Yoga Wisdom at Work: Finding Sanity Off the Mat and On the Job
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Yoga Wisdom at Work: Finding Sanity Off the Mat and On the Job

by Maren Showkeir, Jamie Showkeir
     
 

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Yoga’s Ancient Wisdom Can Transform Your Work Life

Everyone knows that yoga helps reduce stress and increase the body’s flexibility and strength. But the physical aspects barely scratch the surface of yoga’s transformative powers. The poses are only one part of a larger philosophy offering profound insights for confronting the

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Overview

Yoga’s Ancient Wisdom Can Transform Your Work Life

Everyone knows that yoga helps reduce stress and increase the body’s flexibility and strength. But the physical aspects barely scratch the surface of yoga’s transformative powers. The poses are only one part of a larger philosophy offering profound insights for confronting the complexities of daily life. Yoga can help you remain centered, compassionate, positive, and sane every hour of the day—especially those between nine and five.

This unprecedented guide shows how practicing the full range of yogic concepts—the traditional “Eight Limbs of Yoga”—leads to a productive, creative, and energizing work environment and features examples from professions like law enforcement, teaching, banking, filmmaking, medicine, and many more. But beyond that, this book is an invitation to use all of yoga’s teachings to cultivate the spark of the divine that dwells within each of us.
 

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Editorial Reviews

Retailing Insights (formerly New Age Retailer) - Anna Jedrziewski
While this book is aimed specifically at using the principles of yoga in the workplace, let your customers know that it is a terrific overview of yoga as a complete spiritual philosophy. Most Americans think of yoga as the physical exercises (asanas). Yoga is actually much more complex than that, containing eight branches of study, the asanas being the third of those.  By relating all aspects of yoga to the workplace, and using everyday language to do that, the authors put the intricacies of this advanced spiritual tradition within reach of the general public. For example, they tell the story of a police officer, forced to shoot someone in the line of duty, who struggled to reconcile her duty with the principle of compassion/non-violence (ahimsa). A wise instructor pointed her in the direction of the answer, but I’ll let you read that for yourself. This book will prove to be a very useful tool for those seeking to expand their understanding and practice of yoga, whether they are experienced practitioners of yoga or have just begun their first class.
From the Publisher
"While this book is aimed specifically at using the principles of yoga in the workplace, let your customers know that it is a terrific overview of yoga as a complete spiritual philosophy. Most Americans think of yoga as the physical exercises (asanas). Yoga is actually much more complex than that, containing eight branches of study, the asanas being the third of those.  By relating all aspects of yoga to the workplace, and using everyday language to do that, the authors put the intricacies of this advanced spiritual tradition within reach of the general public. For example, they tell the story of a police officer, forced to shoot someone in the line of duty, who struggled to reconcile her duty with the principle of compassion/non-violence (ahimsa). A wise instructor pointed her in the direction of the answer, but I’ll let you read that for yourself. This book will prove to be a very useful tool for those seeking to expand their understanding and practice of yoga, whether they are experienced practitioners of yoga or have just begun their first class."     
—Anna Jedrziewski of Retailing Insights (formerly New Age Retailer)

"Yoga Wisdom at Work is highly recommended for anyone with or without a physical yoga practice who wants to work and live in a state of steady, calm, focused concentration."
—Brigit W. Patty of New York Journal of Books

“Filled with personal insights and stories that carry yoga into the world of daily decision making.… It is wonderful to see the foundations of practice brought to life in such a confident, sincere, and thoughtful way.”
—Pandit Rajmani Tuganait, Chairman and spiritual head of the Himalayan Institute

“Maren and Jamie show that yoga is not just about poses—the practice is about creating the stillness of mind that will allow you do the work you were meant to do. Seriously, read this book!”
—Russell Simmons, cofounder of Def Jam

“The [Showkeirs] bring the deepest teachings of yoga alive by showing exactly how to bring our yoga—and our best selves—into the world.”
—Judith Lasater, PhD, author of Relax and Renew: Restful Yoga for Stressful Times

“A significant contribution to the body of literature bridging East and West, the Showkeirs’ work provides a powerful guide for applying the principles of yoga to develop human potential and enhance work satisfaction. Highly recommended.”
—Howard Cutler, coauthor of the bestselling The Art of Happiness (with the Dalai Lama)

“This generous, insightful, and eminently practical book is offered with an open heart from years of experience—the best practice manual I’ve read for how to embody authenticity and integrity. I am grateful to Maren and Jamie for bringing together the disciplines of yoga and leadership.”
—Meg Wheatley, bestselling author of Leadership and the New Science and So Far from Home

“With so much emphasis these days on practicing poses, the other seven limbs of yoga are often overlooked. The application of ancient wisdom to modern life situations offered here will be helpful to all people, whether or not they ever set foot on a yoga mat. Please read this book!”
—Desirée Rambaugh, internationally known master yoga teacher

“The Showkeirs draw upon 2,000-year-old wisdom and adroitly weave personal stories and case histories to crisply illustrate the Eight Limbs of Yoga’s applications in the contemporary workplace.”
—Dr. Paul Mittman, president and CEO, Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine and Health Sciences

“Translating this essential, ancient knowledge into a pragmatic, contemporary context is a huge and valuable contribution. Expand your knowledge and expand your life with this book!”
—Kevin Cashman, bestselling author of Leadership from the Inside Out and The Pause Principle

“I love the book’s simple, clear instructions on how to infuse your daily work life with ancient spiritual principles and practices. Rather than rolling up your sanity in a yoga mat, you can keep it by practicing yoga at work. All together now: ‘Ommmmm.’ Perfect!”
—BJ Gallagher, bestselling author of A Peacock in the Land of Penguins

Library Journal
Rather than framing yoga as merely a physical practice, the Showkeirs (Maren is coauthor, Authentic Conversations) elaborate on the Eight Limbs of Yoga, or the spiritual foundations for living a healthy life. The authors propose cultivating a more productive work environment by encouraging compassion, committing to the truth, letting go of yearning, and fostering gratitude. Yoga terminology and quotes by Eastern philosophers abound. VERDICT Recommended for those who are well acquainted with yoga and who want to bring more spirituality to their practice.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781609947972
Publisher:
Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.
Publication date:
05/06/2013
Pages:
224
Sales rank:
1,226,484
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.80(d)

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Read an Excerpt

Introduction

WORK AND THE YOGIC PATH
Can you coax your mind from its wandering
and keep to the original oneness?
Can you let your body become
supple as a newborn child’s?
Can you cleanse your inner vision
until you see nothing but the light?
Can you love people and lead them
without imposing your will?
Can you deal with the most vital matters
by letting events take their course?
Can you step back from your own mind
and thus understand all things?
Giving birth and nourishing,
Having without possessing,
Action with no expectations,
Leading and not trying to control:
This is the supreme virtue.
Tao Te Ching

Yoga for me began as a mild flirtation. In the beginning, I wasn’t all that interested in investing too much in the relationship.
In the late 1980s, I wandered into the world of yoga to extend my physical fitness routine. My goal was muscular flexibility and better balance. The first few classes I took were what most people in the Western world commonly experience: Enter a brightly lit room at a gym, community hall, or studio. Depending on the environment, the session might include a short meditation or a reading designed to center and calm the restless, chattering “monkey mind.” We’d plop down on mats and spend an hour or more stretching, breathing, and twisting our bodies into poses with strange-sounding names. Before ending class, the teacher would ask us to recline on the mats for a resting pose called savasana.
Just as the instructions to lie down were being given, and before the teacher dimmed the lights for savasana, I used to sneak out of yoga class. Resting on the floor for five or ten minutes seemed like a waste of my valuable time when I had so many important things to do at work.
I don’t feel that way any more.
WHOLE YOGA, WHOLE WORK
After an initial burst of enthusiasm, my practice sputtered for a few years. But in time, yoga got under my skin in ways I did not even realize. As a more committed practice evolved in the 1990s, it began subtly influencing my lifestyle choices. An example: One day I suddenly realized that my beloved and multidecade Dr Pepper addiction had been broken—I hadn’t partaken of any kind of soda for more than a year! Although I never consciously set out to give up my habit of drinking several glasses of cola per day, water had become my first drink of choice. As I analyzed why, it became clear that yoga’s emphasis on healthy living had been subconsciously motivational.
By the late 1990s, yoga had become such an important and integral part of my life that I yearned to know more about it. In 2005, when I was at a personal and professional crossroads, I took the opportunity to enroll in a 200-hour yoga teacher-training course taught by Mary Bruce in Tempe, Arizona. This was the beginning of a fruitful journey that has helped me better understand and appreciate the full spectrum of a yoga practice, and the benefits it has to offer in daily living and at work. And the journey continues.
Although I try to live my life without regrets, I often wish I had discovered this practice at a much younger age. In particular, it would have been so useful to discover the knowledge contained in all Eight Limbs of Yoga, which goes far beyond the most common practice of doing poses on a mat. A deeper, broader practice would have enhanced every aspect of my life—but most especially at work.
Looking back at my professional life, 20/20 hindsight tells me that incorporating yoga practices and philosophies early on would have helped me better serve the people I worked with and the enterprises that employed me. Had I embraced its moral constructs, understood the power of recognizing and developing my potential and that of others, I would have been a more productive worker, a more skillful manager, and a more effective leader.
YOGA’S TRANSFORMATIVE INFLUENCE
My decision to enroll in yoga teacher training in the fall of 2005 coincided with a resolution to leave the newspaper industry for good. Although I had thoroughly enjoyed this rollercoaster of a career for more than twenty years, a gentle and persuasive inner voice had been insisting for several months that it was time for something new.
Another new adventure began simultaneously with my yoga teacher training—working with Jamie Showkeir (now my husband and business partner) as an organizational consultant. As I began learning about Jamie’s work philosophy and approach to helping organizations become more successful, we both were blown away by how yoga principles dovetailed beautifully with concepts he considered foundational to his consulting work. Both my new career and a deepened yoga practice were giving me language to articulate things that long had been imbedded in my own philosophical views about work.
When I returned from yoga teacher-training classes, Jamie and I would have rich, animated conversations about how yoga was complementing and supplementing the work we were doing together. Jamie began doing yoga with me, and it worked a subtle magic on him as well.
Our first book, Authentic Conversations, was influenced by our yoga practice, both in content and creation. We did a weeklong yoga retreat with Mary in Troncones Beach, Mexico, and set intentions around writing the book through a guided meditation practice called yoga nidra. A few days later, we were in Mount Shasta, California, sequestered in our friends’ house to begin the project. I went into that cozy house with a lot of reservations about writing and editing with someone who was both beloved husband and business partner, but it turned out to be a charmed, rewarding experience. Our writing days began with meditation, which helped keep us focused, centered, and compassionate toward each other. We wrote a solid first draft in eight days.
Yoga has continued to influence the way we work together every day. Jamie and I began seriously exploring the ideas for a second book soon after I earned my master’s degree in Human and Organizational Development. About the same time, I enrolled in a series of yoga Master Immersion Classes with Mary and Lynn Matthews, of Yoga4Life, based in Baltimore. This sparked happy memories of those early days of being immersed in yoga teacher training and the useful knowledge and skills I had incorporated into a new career. Slowly, the seed of an idea that had lain dormant in my head for a few years began to germinate. I visualized a book about the ways that taking yoga “off the mat” and into the workplace could give people tools to be more successful and sane in high-stress environments.
A FRESH FRAME FOR ANCIENT WISDOM
In our consulting work, we often encounter the term “thought leader.” The definition is a little fuzzy, depending on perspective and context. It typically is bestowed on someone viewed as a visionary or futurist, or a person who has laid claim to development of a fresh, breakthrough product or a countercultural business model.
For those looking to differentiate themselves in a crowded, global marketplace, the term can be utilitarian. At the same time, if you consider that human discovery, innovation, and creativity don’t spring from a black hole with a proverbial Big Bang, the term is a bit equivocal.
What people call “new” or “innovative” always is built upon historical exploration, discovery, and experience. The world’s knowledge base has grown exponentially, and now is so vast and deep that trying to keep up with the pace of change can cause vertigo. Even Patanjali, the Indian sage often called the Father of Yoga, only codified ancient teachings and traditions that had existed for generations. Called the Sutras, his foundational yoga text (estimated to have been written between 500 BCE and 100 BCE) formalized a “new” way to study yoga, yet Patanjali created it from the contributions of masters who practiced, taught, and wrote before him.
So it is with this book. These pages intend to reflect the wisdom of the ancient masters and teachers, and the teachers who came after them, and those who came after them. In the words of yoga master Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, who died in 2009: “Yoga is a way of life and philosophy. It can be practiced by anyone with an inclination to undertake it, for yoga belongs to humanity as a whole. It is not the property of any one group or any one individual, but can be followed by any and all, in any corner of the globe, regardless of class, creed or religion.”
PRACTICING YOGA OFF THE MAT
What we humbly offer here is a framework and an invitation to consider applying this wisdom to your work life. Our intention is to explore the broad practice of yoga with a practical focus on its great potential to influence how you engage work to become more successful, satisfied, and serene.
This book is based partly on the fact that yoga precepts in the Eight Limbs are beautifully aligned with the principles and philosophies Jamie and I use in our work. Like yoga does, we emphasize precepts such as setting clear intentions, telling the truth (with goodwill), individual accountability for the collective, and the importance of self-awareness. Another reason we wrote the book is that most people have at least heard of yoga, or do a physical practice, or know someone who does. Because yoga and meditation have become such familiar and popular activities in the Western world, we see an opportunity for filtering those precepts through the lens of our expertise in workplace culture.
Our goal is to shed light on a beautiful tool for uncovering your potential and enriching your experience on the job. Yoga has great potency for helping you alter your perspective about the purpose of work, the people you work with, and the organizations you work in.
Yoga’s popularity in the West began growing slowly after Swami Vivekananda introduced it in the United States in 1893 at the Parliament of Religions in Chicago. It attracted followers in the next 100 years, getting a boost from the publicity generated when the Beatles studied with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in the 1960s. By the mid-1990s (about the time I began practicing), the number of practitioners was estimated to be about 5 million, and that number had more than tripled to 18 million by 2008. Even so, Yogarupa Rod Stryker, a nationally known yogi and our teacher’s teacher, observes that while yoga’s popularity in the U.S. has exploded, a full recognition of the richness of its potential benefits remains obscure. “We’ve reduced the spectrum of what [yoga] can be, how it can benefit us,” he says.
Jamie and I do not see ourselves as yoga “experts”—we want to be emphatic about that. I have studied yoga for more than fifteen years. I have a committed practice and a few hundred hours of teacher training. Jamie has had a meditation practice since the 1970s and developed an asana practice in 2005. The more we learn, the clearer it becomes that we have so much more to learn.
Our intention here is not to turn you into a yoga expert or a scholar who can translate Sanskrit and recite verses from Patanjali’s Sutras or other yogic sacred texts. Like all yoga students, we rely on talented, dedicated teachers to help us stretch—literally and metaphorically. Among other things, doing yoga is an ever-present reminder about the importance of humility and the value of fostering a beginner’s mind.
Having said that, we have decades of experience in improving workplace environments and collaborating with others to develop human potential. Our expertise is rooted in helping people in organizations understand the business benefits of harmonizing the need for achieving successful business results with finding meaning and purpose at work. Our point of view is in tune with the ancient philosophies and concepts in the Eight Limbs, which offer a guide for enhancing contribution to the greater good, increasing well-being, and fostering a calm, focused mind. These qualities and more will benefit your work life.
What we propose in this book is a journey of exploration and discovery. The seats of the teacher and the student are the same. Our primary intention is to help you stretch in the way others have helped us.
THE ROADMAP
Yoga contains no commandments, nor is it associated with religion or dogma. In teacher-training classes, the adage “one well of truth, and many paths” is invoked often, to signify that each individual travels a unique path of self-discovery on the way to the well of wisdom, fulfillment, and enlightenment.
Although references to God or Lord are plentiful in yoga scriptures and literature, how one interprets God is fluid and up to the individual. We know dedicated yoga practitioners who are devout in the beliefs of their chosen religions or traditions. On the other end of the spectrum, we know committed yogis who are agnostic or atheists. The late Eknath Easwaran, a yogi, spiritual teacher, and founder of the Blue Mountain Center of Meditation in northern California, addressed this in one of his numerous books, Conquest of the Mind: “If you believe in a personal God, ask for the help of Sri Krishna or Jesus or the Divine Mother. … If you do not believe in a personal God, ask for help from your own deeper Self, the Atman. Either way, it is important to remember that you are appealing to a power deep within you, not to anyone outside.”
For the purpose of this book, yoga is set forth as a practice that will help you discover your own spark of divinity, which we define as human and spiritual potential. The Sanskrit meaning of the word yoga is “yoke” or “union.” The ability to look inward, recognize and acknowledge your potential, then develop that in a way that unites it with your highest, divine self—that is yoga. It also asks that you recognize that boundless potential in others. This perspective is contained in the traditional yoga salutation namasté, which translates into “my soul recognizes and bows to the divinity of yours.”
Yoga does not provide answers. Pema Chodron, Buddhist nun, author, and teacher, says it is important to realize that “… no slogan, no meditation practice, nothing that you can hear in the teachings is a solution. We’re evolving. We will always be learning more and more, continually opening further and further.” What yoga does offer is a guide for discovering the light that exists within you and always has. It urges you to unveil your brilliance to the world and to recognize the light that also burns in others. This luminescence reveals that you are perfect as you are. With steadfast practice, yoga leads you to that realization.
The lake of potential is always there, shimmering within you. You may not acknowledge that it exists, but that doesn’t make it disappear. Perhaps you see it but prefer to stay safely on shore. Maybe you’re willing to wade in partway. With a dedicated practice, yoga can give you the confidence to take a screaming, joyful leap into its depths. Once you realize it contains what you need to achieve satisfaction and success, playing it safe is like choosing to be a spectator of your own life.
Whatever regrets Jamie and I may have about not having found yoga sooner have been banished by remembering this: it is never too late to begin.

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What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
“A significant contribution to the body of literature bridging East and West, the Showkeirs’ work provides a powerful guide for applying the principles of yoga to develop human potential and enhance work satisfaction. Highly recommended.” —Howard C. Cutler, MD, coauthor of The Art of Happiness (with the Dalai Lama)

"Maren and Jamie show that yoga is not just about poses—yoga practice is about creating the stillness of mind that will allow you do the work you were meant to do. Read this book!"
—Russell Simmons, co-founder of Def Jam, author of Super Rich: A Guide to Having It All

Meet the Author

Maren Showkeir and Jamie Showkeir are the principals of Henning-Showkeir & Associates, Inc., a workplace consulting firm. Maren, a certified yoga teacher, has been a committed practitioner for more than fifteen years. Jamie is a longtime meditator and developed an asana practice in 2005. They are the coauthors of Authentic Conversations.

Maren Showkeir and Jamie Showkeir are the principals of Henning-Showkeir & Associates, Inc., a workplace consulting firm. Maren, a certified yoga teacher, has been a committed practitioner for more than fifteen years. Jamie is a longtime meditator and developed an asana practice in 2005. They are the coauthors of Authentic Conversations.

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