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How Yoga Makes Me A Better CEO

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The Jewel Toned team at Yoga Glo

I feel there are some major misconceptions about yoga. For starters, it’s not always relaxing. Actually, during the class, yoga causes me anxiety, is boring and sometimes I’m uncomfortable. I keep doing it because I know that AFTER the class I will feel amazing. After feeling contracted, I feel most expansive. Only when I’ve explored something hard, pushed through, and make it to the other side, have I truly felt contentment. Yoga taught me how to conduct myself as a CEO because through much practice and discipline, I learned that when I am faced with a tough situation that is really freaking me out and my icky traits are just boiling up, and my blood pressure is about to go though fluorescent lit ceiling…I just STOP. I just hang on a minute and check in. This is the real yoga.

I was at my desk this morning, multitasking off the charts at 100 miles an hour. When I’m in a zone, stopping feels out of my flow, and I worry I won’t get my groove back again that day. However, my schedule being the nightmare it is, my office and I decided to put lunchtime yoga on my calendar 2 days per week in the hopes that I might actually go if I had no calls or meetings during that time. So, at 12:15 while sitting at my desk in my Lulu’s, on the phone, knowing I needed to stop at 12:17 in order to walk 4 blocks to Equinox, I am stuck on the call. I couldn’t find a good stopping point, but I heard the wrapping up tone in her voice and got hopeful! I literally ran the 4 blocks and made it just in time, not really believing it I would even make it out the door until I actually saw myself plop down in the yoga room. As I sat on the mat in child pose, waiting for it to get un-boring. I was cranky that my work came to a screeching halt, and suddenly felt extremely unproductive and like I was robbing my business of something valuable: an hour of my time in the middle of a workday.

When instructed to get myself into uttanasana for the third time, the crankiness started to dissipate. I could feel it leave while the cells in my body were replaced with something else. That feeling was overwhelming, and my eyes welled up with tears. I instantly thought of two of my yoga teachers throughout the years who possess something my lunch hour yoga teacher didn’t: extreme emotional intelligence, relentless devotion to students, inspiring commitment to yoga, and an insane work ethic. The title “yoga teacher” doesn’t do them justice, and the fact that they are referred to as such, is a testament to their humility. In one of those full yoga minutes of holding a pose that seems like an hour, I realized that even though I’d spent years building my business and really sacrificed a lot, in previous years I have also given relentless dedication to my yoga study and practice. I did several yoga teacher trainings in various countries, and for over a decade was hitting the mat at least 5 days a week. It dawned on me there is no way I don’t bring what I have learned from yoga into my business.

I realized Noah (one of my teachers) taught me a lot about commitment. I’ve never seen anyone so dedicated to anything. I’ve never seen him have a bad day at work. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure sometimes he’s in a bad mood, but he really brings it, each and every day. He also told me something that has stuck with me to this day: When you say no to something, you say yes to something else. This has shifted many seemingly smothering decisions for me into much more bearable situations. Anyone can be cool in a room full of hippies with live drumming, but can you be cool with an asshole in a meeting? Can you let go of your need to be right? Can you spin to the side and look at the situation objectively? View what is best for the business, and find a way to get what the business needs done, while having your opponent walk away feeling like they won the meeting? If you can do this, you really won the meeting, by obtaining what was needed to move the company forward.

shapewear jewel toned yoga ceo rachael mccrary

Rachael McCrary (left), Founder of Jewel Toned, Sivananda Ashram in Kerala, India

In yoga, I learned about the goddess. Not the goddess dressing at Wholefoods, or the woman in shrouds talking about how she’s a “water child,” but Kali, the goddess of darkness. Meditating on Kali has gotten me through the roller coaster dips, because if there was no night, there would be no day, and when the highs come after the lows, they are so much sweeter. While Kali is the goddess of darkness, her counterpart is Saraswati, the goddess of creativity, wisdom, and learning. I take this practice into the office daily and make it a two-way street. Always maintaining the viewpoint of the student is a vital part of being the teacher.

Yoga is not a thing that creates balance for me in the way people talk about. When experienced with the proper teachers, it is an opportunity for growth. We must become comfortable with being uncomfortable. This is the only way to the next step, the next meeting, the next breakthrough idea. It’s funny when people say “Oh I can’t do yoga! I’m not flexible!” Through yoga, I’ve become more flexible in dealing with people, breathed through tense meetings, drafted mutually beneficial contracts, and found ways to see the other person’s perspective and gain insight into what makes them tick. Being flexible in business is more valuable than an impressive backbend!

Cut down on those fireside chats and hop on the mat. I’ll meet you there in a bodysuit and share some biodynamic vegan imported goji kombucha before we take a look at those deck slides!

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Rachael McCrary
Rachael McCrary


Rachael is a fashion designer, life coach, Hindu philosopher and lingerie expert. She advises early stage companies on funding and branding and is committed to helping more women be comfortable in their own skin.

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