Yoga and Other Drugs

Lately I have been thinking a lot about what is the meaning of yoga. What does it mean to me, since I am aware that it means different things to each and every one of us. I also watched the documentary ‘Who owns yoga’ by Al Jezeera, which is definitely a must see for everyone interested in the development of yoga and the modern perspectives on it.

This line of thought took me back to basics, so I did some more research on the philosophies behind the yoga practice:

  • The Yamas – they relate to what we should stop doing, in order to live in harmony with ourselves and those around us.
    • Ahimsa – refers to not practicing violence, in words, thoughts or deeds.
    • Satya – is related to always being truthful
    • Asteya – focuses on not stealing; it doesn’t only refer to material items, but also to stealing people’s spotlight, time or energy
    • Brahmacarya – is related to being moderate and controlling our human impulses of excess
    • Aparigraha – instigates to not hoard or possess, cultivate generosity and be helpful and giving towards others
  • The Niyamas – what we commit to ourselves
    • Saucha – being clean. Through the asana practice, the body is purified. More to this, this Niyama relates to eating mindfully and paying attention to what we read or watch
    • Santosha – being contempt with what you have and practicing gratitude
    • Tapahs – discipline and effort. Learning to work hard for your achievements
    • Svadhyaya – studying and loving yourself.
    • Isvara pranidhana – surrender to a higher force, or devotion to your practice. This is related to seeing outside your ego, and spreading love in the universe.

I believe these teachings to be truly beautiful. In a world that values individuality, career prosperity and material possessions, it is refreshing to take a moment and reflect on how we want our path to be. There are many voices out there saying that yoga is much more than asana, and that, as you practice, you cannot help but embrace some of the yoga philosophy. Do you agree?

The above mentioned documentary went from bodybuilders that make their living out of yoga because it’s the trend of this century and an easy source of income, to traditional teachers who still believe that yoga is rooted in hindu thought and that practicing just asana is not yoga. But in the end, who is entitled to define it? I believe we can all attribute our own definitions to it, according to what works for us, and where our personal journey has taken us. I also firmly believe that no one can say what yoga is not. May it be just asana, or may it be practicing while also enjoying a steak or a glass of wine from time to time. And I believe that all those practices the so-called ‘yogis’ have been frowning upon are nevertheless still yoga practices.

So what does yoga mean?

For me, it is balance. Tolerance. Gratitude. Shutting down the ego, when all it would do is harm. Accepting who you are, and who those around you are, and listening to what they can teach you. Silencing the mind when it wants to achieve physical goals (now!) and understanding that many things take practice, and other might never come easy. Appreciating what you have and being happy to be alive, to have a ray of sun caressing your cheek or a warm hug from somebody close. And most of all, remembering who the person you want to be is, and forgiving yourself when you stray away from this idealistic version of yourself. If you are ashamed or sad about your actions, this means you care, you acknowledge, and you learn. Be easier on yourself and try again tomorrow.

What about you? Feel free to share what your yoga practice means for you!

Is There Such Thing as Work-Life Balance?

We want to have it all – a balanced life, with a successful career, a warm family, great friends and hobbies and some time for ourselves. But is it truly possible, or is it just an urban myth? Can we actually achieve work-life balance?

A short and witty video from The School of Life tends to argue we cannot:

They argue in the video that, while we can juggle many balls in the air in the same time, we cannot devote the same resources to multiple areas, at the same intensity. So we can have perfectly fine careers and private activities, but having it all is an utopia.

Let’s look at some successful people and their family lives:

  • Albert Einstein – the developer of the theory of relativity. He was married twice, once for 16 years and the second time for 17, until his wife Elsa died. He had 2 sons with his first wife. In terms of hobbies, he had time to enjoy sailing and play the violin.
  • Roger Federer – one of the best tennis players in history, is married since 2009 with Mirka Vavrinec. They have together two sets of twins, two girls and two boys.
  • Barack Obama – president of the US. He is for sure a very busy person. He has been married with Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama since 1992, and they have two girls together. He is very fond of exercising and a Harry Potter fan.
  • Bill Gates, the man behind Microsoft, is as well happily married to Melinda Gates since 1994. They have three kids together. He is an avid bridge player, and loves tennis in his spare time.
  • Oprah Winfrey – America’s first lady of talk shows. She has been dating Stedman Graham since 1986, but stated she will never marry him.

To read more about interesting hobbies of CEOs, check this article.

We can, of course, not know what is happening behind closed doors. Public figures show themselves in the best light. However, many successful persons appear to be supported by loved ones, more or less publicly. People get married, people build families. Is it a requirement of our society or is it just because we simply operate better with a strong support system behind us? We do need love around to feel accomplished.

There is also this myth of people who want to focus 100% on their careers and state they don’t have enough time for fruitful relationships. Yes, fitting everything in your life can be tricky, but with the right person by your side and great time management skills, it can be done. Communication is the key – setting expectations and investing in your loved one as much as possible in the spare time. This way, they would feel wanted and respected, and they will support you in your actions.

LifebalanceSome say that if you want a successful career, you should make sacrifices in your workplace. That building a strong, happy family requires you to put less hours at the office. Is this the real issue, or the fact that our competitive market has made it so difficult to keep our work during working hours? 8 hours per day – isn’t that enough? Do we work so long hours because there is so much work to do, or because our productivity levels are very low, and we spend long breaks scrolling social media?

It depends from case to case, and there are many careers that do require extensive work. However, all normal jobs offer free time and holidays, and finding a balance should be possible. Especially for successful, well-positioned people, that have the resources to hire help. Can it be that you work so long hours because you haven’t been introduced to the wonders of delegating? Invest some time into finding a skillful right hand, that can make your life easier. Learn to trust this person and leave earlier on a Friday to spend more time with your loved ones.

I am a firm believer that you can have it all. Looking around, I see it happening – my grandma is my greatest example. She had a wonderful, long marriage, two healthy kids, a great accounting carreer and wonderful friends. She retired in her 60s, and was then asked back to work for 10 extra years. She raised my mother and my uncle to be successful professionals. She loved my grandfather until the end and raised me, her granddaughter, untul school years. She would regularly meet her friends for rummy on Sundays, and she’s the most amazing cook ever. How did she do it all? Great organization skills, supportive family, and resillience. And last, but not least – by not wondering whether it can be done, but just doing it instead.

This is for her, Eleonora – my rolemodel.