You have already read a lot about me. You have learned that I am an entrepreneur and now I am going to tell you that I also practice yoga. Apparently these two come fairly often in pair – I recently read that “there’s a 20 percent chance you’ve tried a startup, a 40 percent chance you’ve tried yoga and a 100 percent chance you know someone who’s tried one or the other” on a blogpost from Lev Kaye on the Entrepreneur. For me they work well paired together and I feel that I have learned valuable lessons, that can make me better both in my yoga practice and in entrepreneurship.
This is nothing but my opinion and you might feel differently about yoga and about entrepreneurship. However, when I stand in warrior stretching my arms out, going deeper and focusing on what lies at my fingertips, these thoughts run through my mind. I find that just like yoga, when building a business
- you first strengthen your core and then build around it,
- you focus on your breathing, on your customers, on what gives live to you and you are aware of how your organization is filled with it,
- you keep your mind open to your environment, you listen to the signs of your organization and are mindful of your surroundings like competitors and
- you practice everyday, you are resilient and start every new phase like a new morning.
When I stand in warrior pose, raising my arms at the height of my shoulders and focussing on what lies ahead of me, I think about the battles I fight and the tools I use – The battles I choose to fight and those that I chose to let go. Being at war in this sense is about empathy, truthfulness and forgiveness. It is about standing your stance and choosing what to change, what to stop or what to accept.
Strengthen your core and build around it
In any yoga practice the focus is on the core – being centred both in body and mind – is the underlying principle. You start with the core and work from there forming your whole body in strength and flexibility. I see this as very similar in building a business in the sense that you build around what you do best, one thing only. Maybe your core lies in customer service, maybe you’re the very best at sewing cow leather in a particular way…first you have to figure out your essence and then you build around it. You establish a solid foundation and base all your business lines, departments, expansions around it.
Focus on your breathing
Yoga teaches you to “inhale what nourishes and to exhale what poisons” which could be translated to business in the sense of customers. Not only do we focus on our core but also on our core customers and we build the product or the service for them. Just like breath to our body they bring live to our businesses. Just like breath to our body, we wish them to return time and time again.
But not everybody is our customer and we should observe closely whom to care for and who poisons the organization.
Be mindful of yourself and your surroundings
It is important that you focus on yourself, that you are aware of your body’s signs and that you find your own pace. Yoga is a practice with yourself and everybody has their own rhythms and variations of different asanas. However, we are never isolated, not as humans and not as organizations and yoga also teaches us to be mindful of our surroundings.
Through continuos work with our body and the focus on the breath, we learn to acquire a sensory awareness of our body. We listen more closely and understand more easily the signs. There is no one recipe for success for every company, but rather you have to be aware of your own organisms and pay close attention to the slight shifts. For some it may make sense to do xyz but maybe not for you. Don’t let others dictate your course of action. Learn yourself.
In yoga we build strength, flexibility and resilience. Especially in difficult asanas, when my body is stretched to its limits and every muscle is tensed, I feel my resistance being tested. I would just like to drop it and sit back down, but I challenge myself every time continuously increasing the intensity and the duration of the pose.
We are thought not get hung up on previous failures but instead view every savasana as a kind of rebirth starting a fresh everyday. Similar setbacks happen in business and can drag you down, but don’t let that happen! Treat every day as a new opportunity and don’t get discouraged. Yoga teaches us “to pursue an intention without becoming discouraged at the gulf between vision and present reality”. Keep working on it and one day you will get there, but don’t give up even when facing hard situations tied to limited resources and time.
In this sense, these four lessons learned during yoga practice have been useful once applied to entrepreneurship.