Is there a way to bring yoga into our business or professional life?
Can it be applied to our relationships?
Is it relevant to, say, the way we manage our time or our money?
The Rishis, or sages of ancient India, certainly thought so. They devised the Dharma Code, a yoga system for creating transformative change in our everyday life through the quality of the choices we make. It was originally intended for kings and queens, to help them make wise decisions in ruling kingdoms.
Most people today come to yoga through the yoga mat, practising poses like “Downward Facing Dog” and the “Warrior.” Called asanas, yoga poses are intended to unite breath and body, the physical and the internal. They are vehicles to drive us to a deeper awareness of ourselves.
Of course, yoga is a lot more. Having benefitted from this physical practice, many of us want to look further, keen to find ways to extend yoga into our everyday life. The Dharma Code is an important doorway for this.
Bringing Yoga Into My Working Life.
A few years ago, I was working on a copywriting project for an investment bank. The Vice President of Marketing was friendly, but challenging to work with. If I sent her a sensitive email, she would copy in a list of senior managers in her reply. She also kept changing her plan of action, which made it difficult to keep to schedules or meet deadlines. I could never be sure if she accepted responsibility for this or blamed me. Sometimes I would have to work late into the night to accommodate her shifting deadlines.
One day, I decided it was time to expose the situation. I would send her a carefully worded email about the consequences of her chaotic approach. I would copy in all the senior managers at the company. I drafted the email, and was about to hit the send button.
But I found myself hesitating. It didn’t feel right.
There are certain choices in life that are “difficult.” Often, this is not because we lack the information we need to make them. Neither is it because it’s hard to gauge which option will benefit us more.
Rather, it’s because these choices are defining—they define who we are as human beings.
Making wise choices has always been an essential part of the teachings of yoga. The sacred texts of India sometimes refer to yoga as “skill in action.” The choices we make each day are real opportunities to integrate yoga into our everyday life.
The Dharma Code: Living Skillfully by Making Yogic Choices.
Expressed in its simplest form, the Dharma Code is four timeless yoga principles that manifest excellence through “right action”—action that leads to optimal outcomes.
These are Truth, Purity, Non-violence and Discipline.
Traditionally, in India, before even attempting yoga poses, the student would cultivate habits of excellence (known in yoga teachings as yama and niyama), among which these four principles of Dharma feature prominently and are especially important in decision-making.
Applying the Dharma Code in our everyday life leads to mindfulness and to the unfolding of our potential.
One reason we don’t often realize these results fully through the choices we make is that we don’t usually apply all four Dharma principles together. We apply one of them, or at best two, which is like pushing down on the acceleration pedal of a car while simultaneously leaving three handbrakes partially on. The secret is to apply all four yoga principles, simultaneously.
Directing Your Life Using Yoga and the Dharma Code.
Coming back to the Vice President whom I found challenging. Was it time to expose the situation? The principle of Truth seemed to require it. But why did I find myself hesitating? Why didn’t it feel right? I turned to the Dharma Code.
It dawned on me that while I was privileging Truth, I was ignoring Non-violence. My email was polite and professional; but my intent was aggressive. So often we can hide our aggression behind a veneer of professionalism. How would the Vice President feel being exposed in this way before other senior managers of the company?
In empathising, I began to recognise the many challenges she might be facing. She was new to the organisation, and investment banks are known for their strongly male-dominated culture. The work I was involved in was probably only a small fraction of her many responsibilities. I now found myself revising what I had earlier regarded as indubitable Truth.
I decided to write to all the senior managers, but instead of criticising, I praised her for her work. I expressed my genuine appreciation for her achievements in what were sometimes fairly challenging circumstances.
What a joy it was to send that email. And what a difference this made to our working relationship. It built trust. It made it easier for me to speak honestly to her. It also generated immense vitality in our working relationship.
Truth, Purity, Non-violence and Discipline are dynamic qualities that I actively cultivate in my life. These principles are potent “change agents” that help us engage with life in a way that generates vitality and brings us closer to our full potential.
The Dharma Code is a system for directing our life more consciously and for addressing life’s more difficult decisions—those that define who we are as human beings. When these defining moments present themselves, we have an opportunity to deepen our yoga practice.
By being mindful when making choices, we can take our yoga practice beyond the yoga mat and make it a guiding life practice.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Emily Bartran