Monday, November 29, 2010

Top 5 Reasons Wall Street Needs Yoga

We all know about the financial crisis.  Pundits spend hours analyzing what got us here, who is at fault and when we will rise again.  There are those that are pointing fingers.  This is for the ones being pointed at. 

I spoke with representatives of the "pointed" both on and off Wall Street.  One thing they all have in common- and this comes as no surprise- they are all stressed.  This is not news to me, of course, but I realized how vital and life saving the simple practice of yoga can be.  For all of us.  If the people who deal with our money and have an undeniable impact on our economy are healthy in mind, body and spirit, we all stand to benefit. 

Mark Nordlicht, founder of Platinum Partners, a New York based hedge fund, shared his experience with a corporate yoga session. 
"At first, I was hesitant.  Anyone will tell you that we don't have much "free time" in our day.  I wasn't convinced that doing a down-dog was going to improve our output." 
Ultimately, Mark, along with his managing partner, Uri Landesman came around.  Mark concedes:
"Two minutes into the breathing exercises I completely felt my shoulders relax.  I never had the time or space to notice my shoulders creeping up to my ears!" 
Mark and Uri said their employees went back to work for the "two o'clock push" with enriched vigor.  The employees of Platinum Partners are looking forward to their next session.  And the yoga instructor who offered the class admits that "a roomful of men in suits" can be intimidating, but you'd be surprised how flexible these suits really are!

Well, here they are. 
The Top 5 Reasons
Wall Street Needs Yoga

1.  No one knows how to hedge better than a Yogi.
A yogi is always in pursuit of balance.  Yogis live by the philosophy of Yin-Yang.  They can find both the softness and the strength in a pose on the  mat and in life off the mat.  Yoga teaches you to work to the point of discomfort but not pain, and when you reach your absolute edge, yoga reminds you to... 

2. B-R-E-A-T-H-E.
Learning to manage stress may be one of life's great challenges.  For those with a stressful job and/or home life you may be thinking, "I don't have TIME to learn how to manage stress.  I just manage."
Having a regular yoga practice will ingrain this life-saving skill so deep into your being that you won't even realize you are spending time doing it.  Breathing.
If you have ever had one of these moments, you may be in need of this simple reminder:
Waiting for THAT call.  You know the one.  The one that either makes today the day you will never forget, or the day you will spend the rest of your life trying to forget.
It is your kid's theatrical debut- he's the tree in the Thanksgiving play.  The tree?!  And you, of course, are attending to your work duties.  Why should you have to explain yourself AGAIN-- this is your job. Your family depends on it. 
If you see one more article, blog, commentator or politician blaming the industry, or worse, you, for being greedy, dishonest or criminal, you'll just... you'll just...
BREATHE.  Be. Here. Now.  Take a deep breath.  Start with one.  Then two, three.  A few deep breaths can mean the difference between totally losing your shit AGAIN and taking years off your life, OR finding some serenity for a moment and potentially prevent damaging domestic, business or personal turbulence.

3. Be Flexible.  Stay Strong.
You carry enough weight.  What will benefit you most is finding a healthy way to carry the weight you already own.  Yoga has been known to lengthen and strengthen muscles at the same time.  So when you are feeling low back pain from driving in traffic, sitting in a chair all day, or just stress, did you know that some simple poses could help you build the strength AND flexibility your low back and abs need in order to sit comfortably?  And no, by comfortably, I don't mean with your legs behind your head like a pretzel.  One step at a time.

4. Intuition and Ethics.
Yoga practitioners are not perfect at Yoga (or anything else!).  This is why Yoga is always referred to as a "practice."  Two things Yogis are constantly working toward is tuning in with their own mind/body connection (intuition) and living a life true to the Yamas (principles). If one follows the Yamas-- truthfulness, non-harming, non-stealing, greedlessness, and sexual responsibility-- they are including these outward practices in their daily life.  For many, the practice of Yoga only begins on the mat.  It is how you integrate that practice into your life off of the mat that determines how advanced of a Yogi you become.  Hedge fund managers are especially notorious for their intuition.  Of course they have to be in tune!  No one knows how they determine the investment opportunities that will be best for their clients-- it must be intuition!  What better way to hone that skill than to practice it each day for an hour and a half?

5. Meditate.
"How do you do that?"  I could explain it to you, but you still wouldn't understand.  You just have to be involved in order to get it.  Most likely your family or friends not in the industry have asked you  what you actually do.  You may have launched into a lengthy description of your daily tasks, detailing the ins and outs of your week only to recognize that all too familiar look of "huh?" on your brother-in-law's face.  This experience alone gives you an insight into what meditation is all about.  You just have to do it.  There may be someone playing the role of your guide, but ultimately, you follow your instincts just like you did on your first day in the office.  Once you realize this, meditation is not easy, but it is available.  Just two of the many benefits of meditation that will enhance your output:  normalizes blood pressure, and strengthens immune system.  Feel better, work better!

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