Practitioners Perspectives // February 19,2021

Health and Peace – Two Parameters to Widen Possibilities for Business Leaders

Featuring: Sarah Manning , International Yoga Exponent


Sarah Manning International Yoga Exponent

How can life balance better contribute to leadership balance?
Life balance is where we keep our: work, social, family and fitness each carrying an equally balanced emphasis in our lives. Executives today, have little choice but to focus on the job and squeeze in family time when they can. They are unable to do justice to the multiple roles they play, and the easiest to sacrifice is health. To strike the right leadership balance of juggling teams and other priorities getting their fundamentals right is important.

However, let’s start with exercising to keep our physical body fit. There are three main aspects: Strength, Flexibility and Stamina.

And when it comes to Yoga, its beauty lies in how it can be adapted to our situations and needs. So, from a high energy type A leader who is globetrotting to the manager who is far more indoors, it can be moulded to suit the individual preferences. The mix of indoor and outdoor is very good, soaking in the balmy fresh air and working out in the nature can be a nourishing experience.

And there is a further difference in Yoga: it’s not just a physical training! While I would recommend any form of exercise, with Yoga you can take it up to the next level and look at your body holistically – taking in your vital energy, your emotional and mental well-being and achieve peace and calmness which is rare in the business context of today.


If you cannot make time for your wellness, you will be forced to make time for your illness.

What potential blind-spots prevent leaders from adopting yoga as a fitness priority?
Leaders are busy balancing books, chasing the next deal, hiring and firing and forever in a fight or flight mode. When we are busy there is a rush of adrenalin and cortisol, but the body cannot always be busy and maintain good health as well.

It needs to switch on the para sympathetic nervous system for a calm mind and relaxed body. We call it rest and restore, allowing digestion, immune systems to function and reproduction to resume. But unfortunately, the business leaders of today refuse to relax and are always high on adrenalin and cortisol which on a continuous basis is detrimental to health. I would strongly recommend them to let go, socialize and have fun.

These are some of the blind spots that leaders are unaware of and hence miss to include Yoga in their daily regimen. However, with the right awareness and once they start experiencing it, it will take them on an illuminating journey of self-awareness and mindfulness.

How can leaders tap into the infinite energy that is all around us?
The self comes before everything. When you are washed over by peace and there is harmony within you, only then you are in alignment with nature. This is when the thinking mind reaches out to the external world, it is only then when you stand at a seashore and look at the distant horizon – an idea strikes you, you take informed decisions, and connect with the universe. So, you being at peace with yourself is important to tap into the tapestry of the infinite creative energy around.

Group classes are a fabulous way for leaders to practice yoga, because as human beings we are sensitive to other’s energy. And stressed leaders enjoy the group sessions rather than practicing yoga by themselves. The laughter and camaraderie in a group class is infectious and uplifting.

How can mindfulness help with leadership efficiency?
The father of the concept of mindfulness is Jon Kabat Zinn, who treated patients with incurable chronic pain and terminally ill patients. Based on a “calming the mind” Buddhist tool, he built the concept of mindfulness which is being aware of your own body without judging it.

In Leadership efficiency, this will be extremely important to be mindful of the happenings around you but being calm and observe them in a non-judgemental way. Your own awareness combined with the mindful way of addressing situations can and by not reacting immediately can enhance your maturity levels manifold.

There is research that has been done that proves that mindfulness and meditation make us more empathetic. It boosts focus, improves quality of sleep, and especially after long travel it brings your body back to normalcy and helps you relax. Which is a handy tool to the travelling executive.

GCL: What exactly is the process of meditation and why is it so beneficial for leaders?
The classic yoga writings of Patanjali describes Yoga as the seat of comfort and ease.
Meditation can be described as traversing the 8 limbs and draws one from the external to the internal and look within. It teaches one who practices Yoga regularly, skills of – Concentration – Contemplation – Peace. Again, you become more aware of yourself, understand where you are in this large universe and many an insightful moment is born during these meditative periods.


What are the simple things that leaders can do quickly to handle stress at work?
A few things that you can do at your desk are
Spine Lengthening : by pressing into your foundation bones of the pelvis and lifting the crown enables the diaphragm to release and facilitates – deep full, revitalising breathing
⦁ If the exhalation process is long and sustained, immediately tension reduces
Ujjayi breathing: Inhalation and exhalation are both done through the nose. The “ocean sound” is created by slightly closing the glottis as air passes in and out.

How can eastern beliefs be synergised with western practices to build a more holistic approach to fitness?
The western concept of Yoga is about indoor air-conditioned studios, leotards, trendy music and beating to a rhythm. If that is what you enjoy, it’s not a bad idea as it keeps you moving and sweating.

The east are experts here, but the glamour and glitz are missing, it is more introspection, fundamental, peaceful and poised.

So, it is what you want, like I have already said in whatever frame of mind you are in, Yoga will absorb you and provide a richness only you can enjoy and experience, and not something that can be put into words.

Where exactly yoga fits in to a careerwoman’s life? And why are aspiring women leaders underestimating about the power of yoga?
Workplaces are not designed to be inclusive of women and is built on masculine principles. The plain fact is that a woman’s body is so different that it not possible to stay grounded always. Suppression of emotions by women over the years can lead them to diseases such as Cancer, Infertility, Miscarriages and Cysts.

I would urge women to respect their bodies, honour it and nurture it. Yoga for women is beautiful, from general health to infertility, to pregnancy to menopause there are suitable asanas (postures) that will calm their fluctuating hormones and allow them to be more tolerant at work and home. It is for them to take advantage of all this and leverage it to become resilient and resourceful.

What books would you suggest?
There is only one book that stands out as the full, simply put – crystallised teachings of yoga in one place that is from TKV Desikachar, The Heart of Yoga – Developing a personal practice. It is authentic, and comes from a true lineage of yoga from a man I have met and delighted in.

If you do need a book to micro-step you through the full range of postures (simple and advanced) “Light on Yoga” by BSK Iyengar – this is my go-to when checking the detailed alignment of a pose.

For a slightly different angle: also, simply and beautifully put “Asana, Pranayama, Mudra Bandha” by Swami Satyananda Saraswati of the Bihar School of Yoga, is another fantastic resource for details on the postures and breathing.

One of my coffee table books, a true inspiration is “Awakening the Spine” by Vanda Scaravelli, a woman who passionately practiced and studied yoga. 

Sarah Manning Sarah Manning

International Yoga Exponent

Sarah has taught yoga since 1995 (more than 25 years), and qigong for more than 10 years. Based at Singapore, Shanghai and Australia, Sarah teaches with precision and clarity and focuses on general wellbeing apart from women health. Her yoga classes are self-empowering and nurtures and blends a deep understanding of classical yoga, anatomy, the energetic body, and current medical research to provide clear tools for restoring and balancing the body.

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