Mindfulness and Yoga are not for the meek

US_Army_53584_BAGHDAD_-_Capt._Robert_Magill,_the_provost_marshal_office's_long-range_planner,_from_Killeen,_Texas,_does_yoga_exercises_here,_Oct._17,_as_part_of_additional_physical_training_through_a_structured_vid (1)Neuroscience research over the last 10 years has brought to light the positive and lasting effects of mindfulness on mind, body and emotional response.

“A few hours of meditation can change the epigenetics of our brain,” says cognition scientist Richard Davidson.

Brain’s ability to rewire itself in relation to changes in behavior, environment and thinking patterns—or brain plasticity—is heavily impacted by mindfulness practices. Simultaneously, the discovery of the enteric nervous system (or the brain in the gut) has given an entirely new meaning to the mind/body relationship, shedding light on the mechanism by which mind wellbeing positively impacts the body and vice versa.

Business leaders seem to be catching on.

CEOs Mark Bertolini of Aetna and Jeff Weiner of Linkedin swear by the positive impact of yoga and mindfulness on themselves and their organizations. Programs like Google’s “Search Inside Yourself” are sprouting in and out of Silicon Valley. Global gatherings like Wisdom 2.0 are bringing senior executives from the high tech world together with wisdom teachers. Mindfulness is trending up in the Swiss Alps of Davos at the World Economic ForumHarvard Business Review backs the hype with hard science in the recently published article, “Mindfulness Can Literally Change Your Brain.”

Yet, despite all of the above, the mainstream business culture still lingers in a feeling of unease about yoga and mindfulness.

Based on my own leadership experience, I suspect this feeling has roots in a common bias that paints wisdom practices for the meek. I still remember the quizzical stares I was getting from my team when I openly started practicing yoga and meditation on business trips and at corporate events. Eventually that initial reaction melted away when the realization dawned on everyone that the odd stuff I was doing wasn’t making me a weaker leader—actually, quite the opposite. The excellent top and bottom line numbers generated over a streak of four years were only matched by the increase in passion, engagement and accountability from the team.

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