Embodying my Full Expression
Yoga and leadership – is there a connection? Yes! - I believe there is and here’s why.
In my leadership role at the Finance Innovation Lab, I know that today’s pioneering leadership requires us to be present, intentional, courageous and expressive. Importantly, it also requires us to be the change we want to see in the world and to fully respect and appreciate ourselves.
Having just come back from an immersive yoga retreat, led by the fantastic and profound dynamic duo couple- Ari and Elina of Lumi Power Yoga, I’ve discovered that yoga is a practice that reflects the leadership that is needed in the world- now. After one week’s transformative experience, I intend for yoga to be a practice for life.
Here is what I discovered …..
Yoga requires you to be self-respecting – in your poses and through your body. Each one of us is different with unique skills, talents, personalities and abilities. We are perfect the way we are. Our bodies are a miracle. However we often think that we are not enough – not as good as everyone else, not as intelligent, not as young, not as beautiful. My shadow-side is rooted in deeper patterns of ‘I’m not worthy’ – a pattern that goes way back to my early childhood and has lingered. It has different kinds of manifestation including –not fully being visible with my life’s intention, my passions, my needs and my dreams. It also comes through in not feeling confident in fully engaging in larger group conversations as well as often judging others for their ideas or behaviours as an aversion to not being visible with ‘me’. All of this is blocking my highest potential and taking up ‘space’. As Otto Scharmer the leadership guru says, ‘Each of us can let go of the obstacle that impedes our development and release the possibilities that lie latent within each of us’. This is such an important part of the wider cultural change process –in order to serve others, we must respect ourselves and take full responsibility for our shadows.
How we react in the world often stems from our memories, assumptions and habits of the past. We also react to what might play itself out in the future. Our brain is on overdrive and we are reacting to a past and a future that has yet to happen. What is real is now – the present. Being in the present allows us to shed all of the stories that cause us to be distracted, asleep, judgemental, reactive, fearful and limited. In being present, we create more space to engage with all of the possibilities and opportunities of the moment. When we get out of our heads, we are more awake and alive and have greater clarity of reality and who we really are. Working through our intense daily 4 hour Yoga practice – I had no choice but to be in present moment. The poses were challenging. My body was being pushed to its boundaries. Focus was essential. After a week of practicing being present I now know what it really feels like to be centred, grounded and clear. This type of clarity is exactly what we need as leaders in working with complex situations, challenges, and relationships. The more present we are, the more able we will be to intuit the future that is ready to unfold. And as John Milton, a global coach to management gurus said, “Most of the great inventions and breakthroughs in the world have arisen through deep communion with source”. Yoga accesses source.
Intention – Latin for ‘to stretch into’. Everything that exists has an intention - a highest purpose for being. Take a pinecone. A pinecone has an intention to be an pine tree- it stretches into its potential without hesitation. We all have an intention in life – we just need to take responsibility to discover it, uncover it, and fiercely be it. This is especially important in humanity’s crossroads – as we have a choice- to move in a direction that enables life to thrive OR to passively let the destructive trajectory extinguish life on earth. Intentional evolution. This requires us to align to the higher universal order of creativity, kindness, beauty, love, expansiveness, abundance and receptivity. The clearer we are in our intention, the more actively people will respond in supporting us. I have declared my intention as to ‘initiate and enable spaces for people to collaborate on systemic issue’ – like The Finance Innovation Lab. In my clarity- people and potentials are opening their doors. Synchronicity is happening everywhere and I am operating from a place of abundance and possibility. In yoga, I am intentional with my poses – moving into my fullest potential. My yoga practice has helped me translate what it means to live life with intention.
Being the Change
Many of the yogis and yoginis on the retreat were advanced practitioners – and their poses blew my mind! There were points in the sessions where I had to stop in awe – “how on earth is that pose possible?? “ A true human entanglement. Although I have a long way to go, Elina and Ari challenged me to imagine being the pose. Even if it meant pointing my toes in the direction of travel – that would be enough to start embodying the change that I wanted to be. My cells would remember this and the pathways for change would be smoother the next time. Elina’s challenge was ‘fake it, until you make it’. Or as Wayne Dyer, the world re-known leadership writer says ‘Change the way you look at things, and things will change’. Taking ‘the future is here now’ leadership approach is an attractor, an enabler and an inspiration for possibilities that are waiting to emerge. What would it mean to imagine and act as if the future of finance that we desire is right here, right now? In all likelihood, I believe we would gravitate towards that future.
It is one thing to read my yoga book, and it is another to practice yoga. Through practice you learn by doing, you evolve and you build your strength. You experiment, you try things out, you fall down and pick yourself up again. The week’s immersion showed me the results of what practice can do – my body has changed in as short period of time, I’ve mastered some of my poses, and I am ready for this to be a regular part of my life. Similarly, in my work practice we are finding that the best way to develop our leadership skills as well as to help people change their behaviour is to practice being the change. As Terry Patten, the global futurist believes, ‘evolution shows itself through practice’.
Many of the poses were reflections of emotional expression. For example, there are poses which focus on opening the heart, being grounded, holding strength, letting go, flowing gracefully, expanding outward and staying humble. I was especially moved by my open-heart pose – during which I felt a wave of love and kindness wash over me. It was easier to express through my body rather than through words – as words often get in the way and are limiting. Yoga helps my body to teach the rest of me how to fully express who I truly am. I know that as a leader, I am attracted to people who reveal their authentic feelings – there is a certain energy about these people that is guiding, inspiring and powerful. They tend to set the tone for others in giving them permission to be themselves – and in full open expression people are able to trust, connect and do more together. And as Dr David Hawkins has shown in his research, one person operating at a higher energy level of consciousness (developed through practices such as yoga) has the potential to influence 90,000 people operating at lower levels of energy.
There were points in the session that I thought I was going to collapse. But with intention and imaging the possibilities I was able to muster the courage to go farther and further than I ever thought I could. I let go of my old stories of fear of falling on my head in the crow position and my head-stands were even closer to reality than I expected. In courageously pushing my boundaries and taking risks - something changed. I have a new sense of confidence, energy and drive – which will influence everything else that I do. As leaders in social change, it is essential that we are fiercely courageous – and that we let go of our old stories of what is possible for ourselves and others. We are stepping into unknown territory. As the famous philosopher Martin Buber says, ‘What will come will come only when we decide what we are able to will’. We must courageously pioneer new patterns of behaviour which rise above the current need for material identity and pursuit personal reputation and status. Evolution is requiring us to courageously embrace our new story of interconnectivity.
So there you have it – six reasons why I think that practices like yoga are essential for our individual and collective futures. And, speaking from experience, it is a practice that is accelerating new paradigm leadership development – check it out!