At the insistence of my best friend, who has been my biggest champion since the beginning of this great adventure, I set out this week to reflect on my first full year in business. What seemingly began as an initiative to build the perfect closet turned out to be a more profound journey into the true heart of yoga.
Since we’re a yoga and loungewear boutique, you can imagine how often customers ask me if and where I practice yoga. My answer (as a yoga teacher for the last 8 years): “Yes, this is my first true year of practice, and I do my yoga right here.”
I don’t think I have ever experienced a more challenging and gratifying time in my life, replete with lessons that have only enhanced my ability to maneuver the difficulties and savor the joys. I’ve had to struggle many times against old habits in order to learn to be fully present, surrender to the flow of circumstances, and trust. For the moms out there, sound anything like parenthood?
Opening a business, like starting a family, feels like it should come with a survival guide! I can’t even pretend to have mastered the challenges, but I do want to share my true daily yoga practice that has been born out of this experience. If you follow this practice, I can guarantee you will experience a quantum leap in life satisfaction:
1. Practice gratitude
The easiest thing in the world is to become bogged down by the accumulation of small and large frustrations in our daily life to the point that we lose complete touch with the bigger picture. From a child who isn’t cooperating in putting his shoes on to leave for school to an improperly fulfilled purchase order at work, the little things can unnerve us. Combine these small things with bigger issues, and it becomes easy to lose hope or sink into a funk. I don’t know any business owner or parent who hasn’t at some point been here. The absolute quickest way to rise out of it is to stop for even just a minute and take stock of our blessings. Every day, with regard to my business, I spend a moment reflecting on the miracle of the perfect space I was given to house our first store, my incredibly kind landlord, my beautiful neighboring businesses, the amazingly talented and evolved team of people I have working for me, the warm relationships I have with our vendors, and my wonderful husband, children, parents and friends who have been unceasingly supportive throughout this adventure. The best part? Gratitude has seemed to act like a magnet for even more blessings to flow my way!
2. Be present
The one and only way to actually enjoy anything in life is to be fully conscious in the moment. I don’t know anyone who has perfected this skill, but I do know that life becomes increasingly satisfying in proportion to how often you practice being present. I regularly begin my day with a commitment to myself to slow down both mentally and physically. When I feel my stress levels spiking, I try to notice if I’m ruminating on something from the past or projecting scenarios related to the future. Invariably, when the stress is at its peak, I am anywhere but in the present moment! Something I am trying to work on is not only setting my intention at the start of the day to be present, but stopping at least once an hour throughout my workday for just three minutes. During these three minutes, I close my eyes, pay attention to my breath, and attempt to still my thoughts and just be centered. Regular practice can have a huge cumulative, highly positive impact on everything from your work performance to your relationships to general life satisfaction. Give it a try for just a week, and see what happens!
3. Surrender to the flow
One of the hardest things to do as a human is to let go of our plans. When you finally surrender to the flow and let go, miracles begin to happen. Without a doubt, this may be the greatest lesson to come from my first year in business. There is a wisdom out there in the universe that, at times, may be in conflict with what we think is best for us. Sometimes it is months or years later that we find ourselves marveling at the genius of how everything unfolded, despite what we believed at the time were circumstances that were contrary to our greatest good or made no sense. My motto: set your intention, take the actions necessary to manifest your vision, and then let go and embrace whatever comes your way. This is our guiding philosophy in the work place, and it has led to an energized team that is flexible and highly attuned to and ready to make the most of the amazing opportunities that keep coming our way.
4. Know that life is dynamic
When the going gets tough, the tough remember that life is not static and “this too shall pass.” This is one of those mat-to-real-life lessons, like being in chair pose for what feels like 10 minutes and knowing that child’s pose is just around the corner! If you’re human, you understand the illusion of permanence that can descend on you like a dark cloud when times are challenging. Never, ever forget: life is dynamic, not static. It flows like a river (that, remember, we must surrender to), and this beautiful movement of energy and circumstances never ceases. Enjoy and accept this dance of the universe!
5. Remember to have fun
I am often quoted by my family as saying that you don’t get any extra credit at the end of your life (or even on a daily basis) for being serious and stressed. Anxiety does exactly the opposite of helping to make us more effective. My team and I have worked to create a space where we can be playful and free with our thinking, even within the context of structure and rules. Fun does not have to equate with chaos. When I allow myself to think freely and playfully, I tend to tap into a source of creativity I didn’t even know existed within me. And despite the stressors that will always be part and parcel of being a business owner, I make a conscious decision to succumb to the blessings and joys instead of the challenges. Next time you feel your blood pressure rising over something at home or work, see if you can find even a grain of humor in the situation. Imagine the scene in front of you unfolding as part of a comedic sitcom rather than a melodrama!
A final piece of the puzzle, an attitude that I will continue to try to cultivate every day going forward, is letting go of the need to be “perfect.” Some days my “yoga” practice is advanced, other days, well… not so much! My daughter, who’s currently flying around the house on roller skates, is my muse on this point. She’s sailed into chairs, bumped into the couch, tripped over a pair of shoes—all in the last 30 minutes. She’s still smiling and continues to pop up with a sense of purpose and dedication to growth at this newfound passion. She’s the most advanced yogi I have ever met!