Yoga's aid to the executive
Yoga is a way of life. It is not just asanas and pranayama alone, as is commonly assumed. Patanjali's sutras cover the entire gamut of living, giving us procedures by which we can get the maximum out of our lives. This does not refer to materialistic gains, but to those intangible rewards that make our lives meaningful. The executive would do well to follow the yamas and niyamas in his or her daily life and work. Ahimsa (non-violence), satya (truth), asteya (non-stealing), brahmacharya (control of the senses), and aparigraha (non-covetousness) can all be exercised.
Ahimsa is not just against physical violence, it can also apply to standards of business conduct. Advertisements detrimental to health are a travesty of satya. Cigarette companies advertise extravagantly and, though advertising alcohol is banned in India, thinly veiled advertisements for it are quite common. Ego, competition, and the desire for easy success lead to the practice of unethical methods that go against the teachings of Patanjali.
While the executive has to be committed and dedicated to work, drawing upon his powers of tapas, he has also to practise saucha and santosa. Saucha or hygiene goes beyond bodily hygiene to that of the inner organs. The busy, hyperactive executive must learn to look out for and act fast upon the signals that convey deterioration in health. In fact, if yoga is practised regularly, he or she can stop such signals from occurring.
Contentment (santosa) is a state of mind. It is the constant longing for more and more that exhausts the mind, not the object itself. The Yoga Vasishta says: "Not wishing for the objects of enjoyment that have not arrived, and enjoyment of those that have arrived spontaneously, is the characteristic of a wise man. He is called a great enjoyer who does not hate anything and does not long for anything, and who enjoys everything on hand."
Swadhyaya or self-study is illustrated by the saying that you are actually three people in one body - the one you think you are (a self-assumed image), the one others think you are (that which is projected), and the one you actually are (the atma within, but covered by the dust and dirt of worldly motives). Introspection of one's thoughts and deeds will stand the executive in good stead on many occasions.
Iswarapranidhana is to do one's job to the best of one's ability and leave the rest to Providence. The message of the Bhagavad Gita is: "Work alone art thou entitled to, and not to its fruit." The belief that there is a higher power that will ensure fruit to hard and honest labour is very essential, particularly in today's world, to provide solace and equanimity to workers in any field.
With the practice of the yamas and niyamas, pratyahara controls the senses and the mind. This de-stresses the nervous system. Dissipation of energy is controlled, leading to a rise in the levels available to the executive. Dharana, dhyana and samadhi are psycho-spiritual processes which bring about steadiness of mind, and subtlety and refinement of consciousness. Complete tranquillity is the result. For the executive, this can be interpreted as releasing the tensions of work and engendering a much needed state of composure and serenity.
Thus, it is very clear that the executive has to create a lifestyle around healthy habits. The time has arrived for executives to take the lead, to be forceful about their health, physical and spiritual, as they would be in their work. Swatmarama, the author of Hatha Yoga Pradipika, has specified no particular age for the practice of yoga; whether one is young, old, infirm or sick, one can begin to practise yoga so that the body is fit. Modern medicine has been successfully challenged by situations where, as catalogued in Howard Murphet's book, Sai Baba Man of Miracles, cures of seemingly impossible conditions have taken place by methods that cannot be understood by science.
The discipline of yoga in all its aspects will help the executive attain what an individual needs most in life - trikarana shuddi, which is the integration of thought, word, and deed.