Is yoga the key to keeping Silicon Valley sane and on the cutting edge of innovation? A growing number of startups have adopted the practice to relieve stress and boost productivity, and one entrepreneur says it “saved” his career, so…we’re leaning towards yeah, probably.
So you thought Silicon Valley was all easy times in hoodie sweatshirts, snapchats and million dollar swimming pools, eh? Turns out the startup lifestyle isn’t as laid back as the comfy attire suggests, in fact, it’s extremely stressful, highly competitive and thoroughly demanding of time, energy and resources.
Take it from successful serial entrepreneur Pravin Kothari who’s spent over 20 years in the startup scene, was largely responsible for ArcSight, security software which was acquired by HP for a sweet $1.6 billion in 2010, and his latest invention, CipherCloud, an encryption platform. For Kothari, yoga is how he survived, and continues to thrive.
“Yoga saved my career,” Kothari told Forbes.com in an interview. In 2004, Kothari suffered the perils of a high-stress lifestyle, resulting in a “stress-induced digestive system disorder.” His doctor told him either give up his job working in startups or start taking medication every day to deal with it. Kothari took this as a message to make a big change. He went on medication but he also started a self-prescribed daily yoga practice of one hour in the morning and one hour at night. After a year, he made a full-recovery. He got rid of the medication, but kept the yoga.
Kothari found that yoga not only helped improve his bodily health, it boosted his creativity and was a mind refresher which is a boon to any entrepreneur or startup competing in an industry thriving on innovation. Yoga is a way to keep some calm amidst the chaos of building and running startups, Kothari says. “By finding their calm, employees are at optimal state for making the best decisions and deliver best results.” Right, Candy Crush developers?
He still practices 35-40 minutes of asana every day with a 20-minute meditation. He enjoys the physical aspect, but admits that it’s the deep breathing and meditation that are the “more powerful techniques of yoga for better mind and stress management.”
We hear about yoga helping people do their jobs better all the time. Actually, YD was just in Austin last month for SXSW speaking to the nerdie tech crowd about this very subject. Yoga and meditation help improve focus and productivity, balance the nervous system, refresh the mind and keep your body healthy. Yes, yoga has made it to lifehack status.
Rather than keep this all to himself, because he’s no dummy, Kothari has brought weekly yoga to his employees at ArcSight. Smart. It’s why so many other companies have started offering yoga in their offices as a perk, why Asana is actually named after it and follows basic yoga principles, why folks from CEOs to news anchors are adopting the practice. “Yoga brings the balance, calm, team harmony, creativity and focus to help solve difficult problems faced every day in business,” says Kothari. “It can help achieve success in business and even fulfillment of personal dreams.” We can say it all we want, but it’s nice to hear this from a yogadork in the Silicon trenches who could code rings around us, probably while in headstand.
Yep, yoga is getting popular with the crowd who says they never have time for it. Still, we won’t hold our breath waiting for the yoga highlights on Mike Judge’s new satirical HBO show “Silicon Valley,” just yet.