Leadership and Yoga

PRASHANT V. JOSHI

Yoga is about creating harmony at all levels of our existence – physical, emotional, social and spiritual. Leadership is about having the vision and direction for the betterment of a cause and executing the same, time and again. We will define the attributes of a leader using the yogic definitions, principles and practices, thus establishing an inseparable connection between the two. We know from history about the contribution of
good leaders and the bad. It’s like the difference between ignorance and bliss, war and peace, or life and death. By understanding and practicing yoga, we feel that we can create better leaders at all levels and in all fields, creating social harmony from the individual to the community, and within the larger community – the entire world. History has shown that yogic principles and practices can benefit mankind; so, if we put this age old science of yoga to use, we can create better leaders to serve the seven billion people of the world and in turn, help us become a world full of harmony, health and happiness!

Mahatma Gandhi once said,“Leadership my way is to stand behind the people I am leading.” Mahatma Gandhi was a student of yoga. He used the yogic principles of non-violence (Ahimsa); truth (Satya); steadfastness (Sthita-pradnyata); and the yogic practices of meditation (Dhyana), silence (Mauna) and chanting (Bhajans) effectively. To stand behind to lead forward the masses on the right path takes certain attributes.

L for Level-headed: Samatvam yoga uchyate. “Evenness of Mind is Yoga,” says Lord Krishna to Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita. The true test of leadership comes during crisis. How to remain even-keeled despite the chaos and panic is very important, so rational decisions may be taken. Yogic practices of Pranayama, Shavasana and Dhyana are practical tools to help us build and enhance level-headedness. Consistent practice trains the body and mind to function efficiently despite the adverse situations. As we increase our ability to listen to our own body and mind, listening to the masses becomes easier. There is a reason why we have two ears and one mouth. We should listen twice as much as we speak!

E for Efficient: Yogaha karmasu kaushalam. Another quote from the Bhagavad Gita defines yoga as “efficiency in action.” Efficiency is an important attribute of a leader. Someone has said, “Managers do things right whereas leaders do the right thing.” It is not about doing the ten given tasks, but it is about optimizing and doing them in just five. Efficiency comes through careful analysis and action. Yoga makes your body and mind more efficient so that energy is conserved and used efficiently to wards the crisis in hand. We are all focused on making our cars, houses and environment more efficient, but we forget to restore the efficiency of our own body and the mind. Health care can be made more efficient if proper yoga practice is prescribed and practiced.

A for Aware: Taralata – sensitivity. Leaders are expected to solve the problems and intervene in crisis. If we are aware of the root of the problem at hand, solving it becomes easier. Developing awareness is to figure out how to get to the root of any problem. We are a very busy society with no time for self-awareness. Yoga helps tremendously in increasing the sensitivity of your body and mind, so that you are aware when it is sick, hungry, tired, and so on. A leader with a heightened sense of awareness can do wonders for society. Pre-emptive actions can be taken before crisis is developed and escalated at all levels.

D for Daring: Dhairya – courage. A good leader should dare to do the right thing which may not necessarily be the most popular thing to do. To stand up against a bully—whether the bully is an individual, a community or a nation— requires tremendous courage. Yoga practice makes your body and mindstrong so that it does not fall prey to internal and external bullies. A weak mind succumbs to temptations. A weak body succumbs to diseases. Yoga makes you strong and at the same time keeps you soft, so courage and compassion can co-exist. With a regular practice of Pranayama, you can conquer anxiety.

E for Exemplary: The only way to lead is by example. Leadership is not just talking about these attributes, but putting them into action as well. To motivate people to lead a life full of purpose, energy and vitality, the leader needs to exhibit those qualities through his or her actions. Consistent yoga practice helps you to be energetic and that energy can be used efficiently.

The attributes of a leader are: Level-headed: Samatvam yoga uchyate Efficient: Yogaha karmasu kaushalam Aware: Taralata – sensitivity (quality of a yogi) Daring: Dhairya – courage (quality of a yogi) Exemplary: The only way to lead is by example Righteous: Dharmam Chara – do the right thing

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