My wife, Helin, is into yoga — something I have yet to embrace as a personal form of exercise, meditation and relaxation (all of which I could certainly use more of in my life). Someday.
Several times a week she and a handful of her friends meet at a yoga studio and join the rest of their class to practice, not just “yoga,” but several types of yoga. I thought yoga was yoga, but clearly it is not. There’s Lyengar yoga, which focuses on the precise alignment of the body and deliberate sequencing of poses and movement, and which uses props like blocks and straps and harnesses to help you get more perfectly into positions. There’s Kundalini yoga which features constantly moving poses. It is said that the fluidity of this practice is intended to release the kundalini (serpent) energy in your body ... (Don’t shoot the messenger.) There’s Vinyasa yoga or power yoga, which is extremely fast-paced, and there’s Bikram yoga, also known as “hot yoga,” which features 26 basic yoga poses, but in a sauna-like room where the heat is cranked up to about 105 degrees and 40 percent humidity. This is why I would prefer to play a round of golf.
The next level
But there’s one other type of yoga that Helin practices that has had the greatest impact on her, not only physically but mentally and spiritually as well. It’s called Restorative yoga and, as nationally certified personal trainer Eric Stevens describes it, “is intended to take the mindfulness that is found in all disciplines of yoga to the next level. It’s still and slow, and it’s as much (or more) about the mind as it is the body.” Helin would argue that it’s a lot about the body, too, because despite its relaxing approach, the poses are difficult and strenuous on the body, and you’re expected to hold the poses for extended periods of time.
During a particularly challenging Restorative Yoga class where Helin found herself struggling to work through the pain and discomfort from holding her poses for extended periods of time, her teacher said something to the class that resonated deeply with her. She said, “The work isn’t in holding the poses themselves, the work is learning to sit with the discomfort. Understanding that the pain and discomfort are not who you are. They don’t define you. This will pass and, therefore, it’s okay.”
I think this message resonated with Helin because she realized that it didn’t apply just to yoga, but to life in general and, I might add, to business as well.
Each and every one of us as business owners, managers, and leaders regularly face both the ups and the downs of running a business. Nothing is ever perfect, and things seldom work out exactly the way we plan. On a personal level I can tell you plenty of stories where things didn’t go our way at Lemartec. We’ve had our share of projects placed on hold after months of hard work and resources spent on developing them. We know what it’s like to have a signed contract terminated by a client, and we know what it’s like to lose a bid despite weeks of aggressive estimating. During those challenging times, it’s easy to feel anxious or distressed. Often times we find ourselves focusing on the negative rather than the positive, and we allow the negativity to affect our attitude, our outlook, and our problem-solving capabilities.
But Helin has taught me that when I’m facing a particularly challenging situation for an extended period of time, instead of focusing on the pain, I should sit with the discomfort, acknowledge it, and “breathe into it,” which in yoga means that you concentrate on the present moment, and realize that this challenge is just for right now. It is going to pass. Doing so allows me to shift my focus beyond the problem to the solution.
One thing is true for all of us in business regardless of the industry we might be in: Change and challenges are an everyday occurrence whether we like it or not. It’s a powerful thing to be able to acknowledge these challenges and then move beyond them. Someone once said that mindless, unmitigated pain will never precede healthy transformation, but pain that results from meeting challenges and handling them constructively is powerfully conducive to growth. Learning to sit with the discomfort helps us to not only endure challenging times, but to ensure victory by teaching us to maintain a calm, objective, solution-oriented approach to business.
It’s not our problems that define us, it’s our ability to move past and grow beyond them that makes us who we are personally and professionally.
Manny García-Tuñon is a columnist for El Nuveo Herald and president of Lemartec, an international design-build firm headquartered in Miami.