Like many people, I spent a significant proportion of my early adult life executing my morning routine with all the aplomb of a drunk sloth. I resented getting out of bed in the morning, I was quite likely hungover, and I had no form of routine to look forward to. These days, there’s definitely still the occasional red wine grogginess. But, I’ve replaced the lack of structure with yoga and meditation.
I’m no more graceful than I used to be, although I’m possibly bendier. After committing to a daily yoga practice (mainly using videos I find on YouTube at 5am) I’ve noticed some differences to the way I freelance.
I don’t take negative feedback to heart quite as much
Working as a freelance copywriter often involves navigating the murky world of client feedback. In most cases, it is constructive and helpful. Sometimes it’s cruel and unnecessary. For example, I had one particularly passive-aggressive client tell me that it’s “okay” to write “basic content” but there “does need to be a degree of intelligence.”
Pre-morning yoga routine, I would have spent much of the day letting my response fester on and off in my consciousness. At present, I have the skills required to absorb the unnecessary feedback, acknowledge my emotions, then park it and move on.
(I feel I should also mention here that the same client didn’t know the difference between AD and BC…so maybe my glee at her lack of intelligence suggests I haven’t moved on fully. Anyway…)
One systematic review of Randomised Control Trials (RCTs) into the ways yoga reduces stress shows that it can:
- Decrease blood pressure
- Lower your levels of the stress hormone cortisol
- Lower your heart rate
Many of the ‘stressy’ feelings we all experience when we encounter negative feedback come from physiological mechanisms such as the above. In fact, a racing heart rate accelerates the emotions we associate with anxiety and anger. If yoga brings balance to them, it makes sense that awful emotions don’t feel quite so pronounced after a (slightly) horrible event.
I no longer dread opening my inbox
I’m not sure whether my fear of my inbox stems from my dislike for negative feedback, but I used to dread opening it. This made no sense at all. The worst thing in there would be a revision request, which is par for the course when you’re a freelance copywriter.
At the same time, the exaggerated way in which some of us humans experience emotions can make us fear simple events. Opening your inbox can mean receiving marginally bad news. As we’ve evolved to flee and avoid those things that are bad, but we no longer face bad threats such as tigers and lions, we apply those emotions to smaller actions. On a day-to-day basis with no physical outlet for fear, that ain’t good.
While I’m rarely jumping for joy at the thought of opening my inbox, I no longer dread it. If there’s a revision request, I just schedule time for it and accept that I likely won’t die in the process.
The closest study I can find to illustrate why I no longer fear my inbox comes from a retirement community. All older people have an increased fall risk. With that fall risk comes a fear of falling, which can limit their daily activities. In this study, a selection of elderly persons from a retirement community engaged in a 12-week yoga program. Their fear of falling fell by around 6%.
Although 6% seems like a small number, it does indicate a significant change. To steal an idea from Dan Harris, if you could become 6% happier (or 10%, as he proposes) you would soon take the opportunity. So, make the most of a 6% reduction in fear if you can.
My daily focus has sharpened
Even if you’ve only tried yoga once, you’ll already know how much focus it takes. Even the simpler moves, such as downward facing dog, will soon go awry if you don’t pay attention to what you’re doing. Simple actions such as anchoring through your feet and your hands, using tools such as yoga blocks and yoga straps, and taking time to rescind into child’s pose require your mind to be on your yoga practice.
According to one study published in the Journal of Education and Health Promotion, yoga improves focus for young girls living in underprivileged communities. If these study results translate to general populations, it’s no wonder I’ve found myself more able to focus on the tasks at hand.
Part of that focus appears to come from no longer wanting to have Netflix running in the background while working. It’s as though I want my mind to remain on one task, which has improved my ability to get work done quickly.
I’ve rediscovered the freedom of taking time for myself
I’ve had the privilege of working in several different careers, but each one has sucked away at my me time in some manner or another. While working as cabin crew (flight attendant) I often felt the pressure that came with spending time amongst strangers (colleagues) in various destinations. Not doing so immediately meant that you could spend 24 to 96 hours in a new destination alone.
Working for the NHS, your time is never your own. The UK’s sense of identity with the institution and the way in which it is free at the point of service seems to give patients a sense of ownership over healthcare and medical professionals. If you’re not visible and accessible at all times, you’re in their firing line.
Because of my two main careers, I tried to hit the ground running in similar ways when I started working as a freelance copywriter. Yoga has given me the chance to slow down my mind and change that. It appears I am not alone in finding ways to incorporate yoga into my profession. In a four-year study that looked at the effects of mindfulness yoga amongst students, many of them expressed an interest in using it to shape their future professions.
I appreciate the beauty of being alone
I’ve discussed this a lot in the past and I’ll probably discuss it a lot again in the future: freelancing is a lonely business. You spend your days working alone. And although it’s nice to not have anybody breathing over your shoulder and throwing unrealistic demands in your direction, this also means you miss out on those lunchtime coffees, meeting giggles, and after work chats.
As freelancers, it’s up to us to try and create the same social structure through seeing friends and family. It’s equally important to not become too co-dependent on those who we live with. We’ll never recreate the social aspects of our workplaces, but we can generate a different form and then fill the gaps by appreciating the beauty of being alone.
Being alone means you can work in peace. You don’t need to worry about noise running in the background. I’ve written plenty of content for meeting pod manufacturers who helped me see how open offices are far from conducive to productivity. In fact, the smallest of distractions can throw your concentration off track for a whole five minutes, so we all need to appreciate the way those distractions aren’t there.
Then, there’s the way you can potter off and pretty much do what you like. If you need to restructure your schedule, you don’t need to explain that need to anybody. Take today, for example. I was all set to do a whole 90-minutes of Sivananda Yoga, you know, the traditional way. But, new deadlines have flocked in my direction and so I am switching that up for 60 minutes of Hatha tonight.
What does this have to do with yoga? I feel as though the practice has helped me reflect on the more positive aspects of my life, which has then redirected my sense of gratitude. When you start seeing things through a different lens, the elements of your lifestyle that frustrated you gather a new form of beauty.
As I alternate between watching YouTube videos, attending classes, and engaging in a little self-directed practice, I’m hoping yoga will continue to shape my freelancing practice further.