3 Things Injured Yogis and Injured Leaders Might Have in Common

Posted 01.13.2012

For the last two weeks, an article called How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body has been one of the top 10 most e-mailed articles on the New York Times website. When I checked this morning there were 734 comments on the article on the Times’ website. With approximately 20 million yogis in the U.S., the article has definitely struck a nerve (pun somewhat intended).

As many of the commenters point out, there are flaws in the way the article was reported. At the same time, as the article illustrates, you can get injured doing yoga. (This just in, you can also get injured running, lifting weights, doing Jazzercise or just about any other form of exercise.)

As I’ve written here before, I’ve been a regular yoga student for a little over a year now. Happy to report that I haven’t injured myself. To the contrary, I feel a lot better than I did before I started. Still, I can see how you could injure yourself doing yoga. Interestingly enough, some of the root causes of yoga injuries are the same ways you can injure yourself “doing leadership.”

Here are three things that can get you into trouble both on the yoga mat and in your leadership role:

  • Ego – In reading the Times’ article, a lot of the examples of injured yogis stemmed from people pushing themselves beyond their body’s capabilities. I’ve seen plenty of leaders do the same thing. Your ego can talk you into thinking you’re bulletproof and the normal rules don’t apply to you. The fact is they almost always do. It’s just a matter of time.
  • Comparison – It’s tempting in yoga class to sneak a peek at someone a couple of mats over doing some sort of amazing pose and thinking to yourself, “I should be able to do that.” The next thing you know, you’re pushing yourself further than you should and you’ve hurt yourself. Likewise, one of the harder things to do in leadership is play your own game and not jerk yourself around by comparing yourself to others.
  • Not Listening – The yoga version of this source of injury is not listening to your body. If you start to feel pain in a pose, that’s your body’s way of telling you you’ve gone too far and you need to back off. It’s important to listen to that.  The effectiveness of many a leader has been injured by not listening – either to that little voice inside themselves or to the actual voices of others who have a different perspective.

So, for any yogis reading or anyone else who is a devotee of a particular sport or exercise, what have you learned about staying healthy and not injuring yourself? What have you learned from that experience that applies to the healthy practice of leadership?