If you have ever been to a yoga class, you know that you are often invited to “take a comfortable seat.” You can sit on the floor or on a yoga block, bolster or zafu meditation cushion, and you are encouraged to choose the position that is most comfortable for you.
Relatively comfortable, that is. Not “cozy all tucked in your bed” comfortable, but the seat that feels most relaxed but allows you to stay alert at the same time.
Many of us, at least in the West, are not as accustomed to sitting without a chair or couch that has a back to rest on. We have do not have our core muscles sufficiently developed to keep our spine straight and pelvis stabilized. As we learn how to engage those muscles, we might be encouraged to imagine the pelvis like a bowl that can be tilted forward or back. Your goal is to find the right angle for proper alignment – keep the pelvic bowl level so you don’t (by analogy) spill the soup!
Yoga teachers, for example, may remind us to extend our spine from our sacrum to the base of our skull and relax our neck so our heads feel like they are simply floating. The image helps you internalize the ease and space you can create for yourself. A key takeaway is that we create much less stress in our bodies if we are in optimum alignment and can relax whatever muscles are not needed to maintain the pose.
That’s what you’ll learn in a yoga class – if you have the right teacher – and you can also learn similar concepts from a physical therapist, chiropractor or other health professional. The point of the comfortable seat in yoga, of course, is to help you free yourself (mind, body and spirit) for the work that you’ll do while seated in the class and be able to take that with you as you move off the mat.
THE “COMFORTABLE SEAT” OF YOUR CAREER
As I mentioned in my first article in this series, Yoga Mantras for the Modern Career is focused on translating yoga wisdom to our professional lives.
We can take the suggestion to “take a comfortable seat” literally, creating an ergonomic workplace and striving for good posture that allows us to relax and our energy to flow freely up and down our spines. That would be a great extension of the yogic wisdom of the phrase.
Yet the concept of the comfortable seat can also be imagined as moving beyond the literal and into the higher plane of how you align yourself professionally. The idea of relaxing while maintaining alertness – holding both of these goals in your mind simultaneously – is the aspect of the comfortable seat that gives us the richest metaphor applicable to our careers.
If you are getting hung up on the words pelvic bowl and spinal alignment, just imagine a cat. They are the masters of relaxed alertness, as they are able to sink comfortably and entirely into a space – as if they have not an ounce of tension in their bodies – yet be on the ready should their environment change on a moment’s notice.
Rather than arriving at a comfortable posture, many of us tilt (our career, if not our pelvis) too far forward or too far back. On the one end, we push too far into the future or in one direction or another, hurried and dissatisfied with ourselves, our choices, responses from others or the progress we have made in our careers. On the other end, we may fail to be sufficiently forward-looking, resting on our laurels or even feeling overwhelmed defeated and therefore falling back in our (again metaphorical) seats. In either case, we are not using our core strength to keep us balanced, centered and at ease.
When we are not setting ourselves up for ease, we need to devote more of our energies to maintaining our current position and have less energy available to access the opportunities that would present themselves if we were in an optimum state. When we are not alert, we can become complacent and miss those opportunities. The wisdom is to find the balance that brings both of these states together.
How can you achieve the optimum state of relaxed alertness in your career?
What would be different if you did?
Anne Marie Segal is an executive coach, resume writer and author of two well-received books on interviewing and career development. She served as a corporate attorney for 15 years, including roles at White & Case LLP and a prominent hedge and private equity fund manager, before launching her coaching practice. In addition to her career coach and resume writer certifications, she is a certified yoga teacher.
Based in Connecticut not far from New York City, Anne Marie partners with clients internationally on executive presence, impactful communications, graceful transitions and other aspects of professional and personal development.
This article is not medical advice. It is career advice!
Second image above copyright 2020 Anne Marie Segal. All rights reserved.