How Yoga Can Help You Become a Better Leader

And no, I’m not talking about going to your weekly physical yoga class or meditation! Of course, physical yoga practice and meditation may help on your journey to becoming a better leader, but I’m talking about practicing Yogic principles.

Last year, I had an opportunity to manage and lead a small team. I had no management or leadership experience and no formal training on management or leadership.

However, I was able to navigate through the management and leadership challenges and support, guide and develop my team by practicing Yogic principles or Yogic ethical guidelines from the 8-Fold Path (or Ashtanga Yoga in Sanskrit) from the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.

The first two tenets of the 8-Fold Path of Yoga are called Yamas, which focus on our interaction with others, and Niyamas which focus on our inner world and relationship with Self.

In this blog, I would like to focus on the five Yamas – our interaction with others and invite you to reflect on each Yama.

1. Ahimsa: non-violence and non-harming through thoughts, words and actions

Ahimsa essentially means choosing to act with kindness, consideration and respect. Ahimsa guides us to live together without causing harm to others and ourselves.

In the context of leadership and the workplace, we can practice Ahimsa by behaving in a way that minimizes harm or injustice and by creating an equitable and inclusive work environment. But it also means not punishing yourself or self-criticising when you have caused harm, but instead consider how you can repair and respond with kindness and compassion.

Reflections:

Can you recognise violence and harm through your thoughts, words and actions?

How can you be more thoughtful and inclusive towards those you work with?

2. Satya: truthfulness – speak your truth

Satya is the practice of being truthful to yourself and others.

How many of us try to change who we are in order to progress in our careers or in the hope of being recognized, seen and heard?

Or how often do we promise things to others and ourselves and not do it? (I’m guilty of this too!)

In the context of leadership and the workplace, we can practice Satya by bringing our authentic true-self to the workplace every day. Being truthful about what you know and what you don’t know, and walking your talk.

Reflections:

Do your actions align with what you say and think?

How can you lead authentically without changing who you are?

3. Asteya: non-stealing

Astheya essentially means not taking what doesn’t belong to us and also what we don’t need.

This can be stealing others’ time by turning up to meetings late, or stealing others’ attention by speaking too much or taking up too much space in a meeting. Or stealing their confidence by criticising and micromanaging.

It can also be thoughtlessly taking advantage of our privileges we may hold and taking more than we need.

In the context of leadership and the workplace, we can practice Asteya by not stealing from others through time, attention, power, confidence, and not taking credit for others’ work. Instead, recognise, acknowledge and celebrate your colleagues and team’s successes.

Reflections:

What might you be stealing from others through time, attention, power and confidence?

What is the impact of you stealing from others and taking credit for others’ work?

How can you turn this around and to give more than you take?

4. Brahmacharya: non-excess – energy management

Brahamacharya means living a moderate life and living within the limits of enough.

We live in a society where productivity, speed of delivery and high-performance is valued and praised. And being loud, outgoing and taking up space is the way to be recognised and valued.

In the context of leadership and the workplace, we can practice Brahmacharya by slowing down, valuing quality over quantity, and recognising sometimes less is more.

“Inclusive behaviour takes planning, forethought & consideration. When in a rush, we can exclude without realising we are doing so.”

Reflections:

Can you think of a time when you have pushed yourself or your team too hard and this has had a longer term impact?

Can you think of any tasks you have that take far too much time and energy, without adding value, that can be set aside, allowing you to focus on what is really important?

5. Aparigraha: non-greed & non-attachment

Aparigraha encourages us to assess unhealthy attachments, negative thoughts & patterns, fears and desires. We live in a society where people still have a scarcity mindset and are territorial towards their possessions whether that’s their projects, knowledge, skills etc. (I acknowledge that this is written for a privileged perspective).

In the context of leadership and the workplace, we can practice Aparigraha by being generous about sharing knowledge, wisdom, lived experiences and being generous with our time to listen, teach, train and guide others, without any expectation or attached to outcome.

“Take only what we need, keep only what serves us in the moment and to let go when the time is right.”

Reflections:

Can you think of a time when you were too attached to the outcome fast and may have excluded people who could have benefited or added value for being involved?

What can you let go of and allow others to do?

I would love to hear which Yama you feel you are already practicing already and which Yama you feel you need to integrate in your leadership.

If this has got you thinking and want to (re)discover your authentic true-self and re-connect with your inner-wisdom, but you need some support and guidance, I invite you to schedule a free 30 minutes discovery call to find out more about my 1:1 somatic coaching programme. 

Risa Kawamoto (she/her)

Risa Kawamoto (she/her)

Hi, I’m Risa! I’m a Somatic Coach, Yoga Teacher and the host of the Journey Podcast.

I help and guide introverted aspiring or new leaders befriend their self-doubt and inner critic so that they can reconnect with their inner-wisdom and lead authentically, using the powerful tools of  somatic coaching & practices and Yogic wisdom.

I am excited to guide and support you as you begin your journey to discovering your authentic true-self and creating positive ripple effects!