep the concentration on your mind first, then the overview, then the conversation, the deal, the presentation, the negotiation, the education of your children.

“Stress” is not really a diagnosis. The correct diagnosis is ‘He or she has lost focus’. Only then do you get stressed, and are unsuccessful. However, if you know exactly what you want and how to get there in any situation, you will remain in focus and experience success instead of stress. Simple as that!

We’re concentrating while working, then the raging boss comes in and the focus is gone. We are close to completion and the customer makes a stupid remark, and the focus disappears. The child wails, the wife complains, the dog barks: focus lost!

Every modern manager, every young professional is trying to keep this all-important focus at all cost. Expensive management trainings are held for this purpose. They fail with unsightly regularity because they don’t do their name justice: they provide, but they do not train.


Go For It

Ancient Indians knew what many modern management trainers seem to have forgotten: focus should not be adopted in a passive cognitive way; it requires active physical training! Unfortunately the training theory known all too well by any gym trainer is virtually unknown in management theory. Managers can sense that; this is the reason why business yoga is the secret tip for executives.

He who can keep his focus – for example during the yoga exercise Trikonasana – can do the same at the board presentation. Even if the executive board becomes stroppy, or a negotiating opponent acts unfair. many will think, ‘When will this end?’, but anyone who is still able to keep his/her focus on breathing and inner yoga will smile. No management training teaches this.

Anyone can concentrate when the weather is good and the boss loves them. As soon as lightning strikes, or the boss has lost his temper, most people, all the way up to the executive board level, lose their focus faster than you can say “Pull yourself together!” They have not learned to stay focused in difficult situations.

Those who have acquired that skill can communicate better, perform better and do a better job at bonding experts and executives to the company. An invaluable skill in times of shortage of specialists and managers; the key competence of the future. The ability to concentrate can be improved with trainers specially trained for business yoga.


– Dr. Rixa Kroehl

Rixa-KroehlThe writer is a project manager at the Institute for Futures Studies and Knowledge Management (IFK). Her research interests are strategic change management and storytelling. She possesses A-licenses in fitness and yoga and successfully worked as an instructor in gyms for several years.

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