What Leaders Can Learn from Yoga 

Janina AbilesSeason 5Episode 1


Janina Abiles is an independent talent & organizational development consultant with over 17 years of experience. She talks about her experiences as a yoga instructor and practitioner, and about how yoga can be help create better leaders.


Janina Abiles

Janina Abiles

Strategic Talent and Culture Leader

Janina Abiles is a seasoned learning and development professional with more than 17 years of experience. She has led projects spanning the full cycle of talent development from orientation for new hires to leadership courses for senior leaders. Janina has led teams of learning and organizational development professionals and overseeing the creation of programs, right from inception. She has played a role in the orchestration of company-wide engagement surveys, performance evaluations, talent reviews, and 360 degree leader feedback.

Janina has worked across multiple industries, most recently as director of leadership development for a regional bank, and she’s currently working independently and is available for learning projects.


Janina Abiles (00:00:00):
When you can control the breath, you can control pretty much anything. You can control your reactions, you can control your stress levels, you can control how you are feeling, you can control the heat in your body. And when I think about how that could apply in a work setting, I think about it not only in the preparation mode. So, hey, I know this is gonna be a really tough day. I'm going into, you know, preparing for the fact that I have some difficult news to deliver to my team, for example.
Troy Blaser (00:00:36):
Hello. Welcome to Simply Feedback, the Monthly podcast, brought to you by LearningBridge. I'm your host Troy Blaser, and I am excited today to continue a conversation, actually. So in our last episode, we spoke with Janina Abiles, who's a learning and development professional. And we talked all about all kinds of things regarding feedback and leadership. But one of the interesting things that I learned about Janina was that she is also a yoga instructor. And we asked her a question in the last episode about, you know, if there are principles in yoga that would apply to feedback or receiving feedback to leadership. And Janina's first response to that was that she had been waiting for someone to ask her a question like that for a long time, which was an unusual intro to a response. And so I thought, you know, that's really interesting.
Troy Blaser (00:01:28):
And there may be more to explore there if we have a certified yoga instructor. Let's have Janina come on and let's talk about yoga and its relationship to feedback and leadership in the workplace. So we're excited to bring Janina back for our conversation today. And to add another little twist into the conversation today, I asked our longtime producer and my longtime colleague, Michael Crowther, to join us in the conversation as well, today. Most of the time when we record an episode of this podcast, Michael is muted in the background, helping manage things and make sure everything goes smoothly. But I thought since today's topic was just a little bit different, and knowing that he's also has an interest in yoga and knowing that he has a lot to offer around feedback and leadership as well, I thought it would be interesting for us to try having a kind of a three person conversation today, and we'll see how that goes. So, Janina, welcome to our episode today. I'm excited to have you.
Janina Abiles (00:02:32):
Troy. Thanks so much for having me. And to your point, I actually am super excited to talk about this. And you know, the other thing I was thinking about as you were just doing the introduction is it's so rare that I actually talk about yoga. Usually you're just, you're doing it or you're teaching and but the opportunity to actually talk about it in a fairly kind of thoughtful way, and in a way that's a little bit unique and different. Because it's not just about, you know, the yoga or the practice, but as it relates to things like leadership and feedback, it's kind of a different twist on that. So I'm excited to be here. Thanks for having me.
Troy Blaser (00:03:06):
Maybe we should have started with a small session of a practice of some yoga. Michael, I wanted to bring you into the conversation as well. Welcome. And you're always here, but welcome audibly to the conversation today.
Michael Crowther (00:03:20):
Yeah, that's right. Thanks. Its fun to be here and be on this side of the microphone, I guess. And, so I am looking forward to this conversation with Janina. I think there's some interesting points that we can learn from.
Troy Blaser (00:03:34):
Yeah. Janina, you know, before we started recording today, you had kind of asked me and asked Michael what our experience is with yoga. So I thought maybe we could just review that quickly for your sake and for the sake of our listeners, and I'll just start by saying, the short answer is I have a little bit of experience with yoga, and that's in the form of you know, part of a larger workout that I might do something like 21 Day Fix where I do a yoga session once a week. But it's, it's kind of just a video, so it's kind of repeating the same thing every week. I have explored yoga with Adrian on YouTube. My wife recommended me to watch some of her YouTube videos. It was a time when I had some lower back pain and there's like "Yoga for Lower Back Pain," and I'm like, well, I'll try that out and see how that helps me out. So that's kind of the extent of my experience. I haven't ever even signed up for a class, you know, to do it with a group of people. I haven't done that before.
Janina Abiles (00:04:37):
Yeah. What about you, Michael?
Michael Crowther (00:04:39):
Yeah, and so mine's kind of similar and, really the extent of, it's probably one we have this, basically it's a kid's yoga mat, right? And it's got like 10 poses that it shows on the mat. And those are mostly worn out at this point, but, they're harder to see and what their names are. But mostly, what I have done is kind of like Troy, about 10 years ago as I was training for a half marathon, I started, I had some knee pain that I was struggling with and it kind of persisted through the year. And then I got sick with a bad cold. I wasn't running or anything, and I thought, okay, I need to take advantage of this break and I'm gonna do something different. And so I just found some on YouTube, you know, yoga for runners kind of a thing. And so I was just doing a lot of that while I was just sort of resting, recuperating, and there's a number of those things that I still incorporate into my morning, you know, my pre-run stretch routine and stuff. So, I wouldn't say that it's a complete practice, you know, and stuff, but there, it has definitely influenced my pre-run routine for sure.
Janina Abiles (00:05:55):
Yeah. I just was gonna comment that it's interesting that both of you kind of came to it sounds like for a specific, you know, like my knee, my lower back, and, you know, yoga for runners, yoga for athletes.
Michael Crowther (00:06:06):
Janina Abiles (00:06:06):
Yoga for whatever, weightlifters, marathoners, triathletes. And so now I think the next phase of it to me is like yoga for leadership.
Troy Blaser (00:06:17):
True. Right.
Janina Abiles (00:06:18):
I would like us to get to, because I really do, I firmly believe that people that take up a regular yoga practice and truly embody it, not just physically, but that the mental aspects of it actually will improve their leadership skills. Like I really believe that. So I'd love to get to a point where we have that.
Troy Blaser (00:06:37):
Yeah. And it sounds like Michael and I both came kind of from the physical side of things, like how can yoga benefit me physically? But as you're kind of alluding to, there's a whole world of mental benefits and philosophy and principles that are, at least for me and for Michael, waiting to be discovered, right?
Janina Abiles (00:06:55):
Michael Crowther (00:06:56):
Yeah. Well, and with that in mind, I'd be kind of, again, it's a whole big philosophy. I'm sure, but if you can kind of give us the, you know, a quick intro into sort of what is that philosophy for people to be aware of?
Janina Abiles (00:07:12):
Yeah. So I think if we just start with a sort of this, how does yoga help you be a better leader, right? So I think in general, any kind of practice that helps you to move better or breathe better has a positive impact on your brain and nervous system, right? I'm not a doctor, I'm not, I don't know any of those things like in, in grave detail, but we do know, I think that's kind of common knowledge that when you're taking care of your body and your brain, that leads to things like better decision making and your ability to respond versus react, right? Which are important things for leaders. Beyond that as you just mentioned, Troy, and I think you mentioned too, Michael, there's the, beyond the kind of physical and physiological, there's the philosophical, which is that there's lessons that you learn on the mat when you're taking a yoga class, whether it's an in-person with a group of people or a virtual. And those things that you learn are practices that encourage you typically to focus inward. So it's, you know, clearing your mind and doing self-reflection. And once again, I think those are things that we commonly know can help you in leadership, you know, situations and leadership skills. So to me, that's kind of the broad, the really broad brush of how I think it can help somebody in their leadership.
Troy Blaser (00:08:33):
It's interesting still thinking of the physiological benefits, you know, well, I'll be quite honest, I would be celebrating my 50th birthday here in a few weeks. So getting older, and, you know, I talked about having lower back pain last year, and I realized there's, you know, there's the stereotype of the grouchy old man. Not that I feel like I'm old, but when somebody is experiencing kind of this low level chronic pain, it makes them irritable, right? And so if you think about a business leader who's suffering from an injured knee or a, you know, a hurt back, they're going to be less fun to interact with in the workplace just because they're slightly irritated or grouchy or, you know. And so even at the very, the very easiest physiological level, if you can, if yoga is something that can help your body feel better, you're going to be making better decisions with your mind because you're not focused on this, this sort of low level pain that's going on all the time.
Janina Abiles (00:09:35):
Yeah, absolutely.
Troy Blaser (00:09:37):
But let's talk for just a minute about or let's get into more of the mental and psychological and philosophical ideas that could apply more directly to business decision making. Apart from the physiological benefits, what are some tips or some more specific principles that you learn in yoga that would apply in, in leadership or in a feedback situation?
Janina Abiles (00:10:02):
Yeah, so I think this is probably both physiological and, kind of mental or emotional, which bright, 'cause those things overlap too. So if we start with, again, something pretty basic. Breathing exercises. I think I didn't learn breathing exercises until I started doing yoga. And there probably are other people that do learn breathing exercises because of, for example, other fitness that they do. You know, if you're a runner, if you're a swimmer, you probably learn those things. I didn't do any of those things. And I think for, maybe for people that have, anxiety or, you know, some other kind of challenges that they're dealing with, they may have learned, again, breathing exercises. I personally did not until I started doing yoga, but what I have learned in that process is that, you know, when you can control the breath, you can control pretty much anything.
Janina Abiles (00:10:52):
You can control your reactions, you can control your stress levels, you can control how you are feeling, you can control the heat in your body. And when I think about how that could apply in a work setting, I think about it not only in the preparation mode, so, hey, I know this is gonna be a really tough day. I'm going into, you know, preparing for the fact that I have some difficult news to deliver to my team, for example. Or I've been putting off this conversation I know I have to have with someone, or, right, that's kind of the prep. So maybe I'm gonna do some breathing exercises, because it actually taps into calming your nervous system, which going back to kind of what you were saying, Troy, if your nervous system, your brain, your body are just in a better state, you're gonna be able to have a better conversation as a leader, whether it's delivering bad news, whether it's just not being grouchy when somebody comes and asks you for additional funding or whatever, you know, it is.
Janina Abiles (00:11:50):
And then I think about that's kind of the, I guess, preparation, right? Just being better prepared for situations, but also the responses, you know, you could be sitting at all company, all hands meeting, and a big announcement is made that you're like, I don't really know how to respond to this. I don't know if this is good news. Like, I feel a little bit stressed. And you feel the physical response happening in your body. I'm getting a little sweaty, I'm feeling flushed. I don't know, should I feel nervous? Is my job at stake? Those things happen to people in a workplace setting and breathing can help them control their response to those situations. And you don't have to leave the building to take a walk. You can literally be sitting in a meeting with hundreds of people and just change your breathing pattern and actually therefore calm yourself down, change your response, be better able to ask a thoughtful question instead of coming across as combative. You know, all those things can be impacted simply by breathing differently. So I think that, again, breathing is something that seems like, well, we already, we all do that, but we don't all do it with intention. So I think that that's something that if people could learn breathing exercises, that you can just in 60 seconds change the outcome of a situation in a workplace setting that could otherwise be really stressful.
Michael Crowther (00:13:11):
Could you just give us an example of like, so if we were in that moment and we needed to calm ourselves down what would be the kind of breathing exercise we could do?
Janina Abiles (00:13:22):
Yeah, so probably the simplest one is to just increase the length of the exhale. So we inhale and we exhale and you can hold your breath, all those other things. But simply increasing the length of your exhale taps into your parasympathetic nervous system. And again, I'm not a doctor. These are just things I've kind of learned over time. The parasympathetic nervous system is the opposite of the fight or flight, right? So that's the sympathetic nervous system that puts us in fight or flight mode, which we all know, I think most people probably know, fight or flight mode happens when you feel stressed. So stress could be a work situation, a bad news, an announcement, any of those things. And your body does start to take that fight or flight like, oh, I feel like I need to leave the room, or This is stressing me out, or maybe I should look for a new job.
Janina Abiles (00:14:14):
Like people immediately go to those places. That's the fight flight mode. The opposite of that is, we often call it like the rest and digest mode. And that's the mode where you can actually feel kind of calm. You can have a thoughtful conversation. You can not react or overreact to something. And the simple act of increasing the length of your exhale. And what I mean by that is, as opposed to the inhale. So if you were sitting there and you can start to feel yourself getting flushed, your breath is probably getting shorter, just counting, okay, I am gonna breathe in three and I'm gonna breathe out for four. It doesn't matter if, I mean, ideally you breathe in through your nose, out through your mouth, but it doesn't actually matter. Even if you're mouth breathing, you can still change your nervous system just by making the exhale last longer.
Troy Blaser (00:15:03):
And that's sort of a conscious way to override some of those subconscious fight or flight reactions that are going on. You're like, hold on. You know, my conscious brain knows better than what to be afraid or to have to fight. So let's override some of those signals with the longer exhales that are going on.
Janina Abiles (00:15:24):
Troy Blaser (00:15:24):
Yeah. I think that's a great, and the other thing too is that we talk, I mean, you mentioned we all know how to breathe. We do it all day every day. But honestly, it's easy to forget, you know, you'll find yourself focused on something else, or, you know, in the middle of a workout and you forget to breathe because you're focused on doing the other thing. And or you, like you say, you're breathing becomes shallow because it's part of a response that you're having. And so getting in the habit of breathing makes it easier to turn to it more quickly too, when you're in that situation.
Janina Abiles (00:15:58):
Yeah. And we don't have to think about breathing every day.
Troy Blaser (00:16:01):
Janina Abiles (00:16:01):
I mean, unless you have, you know, lung issues or something, but anybody that's generally healthy, your body's just gonna do it. It's just gonna happen. So the act of just making it intentional and thinking through it is changing your, your brain.
Troy Blaser (00:16:18):
I liked what you said, you don't have to think about breathing. It seems like yoga, the practice of yoga encourages mindfulness as well. Are there there principles there in terms of mindfulness that can help us in the workplace? I think about things like in a feedback situation where you're speaking maybe with a colleague or maybe someone that you supervise, you're trying to listen. Are there ways that mindfulness can help us be better listeners in the workplace?
Janina Abiles (00:16:47):
Yeah, for sure. I mean, I think just focusing, right? So I think first thing is just quieting the mind. So again, a yoga practice in general. And for those people that haven't ever actually been in a yoga classroom type setting, like with other people, you know, you mentioned you've never really done that, Troy.
Troy Blaser (00:17:03):
Janina Abiles (00:17:03):
By and large, when you go to a yoga class and every place you go is different, it's different at a gym versus maybe a studio, but by and large, yoga is about what is happening on your mat, which is your body, your mind. So you're not engaging necessarily with other people around you. There are some practices that will have some, you help somebody with a handstand or whatever, things like that. But by and large it's a practice of self, right? So the idea of focusing inward and quieting the mind is a big part of any yoga practice.
Janina Abiles (00:17:37):
Even the more physical practices, in order to do things like balance, you need to be able to focus, right? So just that overall idea of quieting the mind. And there's, some ancient yoga texts. So yoga's like 2,500 years old. We didn't really give a lot of background on it, at least 2,500 years old. And in some of these ancient texts they'll describe things like excessive thoughts. Those things that kind of cloud our mind. And so those excessive thoughts are thoughts, memories, intellect, ideas, ego, all those things that are like swirling in our mind that just, and sometimes it's called the monkey mind. You've probably heard that term. The idea that you have to learn to like block those out in order to focus on what's happening right now in the present moment. And in a class, it's, you know, what's happening with your body, what's happening with your breath, you know, what's happening with this pose that you're trying to do?
Janina Abiles (00:18:37):
Take that to the workplace setting. To your point, Troy, what's happening in this moment? Somebody's giving me feedback. Why are they giving me feedback? What do I need to take away from this? How can I try to listen to this and stay focused instead of trying to sit there and think about how you're gonna respond or why you already don't like what they're saying, or you already don't agree with what they're saying, or the reason they're saying this is because x, y, z learning to keep all those things out and just stay in the moment and in the present moment can help you learn to listen better, but it also helps to set aside all the judgments that you're having about yourself, or about the person, or about the situation, or, you know. So I do think that concept of quieting the mind, staying focused, that will help you to be a better listener, which certainly as a leader, it's really hard to do.
Janina Abiles (00:19:34):
You're thinking about the next project. You're thinking about deadlines. You're thinking about why this person, maybe it's the employee that always has some complaint, or like, all those things we like, that's natural, that's normal human stuff. That's just how we operate. But if you can learn, it's a practice. It's not just gonna turn on and you're just gonna be really good at it. It is a practice, and you have to keep doing it. But I do think that that practice can, again, I think it can make you a better leader.
Michael Crowther (00:20:03):
It's interesting you bring up that point about reducing the judgment that's there, because it does seem like in a lot of what we experience in the day, and interactions, and especially, again, going back to the topic of like, you know, with this podcast and what we do all day, dealing with feedback and people receiving it, there's plenty of, of room there for opportunity, I should say, for people to judge in different ways. Judge in a way to give feedback and but also be judging the person who is giving them that feedback or, and whatever the situation might be. And so I guess with yoga, it's teaching these principles that will help us quiet our mind and reduce that judgment. Are there any other additional, ideas or ways that yoga approaches this to help us reduce the judgment?
Janina Abiles (00:20:58):
Yes. So there's, again, going back to kind of these ancient texts, some of the ancient texts and yoga, and the one by the way that just in case anybody's interested that I'm referring to is this, this text called Patanjali Yoga Sutras. And it's a lot of people might call him like the father of yoga. I don't know that he invented it. I'm not sure anybody knows, but he documented it, right? So, and these are literally thousands of years old. So in these texts, he describes what is called the Eight Limbs of yoga, and they're kind of these different components, if you will. And so there's physical practices, only one of those eight components, which is what we all think of as yoga, like the movement and the flexibility and all that. But, part of the other eight limbs of yoga are sets of behaviors, so kind of ethical behaviors or practices that, you know, make you a better person or make you healthier or whatever. And one of those. And I think to answer your question, Michael, one of them is this concept of acceptance, or it's called santosha, and it's acceptance or contentment is often, is how it's described. And so how that to me, plays out kind of in modern times is everything from being grateful for what you're given and what you have and accepting it. So the project that you're given, the team that you're given, the assignment that you're given in a workplace as a leader, instead of judging...
Troy Blaser (00:22:27):
The boss that you're given.
Janina Abiles (00:22:30):
Right! Why did I get this person on my team? Why did I get this assignment? Why don't they give it to so and so? How come so and so never, gets this type of work? Or, and then I think also as a leader, going back to your point about judgments, Michael, as a leader, it's so hard to not place our own. I think it's one thing to have expectations of people, because there's expectations of a job, expectations of how you behave in a workplace. Sometimes just accepting people for who they are and learning to be content with it, and instead of constantly trying to change them. And it doesn't mean, at least from my perspective, it doesn't mean you don't coach them or give them feedback, because you still have to help them be their best self. You still have to help them perform the job that they're expected to do. So if they're not meeting expectations, then you still have to have those conversations, but you're doing it from the place of helping them discover their own strengths, maybe build competence, improve their skills, not because you just don't like the way they do it.
Michael Crowther (00:23:38):
I like that. Yes.
Janina Abiles (00:23:40):
And that's where I think the di it's subtle, it's nuance, but there's a difference between that judgment of, well, I don't like the way this person does it. Oh, I wish they would've said it this way, or, I wish they would've done this. Versus, oh, actually there's this skill that they're lacking. And then they would be so much more successful if they could, you know, improve that skill. It's subtle, but I really do think there's a difference. And so this concept of santosha, contentment, acceptance, like, I accept you as you are, and I'm not gonna constantly be judging and critiquing, but what I will try to do as your leader is better understand you, help you get better, maybe at the things you wanna improve, but accept that I'm not gonna change who you kind of are at the core of your person.
Troy Blaser (00:24:27):
I really liked what you just said there about I'll help you get better at the things you want to improve, because that is such a vital part of trying to help someone is, you know, if you're judging them and say, well, I just think you should do this or that, they're not interested in that kind of feedback, they're not interested in that. But if you say, like you just said, if I can understand you and what it is that you want to improve in, and maybe I can give you some advice about what those things should be, but as long as you want to improve, then they're, they're ready to accept that feedback, accept that advice, you know, as they, as they try to improve. But it does come back to accepting them for who they currently are as well.
Janina Abiles (00:25:13):
Yeah. And I think, I think about in the class that Glade does, you know, Feedback Jiu-Jitsu somewhere in there, I remember him talking about, you don't have to act on every piece of feedback that you're given. And I think that that also applies, especially for leaders who are in middle management. And this is just kind of tying back to this idea of contentment, acceptance. You'll be given information, you'll be given feedback kind of from above. If I think about it in a, you know, chain of command and that feedback might apply to your team. You don't have to repeat every single item and pass that on so that it comes across as a barrage of critique that you're just passing on from above. You can filter that. And to me, that's part of this idea of kind of acceptance or contentment.
Janina Abiles (00:26:09):
I accept that I'm gonna be given all this information, but I am content with the way my team is, you know, operating. I'm only gonna give them the information that they really need to know. That is helpful. And I don't necessarily think that all leaders operate that way. You're given information from above, so you just like spit it back out to the team below you. And you sometimes in doing that, well one, you might be saying, well, I don't really agree with it, but here's what, so-and-so said, well, that's, we know that that's not leadership, right? Number one, or you are taking it as if they are your own beliefs, even if you don't agree with them. And then it's not authentic, which is, you know, also not good leadership because you're just kind of regurgitating...
Troy Blaser (00:26:50):
People will sense that. Yeah.
Janina Abiles (00:26:52):
Yeah. And people can sense when it's inauthentic.
Troy Blaser (00:26:55):
Janina, you know, a little while ago we were talking about mindfulness and that ability to stay in the present, and you talked a little bit about how yoga is at least 2,500 years old. And I was thinking, gosh, if 2,500 years ago, if they had to practice mindfulness and they felt like life was so busy, what must it be like today for us? I know that, you know, another important principle is to quiet the mind. And again, same thing applies, right? What was going on 2,500 years ago that led to this need to quiet the mind? And certainly we need even more of that today. Can you talk a little bit about that principle in yoga and maybe how it can apply to us in the workplace as well?
Janina Abiles (00:27:41):
Yeah, that's a really thoughtful question, Troy. It's funny that you said that because I thought about that too. It's like 2,500 years ago, people had to take care of their families, feed their families. And you know, if I think about, if you had to grow your own, I don't know, like your own vegetables, feed your family, that sounds pretty stressful, but probably a lot of us think that sounds less stressful than like commuting an hour and like being in back-to-back meetings, I don't know.
Troy Blaser (00:28:07):
Janina Abiles (00:28:07):
I guess there're just different kinds of stress. And I think, you know, to your point, I think just in general, the idea of finding stillness and quiet, having moments of silence, which we don't have in our world very often these days. I think those concepts are underutilized. The idea that you just would embrace quiet, embrace a few moments of stillness, embrace a few moments of quiet, because we are, we're in, you know, again, we're, a lot of people are in back-to-back meetings or people are constantly talking.
Janina Abiles (00:28:42):
They're constantly, if they're not talking, then they're communicating. So they're receiving emails and then like picking up their phone and looking at their Facebook or Instagram. So you're constantly receiving information and not having quiet time to just allow things to sink in. And I think, number one, going back to the idea that you need to clear those things out so that you can think things through clearly. When you have things like tough decisions to make as a leader, or even just, you need to think about how you're going to word something. A lot of people don't take the time to do that because there's just so much minutiae going on all the time. So the practice of finding a little bit of quiet time, finding some stillness, blocking out your calendar, I think that's important. But I think on the other side of it too, going back to, and it's related to what we talked about earlier, the nervous system and all that is you have to allow time for your brain and body to rest.
Janina Abiles (00:29:45):
You need to replenish your body. And I think that people who are sleep experts could talk about it from a sleep perspective. If you are not getting enough sleep, that's probably a whole other situation. But if you can at least find time to rest and replenish for a short yoga practice, and I say that not all yoga practices are restful, some of them are more physical. But the ones that are more restful, at least sitting down, laying down, taking a more restorative type of class that quiets the mind, you're in a quiet room. You're, even if you're with other people, nobody is talking except the teacher. Maybe there is or isn't music, but the music, if it is there, is quiet. I think again, that helps you to just restore the body, replenish and learn to be present and in the moment so that you can then be a better listener, be a better leader, be a great employee. I think all of those things are going to be improved when you take the time to take care of yourself in those ways.
Michael Crowther (00:30:51):
I like that. And as you were saying that, the thing that went through my head was, I was just wondering, like for you, being a yoga practitioner in your workday, do you do that? Like, you know, you're in the office and you're doing something, how did you find ways to sort of find that mental rest?
Janina Abiles (00:31:11):
Yeah, that's a great question, Michael. A lot of it depends on where you work and what the culture is. I think that all companies, even if you have a meeting heavy organization, need to make time for people to have some quiet time. So I think it's challenging because a lot of organizations are meeting heavy. A lot of organizations, I think value socializing and some of the more extroverted behaviors, which is also really challenging if you're an introvert. But even extroverts need downtime, and we can sometimes forget that. I think that number one, I think people need to leave time between meetings. You know, when we're in school, your school gives you time because you have to physically move from classroom to classroom, right? Like when you're school, high school, even college, I don't know why corporate America hasn't adopted that.
Janina Abiles (00:32:04):
Some companies probably do. I'm sure there are some companies that are better at it than others. But I have never, ever worked in a place in my, I don't know, 20 whatever years of working in corporations. I've never worked at a place that actually adopted it and did it well. People would try it and then it would fizzle out. But like, start your meeting at 1:00 and end it at 1:50, so that from 1:50 to 2:00, if somebody does have a two o'clock, meaning they have 10 minutes to, first of all to use the restroom and get a drink of water. Like, those are basic human needs. But for people that do need a little bit of stillness, they could actually step into their office, step outside, get some fresh air, get some vitamin D, maybe do some breathing exercises, maybe just go to a quiet corner if you have one in wherever building you work in and find some stillness, find some quiet.
Janina Abiles (00:32:58):
So I think it needs to happen more. So, for me personally, I will say that I've had the privilege of working from home for many years, even before Covid and after Covid. I mean, you know, pandemic aside, I've, I've had a lot of jobs with a fair bit of flexibility, which has allowed me to do things like have a yoga practice where I get up, go to yoga, and then come home and start work. When I've traveled, I've always found that it was, it was harder for me, you know, just like anybody, right. It's like a hard, if you're not like a super disciplined person to stay in your routine. So I felt, I did find that things like videos taking, you know, online classes or just shortening it, like it doesn't have to be a full hour. It could be a 15 minute stretching practice that I do in the morning before I, you know, head to work or in the evening when I get home. You know? So I have tried to do those things. I'm not great at doing it in the middle of a day. I'm definitely kind of a, once I get moving, there's like, its hard to quiet the mind, so, I wouldn't say I'm great at doing it in the middle of the day. Yeah.
Michael Crowther (00:34:05):
Yeah. But you have that moment that opportunity at the beginning of the day to certainly clear your mind, and focus, and think through things like that.
Troy Blaser (00:34:15):
Well, you know, earlier Janina, you talked about the eight limbs of yoga, that were documented in the yoga sutras. And I know that one of them is non-attachment. Can you talk a little bit about non-attachment? That sounds to me like it would be interesting. Tell us a little bit about what it means in yoga and then maybe how it relates to the workplace.
Janina Abiles (00:34:34):
Yeah, yeah. So this concept of non-attachment, which I think is laid out as kind of being not too greedy, it is probably not what, how it's laid out in the original text. But the way I think about how it applies maybe in the workplace is the attachment to ideas that we have. I think that in a workplace setting, we have, first of all, I think as humans, we just think our own ideas are good. Like whatever, like, oh, I think we should do this. What with the marketing idea, a project idea, the way you're gonna approach is something. And even things like, I think people should act a certain way or dress a certain way in the workplace. And I just think that unfortunately when we get attached to whatever we think the idea that we should do, or the way a project should be approached or who should run the project, we can get petty about it.
Janina Abiles (00:35:30):
I just think that that's unfortunately, and I think that pettiness is a form of greed or selfishness. It's because it's focused on me, what's mine, my idea that type of thing. And so in a workplace that I think when you are too attached to your idea is right, or even if it's not yours, it's someone else's idea, but you got latched onto it, right?
Troy Blaser (00:35:53):
Janina Abiles (00:35:53):
It can crush creativity. It can crush performance. Because if, oh, well I'm, you know, Janina always says she wants to listen to us in a meeting, but then she never really listens to our ideas. She just wants to implement her own thing. If that's what people think of you as a leader, you're really gonna, they're gonna stop bringing up ideas. It can, it's going to stomp out any creativity. It's probably gonna start to cause disengagement in a workplace, because why am I gonna keep showing up and acting like I care and coming to meetings and putting my best efforts in when nobody ever lets me implement things the way I want or my ideas.
Janina Abiles (00:36:31):
So I do think that detaching yourself from the idea that everything, all of your ideas are right, or the belief that your ideas are the best. You know, you already know what you're doing and have nothing to learn. You know, I think that that concept is something that we can learn a lot from. And it, once again, you can think you're good at it, and then somebody does something. You're like, well. So I do think that it's, again, it's a practice. It's, you're never gonna just arrive at that place where you're just not attached to anything ever. I just don't think you ever get there.
Michael Crowther (00:37:07):
That's a good point. Living sort of a yoga influenced life. Right? It's a practice. I was curious though, as you were talking about the non-attachment. So then how do people balance that with the company has like it's objectives, it's trying to accomplish something long term this year, whatever. There's some, you know, initiative that the company has. And so how do we sort of, how do we balance that?
Janina Abiles (00:37:36):
Yeah. I think that is the challenge. I mean, because you do have some things you gotta stick with and you know, these are the core values of the organization, or these are the goals and objectives for the year. I think it's more on maybe a personal level.
Michael Crowther (00:37:52):
Janina Abiles (00:37:53):
So not getting attached, for example, to this is the goal for the year. This is how I think we should approach the goal.
Michael Crowther (00:38:00):
Got it.
Janina Abiles (00:38:00):
Versus, oh, but actually Michael has some good ideas too. And Troy has some good ideas too. So maybe we could work together and be more collaborative versus, oh, I thought in January I said we were gonna do this, and so that's what we're gonna do.
Michael Crowther (00:38:14):
Janina Abiles (00:38:14):
Well, you did say that, but we've come up with some better ideas since then. Right. So I think that's where, that's where I think it kind of maybe plays out in the real world.
Michael Crowther (00:38:26):
Nice. Yeah.
Troy Blaser (00:38:27):
Trying to get to the best idea, not necessarily, and whose idea it was, doesn't matter ideally. Right?
Janina Abiles (00:38:36):
Troy Blaser (00:38:36):
Just what, what do we think is best? Let's talk about the merits of each idea, rather than, well, this one came from Michael. This one came from Janina, Janina is the boss. So we have to do that one, you know?
Janina Abiles (00:38:47):
Yeah, yeah. That's a good point too, Troy, because people can get attached to title and those kind of things in the workplace and who, who, where the directive came from, that kind of stuff. But Michael, you said something else that was interesting, which was in response to what I was saying about I think it's a practice. You've never arrived. At that place. I think it's the same with leadership. Leadership is a practice. Leadership is not a title. Just because you think you're a good leader or you are a good leader, then you can get thrown something that you've never dealt with before. A new personality. I mean, more recently, think about all the leaders that had never dealt with a pandemic before. Right? You might have been a really great leader before that, and then all of a sudden you're in complete stress mode and the skills that you had are just not working.
Janina Abiles (00:39:35):
They don't work the same, or they're, they're not the ones that you need. Now. They're a different set of skills. So I think in the same way that to your point, you know, maybe I'm trying to live a yogic lifestyle and lots of other people are, if I believe I'm a leader, I'm never done being a leader. It's a constant practice. So I think that maybe that's why these overlap so well, is they both kind of dovetail in this concept that you are never done getting better. There's always room for improvement. There's always room to be a better person, to be a better leader, to be a better employee, to hone your craft, whatever it is. So just, again, that concept that there's constant self-improvement to, I don't know, be a better human being. So I think that maybe that's why they just overlap so well.
Troy Blaser (00:40:26):
I like that. Anything else that we want to cover things? I mean, Michael and I are both relative newbies at yoga. Are we missing anything in this overlap between the practice of yoga and leadership?
Janina Abiles (00:40:44):
That's a good, I know that's another question that I feel like I could just keep talking about it. There's one other thing that I think I might just mention, which is, in yoga, there's this concept of tapis, which is inner fire or discipline. And a lot of times you'll hear it in reference to a physical practice, this concept that you're building heat in the body and that by building heat, conceptually by building heat in the body, you're burning off like impurities, bad energy, you know, that kind of thing. But I think it's also an interesting concept that when you are building this inner fire, this discipline, I think that again, helps you in leadership. Discipline is a form of self-control. It's not just about doing the same things every day or having a routine. It can be about self-control.
Janina Abiles (00:41:40):
It can be about organization, it can be about controlling reactive impulses. So I just think, again, that concept to me is something that I've thought about. It's not just about, oh, I actually do my physical practice every single day. That's great. But doing the physical and the mental work are things that again, can just carry you forward into other aspects of your life, because you're learning to build discipline. You're learning to build this inner fire. Which again, ties to all those things I talked about, self-control, willpower, controlling your reactions, you know, those kinds of things. So I think taking up the practice is a way that you start to build that and learn those skills.
Troy Blaser (00:42:28):
I think it sounds like too, it also can benefit you in sort of endurance or the discipline of sticking with the job, even if it is difficult, if you have a particularly difficult yoga session physically. Right? Poses that you've never done before or that are difficult to maintain. But staying with that and enduring through the discomfort to reach a point where you've gained a new skill or you've achieved something that you've never done before because you stayed with that challenge, even though it was difficult, that to me, that fits under discipline as well.
Janina Abiles (00:43:03):
Yeah. Yeah. There's also, it could be not physically challenging, it could be mentally challenging. Some people have a really hard time being quiet and staying still. And so that kind of practice can actually be challenging too, I think. And I think that, by the way, I don't think yoga is the only place that you can learn that. I think discipline and that kind of inner fire, and that could probably be learned through running, right? Like, I think you're a runner, Michael, right? The discipline, the, okay, this is uncomfortable and I'm just gonna keep going. I gotta stay focused. I think that can be probably learned in other places too. But, you know, for example, I don't like running. So that, I don't know if that that's gonna work for me. Maybe I have to just get through it longer, and I would be able to build the discipline. But yeah, I do think that it is also about learning to accept the discomfort and just realize that it's there, be present with it, move past it or realize that this isn't for me and I need to try a different thing. I mean, sometimes that's important too.
Michael Crowther (00:44:08):
Yeah, I was thinking about that idea of, okay, so part of what we're trying to do is sort of rest, you know, steal the mind and focus, right.? And what we're doing. And there's an aspect of that with like, I'm just thinking about when I go on usually in longer runs, and if I'm just out there and I'm just kind of thinking about things, right? So it's not necessarily, I don't know if maybe it is a focus in a sense. I'm thinking I might be thinking about something with work, you know, and mulling it over and you have a great idea come, you know, come to mind. Right. So I'm just thinking about that idea of am I present if I'm thinking about things that work. But that's also if creating that opportunity and that focus in that aspect of it, to have the idea come to mind. Yeah. Like, am I doing it wrong? If I am doing my, my yoga or on my long run? And my focus isn't on the immediate present thing, it's on something else.
Janina Abiles (00:45:08):
I think there's this concept of you're not doing things right or wrong ever really in yoga. That's sort of a little bit of the philosophy. I will temper that with, in the physical practice, there are things like physically there's alignment, there's things like that principles that, you know, most practices would talk about. But even in the mental, when somebody is laying there in class and all these things start popping in your head, and, you know, I can't see what's in your head, but as you're saying that, oh, she told me to quiet the mind and I'm thinking about all this stuff. Part of the practice is giving yourself grace and saying, it's okay, let it go. Janina, don't beat yourself up because you can't focus today. That's also part of the practice, is allowing those thoughts to just happen. And maybe I don't have to solve 'em all right now. I don't have to judge them, let them go. They're just gonna swirl through sometimes. But that's how you cleared the mind a little bit. Let them,
Troy Blaser (00:46:14):
Let them onto the stage and then let them exit the stage too.
Janina Abiles (00:46:17):
Yeah. And I think, but what you're talking about Michael, I think is a little bit different. You may find, for example, that you have a problem you're trying to sort through. And you need focus time to think about it with nobody talking to you or no tv, no music, whatever. Yeah. Going for a run does that because it, and it actually does change the brain when you go running, right? Like, so that is a little different. Most of the time in a yoga practice, the teacher wouldn't say, I want you to think about a problem that you're dealing with and like, lay here and think through. It would be the opposite way to say, like, I want you to not think about, I want you to let go of everything that has happened up to this moment in time, and for the next hour, I just want you to breathe and move your body.
Michael Crowther (00:47:01):
Troy Blaser (00:47:02):
Michael, as I've been thinking about the way you described it, I think what you're talking about is kind of a flow state of your mind where your body is busy running. And your brain's like, okay, I've got that down and I'm, we're happy doing this, and now I'm free. And you're focused on the thing in kind of a flow state where there's not multiple thoughts coming in, or you're not like bouncing from topic to topic, but your brain is like, Hey, in, in my subconscious, I've been generating some thoughts and I'm gonna bring them up to the surface. Now that you're in kind of this flow state, mentally, so it may not be the quiet and stillness. But it's also not the every day dealing with email and social media and texts and the phone calls and everything. It's 'cause you're off by yourself. So it's a focused state, even if it's not necessarily a quiet state.
Michael Crowther (00:47:57):
Troy Blaser (00:47:57):
That's kind of my take on it.
Janina Abiles (00:47:59):
No, that's a good point, Troy, because I think, again, even in, there's so many different kinds of yoga, and when I refer to stillness and quiet, even in a very physical, rigorous type practice, again, to me it's still a quieting of the mind. Because if you are focused on what you are physically doing, and if that is in a hot, sweaty yoga practice, I'm focused on this moment that still to me is a lot quieter than everything else that's going on in the world around me, outside of this mat and outside of the studio. So the idea that quiet and stillness isn't just like laying down and meditating, that also could be part of a yoga practice. But when I refer to that quiet and stillness, it isn't just like a physical stillness and quiet. It could be because there's different kinds of practices, but that I'm just gonna be here for this next 30 or 60 minutes and try not to think about a thousand other things that I need to do today. That is, is kind of part of the practice too. Yeah.
Michael Crowther (00:49:05):
Yeah. Well and that may be like, as I was describing it and talking about it, probably we more so than like the stillness and the is is the presence of mind, right. And maybe that's more the distinction I was trying to get is, you know, where do I, when if I'm, so if I'm doing yoga and the point is to be present, I guess you could say, okay, yeah. For this, you're going to get the most benefit. Even if you spend the next, you know, 30 minutes, 60 minutes being present on what we are doing in this yoga session, think about that work problem another time. you know, doing something else. But, this will help you when you go to think about that, versus the possibility of being in there doing the yoga thing and what you're doing in the yoga, but being very, but you're very much thinking about this one particular, you know, problem or issue that's maybe pulling you away and maybe you're losing a certain benefit. You might still get a benefit out of it by having that time to just where you're thinking about it, but your trade. It's a trade off between another benefit you would get. Maybe.
Troy Blaser (00:50:22):
I was gonna ask in, you know, when Michael goes running, his body is doing a very repetitive motion.
Michael Crowther (00:50:27):
Troy Blaser (00:50:27):
So he can tune out of the physical part of that. Do you get to the point if you're an experienced yoga practitioner where you can, your body is on, sort of on autopilot where you're doing the practice, but your brain can be focused on something else? Or do you always have to be focused and present on what is the next pose? How am I getting from here to my next pose? What's that like?
Janina Abiles (00:50:55):
Yeah, so, a couple things. One, you can get to that point. And because there's, for a variety of reasons, there's different kinds of practices. So there are yoga practices where you do the same sequence every single time you practice. So you're creating muscle memory, but you're also, you know, creating strength. It doesn't mean it feels the same every day. because as we know, you can do the same thing every day and the next day you're like, oh, this was totally easy yesterday. But it is a little bit easier, at least for me, I find that it's easier to get distracted because like, oh, I've already done this like six times. Right? So like, it is a little easier I think mentally just be like, oh, I know what's coming next. What is interesting is that as a teacher, and as a student, I've heard this too, I've heard teachers say, don't try to guess like where we're going next.
Janina Abiles (00:51:43):
Like, so if it's not a class that is the same every time, the sequence is a little different. The style's a little different. And that is a technique to mix it up so that you can't get, like, you need to stay focused. Don't just assume that you know where we're going when I'm about to give you instructions. And sometimes it feels like a little bit like a bait and switch. They're trying to trick me. But I really do find that sometimes teachers do that because they want you to stay present. And one of the ways, it's a trick to get you know, in a way to stay present, to not tell you, oh, we're gonna do this. Like, we're not gonna do the exact same thing that we always do. I'm gonna change it up a little bit today. So I think to your point about the value of being able to be present and stay focused, it has a lot of benefits, not just physically, you know, mentally, emotionally. But I do think that you clear the mind, you go through the practice, and then when you walk out of that room or you step off of your mat at home, you can say, okay, now I like, now I feel like I can think through that problem. And so then maybe you do, you go for a run, you go for a walk and you like, oh, I'm gonna write down. Like, and there may have even been some things that popped in your head during that practice because you started to clear the mind on like solutions start coming. You can let those come in and out. And I think you said Troy, let them enter and then exit stage left.
Troy Blaser (00:53:12):
Janina Abiles (00:53:12):
And then they'll probably still come back to you again afterwards. Oh, I think I solved that. Like, I think it came up during my yoga practice and I saw it pass through my, you know, brain and then like, I ignored it, but now I think I know how to solve it and you can, you know, maybe write it down. So again, I think that that comes from learning to stay focused and clear the mind.
Troy Blaser (00:53:34):
Yeah. Okay. If somebody's been listening today, they've never tried yoga before, but they're intrigued and they're interested how would you recommend that someone get started?
Janina Abiles (00:53:47):
Great question. So I think, probably my number one recommendation is to try a lot of different styles and settings. And the reason I say that is because there are so many different types of yoga. There's a more physical, rigorous practice. There's heated, there's non-heated, there's more calming and restorative practices like yin or restorative yoga. Then there's doing it at home versus doing it in a studio. All of those settings are so different. And if you've never done it before, I will say that as somebody who's been doing it for a long time, I can still remember when it was very intimidating and I would be nervous to even go by myself because it felt maybe judgy or I just didn't feel comfortable, or am I doing it right or are people watching me? Or, you know, those kind of things, which I think, again, are just kind of normal human thoughts.
Janina Abiles (00:54:47):
So if that feels that way, then sometimes you need to like, try it at home first or bring a friend, talk somebody into going with you know, and it and every setting is different. You might find that you really like doing it at the community center, or you might find, oh, you didn't really like that setting. You like it at the gym, or you like it in a studio. I mean, they're all just so different. And I would also tell people that there's a lot of variety and what it will cost. Obviously, if you just do it at home, you might not even need a mat. You could do it on your rug at home with a free video, you know, you mentioned. But if you wanna go to a studio and it's too intimidating, then just do their free trial or do the, like the one of the studios I teach at has a two week pass that's like $50 unlimited, so you can try all the different things. But there's also lots of places that do free or relatively inexpensive classes, like a community center, a library, you know, things like that. Or your first class is free. I would just say try lots of things because it's like anything you could go the first time and the first time you do anything, you're not gonna be usually good at it.
Michael Crowther (00:55:57):
Good Point.
Janina Abiles (00:55:57):
Right? So, and if you're not good at something, then you don't feel confident. You don't feel comfortable, you might not wanna go back. So I would just say, if you take the time to reflect on what, what didn't I like about it? Oh, I didn't really like the people, or I didn't really like the setting, or it didn't feel clean, or it was too fast. And then just explore what your other options are, because there's so many different kinds of yoga.
Troy Blaser (00:56:20):
I know sometimes people are even even concerned about, well, what should I wear? I don't want to stand out in what I'm wearing when I go to my first class.
Janina Abiles (00:56:31):
Yes, I know and it shouldn't matter. But we live in a world where that matters anywhere you go, what, what you wear to running. Yeah. Where to the gym, what you, I mean there's just, we're bombarded with so much media. I also would suggest for people if they are going to a class that's a studio or a gym or community class, to ask the people that work there, it might seem like, oh, I don't wanna ask that stupid question. When you see their reaction, you'll know whether or not you're gonna feel comfortable at that studio if they act like that's was a stupid good question, you probably don't wanna go there.
Michael Crowther (00:57:03):
Janina Abiles (00:57:05):
You know, I had somebody that walked in the other day. I was at the, this one of the places that I teach, and somebody walked in and she goes, oh, I'm really nervous. And I said, there's no reason to be nervous. Let me tell you what you can expect from this first class. If somebody doesn't react that way, if they act like, why are you nervous? Right? If, I mean, it's just, you can see it in the way people react to you. And I would hope that most yoga studios, if they're adopting all the philosophies we've been talking about, they are open and friendly and kind and welcoming and non-judgmental and, you know. So hopefully they'll let you know that it doesn't matter what you wear. I mean, obviously try to wear something that's comfortable, but it doesn't have to be skin tight yoga pants and you know, half top it could be sweatpants and a T-shirt. And if you're in a heated class, make sure that it's something that you can peel off layers if you get sweaty so you don't wanna pass out. Right. Like those kind of things. But I do think that people should just not be afraid to ask a question even if they think it's stupid, because you'll also be able to tell in the reaction of the people that work there, whether or not you think you're gonna feel comfortable.
Michael Crowther (00:58:07):
Troy Blaser (00:58:09):
Cool. Well, Janina, thank you so much. We've really appreciated your time. This has been a fascinating conversation. It's fun to dive into something tangential to feedback, but not directly feedback. I've learned a lot today. Michael, thanks for joining us today as well. It's been fun to have you as part of the conversation.
Michael Crowther (00:58:28):
Yeah. This has been a lot of fun to be on it. And I'm also just wondering with Janina when she's going to offer her corporate packages and stuff like that for people to be, you know, trying this out in, in their businesses and stuff. But, anyway, something to think about Janina.
Janina Abiles (00:58:47):
Yeah, for sure. I mean, it's, it's something I haven't explored yet, but it does seem like it would be, I know there are organizations that offer, you know, yoga to their employees or have maybe incorporated it on occasion for, you know, maybe a corporate event, things like that.
Michael Crowther (00:59:05):
Janina Abiles (00:59:05):
I haven't incorporated it yet. I think for those who are listening to the podcast, they know that from the last one that I just started my own business very recently.
Troy Blaser (00:59:14):
Janina Abiles (00:59:14):
So I haven't quite gotten to that type of offering yet. But I am also happy while the, you know, yoga isn't the core of my business, I'm certainly happy if somebody is looking to incorporate yoga into maybe their leadership development or their kind of employment package to talk to people about it. And also if somebody is just interested in developing their own yoga practice in order to become a better leader, or they're looking to explore that kind of concept, I'm certainly happy to have conversations with people because I'm just clearly passionate about talking about it. So
Michael Crowther (00:59:50):
Awesome. Yeah. So again, like last time, they can find you, I'm sure on LinkedIn and then remind us of your website, share with the audience.
Janina Abiles (00:59:58):
Yes. So my website is www.enzenia.com. And that's E-N-Z-E-N-I-A. You won't find any yoga content on there. But that is the, so at least you'll find my picture, you'll probably find a small mention of like, my dogs, my yoga in my bio. That's, that's who I am. That's where you find me. And they can, there's a contact me form, so somebody can also just send me an email there.
Michael Crowther (01:00:27):