Today’s world has great importance placed on urgency and responsiveness. There’s a high expectation to be constantly accessible to the needs of others, whether it’s at work, school, or as a parent. In the competitive business world, the you-snooze-you-lose mindset is real. Has it always been this way, or has this culture crept up on us while we were too busy to realise?

I met someone recently who had just moved from Tauranga to Auckland. She commented on how fast things happen in this city. She was surprised when a potential employer asked to meet her that same afternoon and was subsequently given a date for a trial.

Yoga for busy people – Richard Scarry

Busy, busy world

Remember these Richard Scarry books? “It’s a Busy Busy World” (1965), “What Do People Do All Day?” (1968), and “Busiest People Ever” (1976). I loved these books as a child. They were so beautifully illustrated. The more you looked, the more you saw exciting details.

Children aspire to contribute to a high-functioning community. When asked what they want to be when they grow up, they often say a teacher, doctor, pilot, fireman, and so on. This instinct originates in our innate craving for a sense of purpose. I’ve never heard a child say: “I want to get so busy that I find it uncomfortable and weird to sit still and do nothing for ten minutes every day”.

If only Richard Scarry could have completed his Busy World with a book on “Yoga for Busy, Busy People”.

There’s definitely a shift occurring in this high-achieving, multi-tasking, always-on, rat-race culture. The emphasis is on a more harmonious lifestyle and self-preservation, through rest, reflection and recovery.

Output input output input

We are conditioned to high output — Energy dispersed outwards in the form of productivity and responsiveness. We are also conditioned to high input — Data and stimulation received constantly. Not just in our daily duties, but also in the way we entertain ourselves, work out, and socialise.

So when do we get time to quieten down and reflect internally? And when we do find that time to sit with ourselves, it might feel really uncomfortable. With a mind that is addicted to distraction and a body that is used to being active, the idea of sitting still can be torturous. Meditating or practising yoga, for busy people, may seem like an indulgence.

How can we believe this practice is what we need if we’re not conditioned to it?

Everyone has a different tolerance for output spent and input received. Yet we aren’t always able to manage those levels effectively. It’s not until we get run down, burnt out, sick, or have an emotional reaction, that we realise we’ve hit the wall.

Our brains might be smart, but they aren’t always able to determine what stressors are life-threatening and which are low-key demands. This can have a cumulative effect on the nervous system, contributing to long-term health issues. (See: Autonomic Nervous System 1: Parasympathetic vs sympathetic). Again, if we are not giving ourselves time to sit and reflect internally, we may not be aware of these physical or mental health issues until they become serious.

The benefits of yoga for busy people

There can be a disconnection between brain and body. A tendency to operate from the neck up, in our analytical minds. Always switched on, problem-solving, reactive. But how often do we listen to our gut, and observe what is happening in our physical body? When do we step out of our overriding analytical minds to reflect on emotions and persistent, looping thoughts?

Practising yoga, for busy people in particular, can bring a stressed-out mind and body into a calmer and more resilient state of being. Not only for this reactive reason — a “fixing” of sorts — but also to develop a preventative care practice. Let me say that again.

We are developing a preventative care practice.

Opening the lines of communication between brain and body cultivates a state of flow. Self-reflection and observation with a non-judgemental attitude can optimise your physical and mental wellness.

I get it, you’re busy. We’re all busy. We wear our busy-ness like a badge of honour. But there is so much value in patience and perseverance. And in the almighty pause.

I know; “The early bird gets the worm,” and all that. But, remember this:

The second mouse gets the cheese.