Today is the second International Yoga Day. It’s the brainchild of the Prime Minister of India and with the backing of the United Nations, June 21st is now the official day to celebrate this ancient art of creating oneness, flexibility and alignment. Today’s Hindustan Times shows photos of thousands of yoga fans practising outside in large venues all over the world. Perhaps the biggest throngs were in India itself. My particular favourites include pictures of the Navy Chief Admiral (not the UK’s, sorry it’s the Indian Navy); the US Ambassador to India in the Bridge position; the Indian Home Minister doing a good Cobra .. and a tweet from the Indian Navy with their sailors on their yoga mats out at sea. Cool! Yoga has arrived it seems … after its 5,000 year history in India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared that “yoga belongs to the world”.
Personally I love Yoga but why am I talking about it on a leadership blog? Well I think it’s one of the best skills to have as a new leader. Although in India, the home of yoga, virtually all teachers have historically been male, go outside that country and you’ll now see many female yoga teachers leading the way, in fact most yoga students are women. I attend yoga classes all over the world and the average is 10-20% men participating, rarely more, unless …. it’s in San Francisco …..or the hot Bikram yoga which seems to attract many more men, perhaps because it’s more of an active form of the exercise available in urban centres. Who knows?
So women up and down the land have been taking to yoga for a few decades now (find out on the movie Yogawoman) and what it is doing is helping to cultivate a gentle yet forceful inner strength which is what we need. It helps build resilience and it maintains the body’s ability to be flexible. On the basis that our minds and bodies are connected (is there anyone out there who’s not got that message?) flexibility of thinking is definitely a key leadership trait.
And it keeps you well and living longer. Two years ago I had the good fortune to take a class with the world’s oldest yoga teacher Tao Porchon. I interviewed her afterwards and asked her to share her secrets of not only living well to age 94 but also still traveling and teaching at that age. A short video taken from a longer conversation is available here. It is my most watched video of all the interviews that I have posted. Wait for it …. Tao is now aged 97 and still teaching! She has just launched her autobiography Dancing Light.
In our interview, I asked Tao to share her secrets… her are some:
- Breathe. Breath is our life force and puts us in touch with all the good things in life. Truly, don’t forget to breath. When I was in hospital 25 years ago suffering a stress breakdown the first thing they taught me was how to breath.
- No fear. Tao does not allow fear to come into her life. “I start every day knowing it is going to be my best day”.
- Can do attitude. “I don’t let anyone tell me what I can’t do … I am only interested in what I CAN do, and what I haven’t yet arrived at.”
- Don’t hold tight. Take life seriously but let go.
- Don’t procrastinate. Whatever you want to do in life, see it happening and it will happen.
- Be open. Don’t just say this is the only thing I want … good things come while you are waiting for the good thing!
- Be the student. “I have a lot to learn on this ladder and I have not arrived yet” …. so says the woman who is almost 100!
Check out the video interview that I did with Tao (and see above). Watch a video of her teaching … she has quite a web presence if you search and as soon as I have posted this I am going to order her book … that’s when I have got myself out of Warrior pose … see you in Downward Dog folks !