• Heather Lilleston


How Taking The Time for Yoga Increases Productivity

I just don’t have time. Have you ever said to yourself:

“I should meditate, I should go to yoga, but I don't have time.”

Sitting down to meditate or going to a yoga class seems like a big commitment and one many of us don’t have time for. Even hour long yoga classes end up sucking at least 2 hours from our day. 

Yes, it is true that more and more people these days are beginning to make time for the popularly coined term “self-care.” For someone who has been in the “self-care/wellness/yoga” game for almost 20 years now, excuses as to why there isn’t time, or why it’s in the way of other more important tasks at hand, are readily available on any given day. It’s easy to feel like there are more important things than a 30 minute meditation or 2 hours out of your day for yoga.

We need to be productive in work and keeping our households running, and our social lives vibrant, and a quick 20 minute run seems way more realistic and doable. If we don’t sweat or get our heart rates up, it seems like a waste of time and the opposite of productive. 

Sometimes I do agree with this. Cardio activity is important, sweating is important and not over doing self-care is also VERY IMPORTANT. But with the right balance of quiet time, the right balance of slowing something down (which is what the yoga practice offers) and turning our attention to very simple everyday things we ignore like breathing, we can, in time, be more productive then we were before we carved in this quiet time. 

Being productive doesn’t always involve doing, it also requires an un-doing. And this is exactly how yoga can actually help you be more productive, rather than less. Yoga is definitely a total waste of time if you are just crossing something off your list, but if you actually focus on focusing during yoga, then it will evolve and expand your productivity. 

Here are the 4 things the yoga practice highlights in our skill set that lend themselves to better productivity and creativity in the rest of our lives:

1. Being Able to Listen

In a good yoga class, you will be asked to be attentive to the breath rather than relate to it as a habitual activity you don’t need to put effort into. You will also likely be guided in proper alignment, which in turn will support healthy breathing patterns. This will highlight your ability to listen to the breath, which in turn highlights your ability to hear things in general you didn’t before. Our lives of busy-ness and comfort (not needing to “listen” to survive) have diminished our ability to hear between the lines of habitual viewpoints and thought patterns and made our creativity just that much more inaccessible. Without creativity, productivity becomes stagnant - we get stuck in a repetitive pattern that doesn’t welcome a new perspective or evolving views. We hit road blocks and eventually get bored and sometimes even depressed. Keeping a doorway open to listening, to changing one’s perspective, hearing something we didn't before keeps production and creation possible. Working hard then becomes something that revives us, rather than depletes us. Yoga and meditation nurture our innate ability to listen and keep the channels open so what we do with the rest of our lives continues to grow with us and alongside us, instead of become something repetitive and stagnant. 

2. Changing our Relationship to Time

Yoga slows things down. It takes your mind energy and spreads it throughout the body. You aren’t in your head because you have to pay attention to your big toe mound and your tailbone and outer rib cage, and before you know it, instead of the mental dialogue about time, place and momentary experience being the main vehicle of orientation, you are feeling the entirety of your physical form with more evenness and balance then before. Time is a construct of the mind, in order to orient ourselves and measure things, we use the idea of time. And time can get in the way of productivity. If you have ever looked at your to-do list and felt overwhelmed - it’s really the idea of time - the time it takes to do each thing - that feels overwhelming. When you forget time, when you drop away from the mental construct of needing to measure things or categorize experience into how much time it will take, you change your relationship to time. This happens when the majority of your energy is not stuck in the brain itself. Once you start simply doing something, and focus on the task at hand, yes time passes, but often what you get done doesn’t suck up as much time as you thought it would. Concentration and evenness of attention opens up a portal to the realization that time is relative to how you use it.  

3. Narrowing in on the Necessary Actions Needed

Yoga teaches you not to waste time. You learn efficiency and effectivity in action. You can’t waste time or energy moving your foot forward between your hands when you start paying attention to what that movement requires. You learn through practice how to use the entire body evenly so that nothing is overburdened in the body or energy field when making the effort to complete a task. You learn what to engage and what to relax to make actions effective and re-energizing instead of exhausting. This bleeds over into having a clear vision of the necessary actions to take to complete a task at hand, instead of a variety of different approaches that waste a lot of time and energy. When you have access to the exact actions that will get you where you want to go, it’s much easier to get to where you want to go. 

4. Space for Creativity

Have you ever tried to force creativity? Inspiration? Have you ever sat yourself down in front of your computer and tried to force an insight? If you have, like myself, then you know that it doesn’t work that well. Sitting down and trying to squeeze out an insight can eventually lead to an insight - but usually only after you have sat there, tried a million things (opened every book, looked up quotes, free wrote, made a collage, etc) then gotten up and walked away from the project - did the insight arise. A daily yoga and meditation practice offers this space for insight and creativity to arise. If you want to be productive, which requires insight and creativity, then you will need to find a balanced approach to your daily routines. That means combining sitting down and pushing through focused discipline, and then letting it settle for a moment and walking away. Daily practice is a chance to get out of the head and into the body, to keep the channels open to a more equanimous view of whatever the task at hand is. Circulation is key to getting things done in the most thorough and invigorating way. We want the things we do to revive us, to lift us, not to take us down. 

All in all, the key to productivity is balance. If we overdo our approach to anything, it will eventually be the thing that ages us and exhausts us. Productivity requires creativity - open channels to things we didn't see before or hear before. Yoga is about doing the opposite of our habit - so we come out of it more balanced, more even and more available for new perspectives and insights. If you don’t have time for yoga, for putting effort into balancing out your attention and efforts, then whatever project you are feeding will, mark my words, eventually feel burdensome and heavy. Keep in mind, yoga doesn’t always mean down dog either. That can become a habit too. It’s really about keeping yourself engaged in variety - a routine of mixing it up per se - so that whatever activity you are involved in nurtures your growth and the evolution of the world around you. 

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