There is a common belief among yogis that yoga teaches you how to be more flexible and strong both in your practice and in the outside world. It took me several years to understand this concept fully, but now I get it. When I challenge myself in yoga class, I can better handle being challenged by the rest of the world… and there are plenty of challenges out there.
Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be bent out of shape.
After I graduated from college and launched my career in the mid-1990s, I prided myself on being the ultimate flexible employee. Work through lunch everyday? Sure. Do mind-numbing tasks like filing for 8 hours a day? OK. Until, of course, I started to lose my mind. I’m a creative type and these kinds of things burn me out, but I was too young and inexperienced to know that. I started hating the various jobs I had as a temp employee.
I had mastered the skill employers consider valuable: Flexibility. But there was a problem — I didn’t know how far I could bend without “breaking.” That’s where yoga changed things.
In yoga, you have to know when to stop pushing your flexibility or you’ll injure yourself. I spent months with sciatica because I had an instructor who enthusiastically told me to “Push! Push!” in Paschimottanasana, or seated forward bend. Now I’m more flexible than ever, but I’ve learned that my body has a limit — just like my mind and well-being have a limit.
The lesson? Be mindful about what you want, both from your yoga (if you practice) and from your career. Ask yourself:
Will I suffer physical and emotional consequences from what I’m doing?
In yoga, will I experience pain?
In “real life,” am I feeling exhausted, or bitter, or unfulfilled every day after work?
If you answer yes to any of these questions, it’s time to take a step back and look at your situation. Think about what’s not working for you and what you can change. When you’re able to find a better fit for your life and your personality, both your yoga practice and your career will benefit.