The Yoga of Productivity, Part 2: Awareness and Allowing | Steve's Quest: The Animated Musical Web Series

The Yoga of Productivity, Part 2: Awareness and Allowing

In the last post in this series (over at Urban Monk), I talked about some yoga asanas, or poses, that can help us restore our focus and motivation as we work — without even getting up from our desks.  In this article, I’ll speak more generally about how yoga helps us develop what I call Awareness and Allowing — two capacities that are key to giving us the efficiency and enjoyment we want in what we do.

1.  Awareness. Almost immediately, when I started doing yoga, I became much more attuned to the sensations coming up in my body.  I noticed all this tension, tingling, heat and so on that I hadn’t been conscious of before.

Another thing I began to notice was that certain sensations would come up right before I’d find myself procrastinating or putting off a project.  I’d start getting this antsy, jittery feeling in my arms and legs, as if there were some danger I needed to run from, and then I’d find myself checking e-mail or pursuing some other distraction.

I eventually realized that I was putting off my work because I didn’t want to experience those antsy feelings.  Because I found those sensations disturbing and uncomfortable, I’d fallen into the habit of checking e-mail, surfing the Web or doing something else to distract myself from them.

Understanding that those jittery feelings were what I was trying to escape helped put my procrastination in perspective.  If discomfort in my body was really all I was running from, why was I running at all?  Wasn’t moving forward in my projects more important to me than avoiding those sensations?

Of course, yoga isn’t the only way to develop Awareness — you don’t need to learn to contort your body into a pretzel shape to be aware of the sensations you’re feeling.  :)  A simpler approach, in my experience, is to pause whenever you find yourself about to put off a task, and just bring your awareness into your body and notice what’s coming up.

2.  Allowing. If you’ve done yoga, I imagine you’ve had the experience of getting into a pose that involved a really deep stretch, and brought up intense sensations.  Perhaps you stayed in the pose, despite its intensity.  And when you did, you noticed the sensations becoming more comfortable and less threatening.

By Allowing, I mean just that — staying with an uncomfortable sensation that’s coming up, rather than resisting or fleeing from it.  This attitude of Allowing, I think, isn’t just for the time we spend on the yoga mat or the meditation cushion — it’s also very helpful in our working lives.

Suppose, for example, you’re working on a project and you start getting bored.  Most of us would react to that boredom by doing something to “take the edge off” — maybe playing a few hands of Solitaire on the computer, messing around on social media, and so on.

What if, instead, we chose to stay with that feeling — breathe, relax our bodies, and just allow the sensations to wash over us?  What if we decided, instead of pushing our boredom away, to get intimate and familiar with it?

The biggest benefit of learning to Allow the discomfort that comes up as we work is that it gives us control over our own schedules.  Most of us are like Pavlov’s Dogs, automatically turning away from our work whenever unpleasantness arises.  Developing the ability to drop our resistance to that unpleasantness, and keep moving forward, helps put us in charge of what and how much we get done.

16 thoughts on
The Yoga of Productivity, Part 2: Awareness and Allowing

  1. Davina

    Chris, I’ve gone through phases in my life where I do yoga for extended periods of time and then I drift away from it.

    I remember one particular pose; just sitting actually, with my legs crossed to do the nasal breaths that this particular class practiced. We’d sit for more than 10 minutes and after about 5 my legs started to fall asleep. It was SO uncomfortable getting up and trying to walk… almost painful. After a while of persevering, the discomfort stopped.

    I love your suggestion of staying with the discomfort and letting the sensations wash over us. I know when I’ve practiced yoga and I fight the sensations, they just get more uncomfortable.

  2. Hilary

    Hi Chris .. the thought of becoming pretzel shape is a bit daunting .. but I’m going to start doing some yoga .. once I’m out of where I am on now! Lots going on but all leading to a better clearer life .. that will allow time for yoga and Pilates .. and walking etc .. so pretzel time is a-coming.

    Absolutely … another A – start, face whatever we need to do – focus while doing it .. then move on and do the next thing, make a to do list the night before and then Absolutely Allow our Awareness to move on and succeed as we progress through life.

    Thanks Chris .. good thoughts .. Pretzel will always stay with me now! not being the most flexible at any stage .. have a good weekend .. Hilary

  3. Chris - Post author

    Hi Davina — that’s amazing, isn’t it, that those sensations we think might destroy us end up passing away when we’re willing to stay with them. And it’s the same way with anger, sadness, and so on — those pass away as well when we drop our resistance to them, rather than distracting ourselves from them or doing stuff to “take the edge off” and so on.

  4. Chris - Post author

    Hi Hilary — I laughed when you said “pretzel time is a-coming.” I hope you enjoy it. The idea of absolutely allowing what’s coming up sounds liberating to me — just diving into it without reservation. It can be hard but I think it’s rewarding.

  5. Molly

    One of my favorite words—–allow. It sinks in like the layers of the onion being peeled back, doesn’t it. And I recently did get back into yoga after a 2-3 year hiatus. Though I have a strong sitting practice, the physical yoga definitely helps.

    thanks for this post.

  6. Jannie Funster

    A friend of mine just finished her yoga training. We talked at length about yoga and how it really is an integrated whole, as we are — mind, spirit and body. I look forward to taking some of her training.

    This reminds me how great your book is, how it really all is inner.


  7. Chris - Post author

    Hi Molly — good to see you again. I liked what you said about peeling back the layers of the onion — I see this a lot firsthand when I’m working with people — allowing the difficult feeling to be there, just letting yourself be fully aware of its existence, is often what has it dissipate.

  8. Wilma Ham

    Allowing, awareness, for me it is about honesty and oh Chris, for a long time my dishonesty paid off better than my owning up. It is good though to gently be guided back to honesty and telling me that honesty and allowing doesn’t hurt. To own up that I am bored and allow it and no longer be afraid of it.
    To own up that I am scared and noticing I do not have to be afraid of that either and nobody will pounce on me.
    For me I made those feelings bad for one reason or another, so I ignored them as one does.
    And after all that nothing is ever as bad as it seemed, indeed what a waste of productive time.

  9. Chris - Post author

    Hi Wilma — yeah, I can get how that would create suffering to deny that you’re bored or afraid — it sounds like that would take a ton of effort! And an amazing thing that I’ve seen is that, when people acknowledge their fear or boredom, that’s often what tends to have those sensations pass away.

  10. Patricia

    I am so enjoying my yin-yoga classes and wish I had the funds to take some other kinds of yoga too – I am using the discomfort to get awareness about what I am feeling when I am eating – can I stay in the feeling, is it an old story being replayed, or is my body just wanting to numb the pain. By allowing the feelings to have names and recognition, I can decided just what to do next – and whether or not this is real hunger for fuel or to handle something else emerging.

    Thank you for this post…it was very helpful for me to read -Thank you too for your good comments on my blog- they are greatly appreciated

  11. Evelyn Lim

    I can definitely understand about the ansy feeling. I experience that every now and then. Doing a lot of small things and just trying to procrastinate doing the real work. As you mentioned, awareness helps me to shake out of this mode and get started on what is important.

  12. Chris - Post author

    Hi Mark — what you said reminded me of something I once heard from a yoga teacher, which is that “yoga is practice for the rest of our lives.” If we can bring the same attitude of allowing sensations to arise to other parts of our lives, we can make progress in those areas even in the face of discomfort.

  13. Chris - Post author

    Hi Patricia — I think eating is a great area to bring this kind of awareness to — I know that, like you say, many people eat to fill a sense of inner emptiness that seems to go beyond mere hunger — and in my experience, when I’m feeling that emptiness and I bring my full attention to it, it ceases to seem so threatening.

  14. Chris - Post author

    Hi Evelyn — that sounds like valuable awareness — I get the sense that a lot of people are not aware of the antsy feeling, but only that they’re not getting as much done as they’d like. But like you say, when you’re willing to let yourself experience the antsiness, you can choose to move forward in your work even when it’s coming up.

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