The obstacle is the way. That saying can either be deeply meaningful or infuriatingly contrary, depending on your point of view. All of us start things big and small, full of hope and vim and vigour. Yet our journeys, no matter whether trivial or significant have one thing in common - they will run against an obstacle or two.

Think back to the many times you started a work or personal project with much enthusiasm, only to leave it half-abandoned or perhaps as a wistful memory, the exercise schedule not followed, the time management plan abandoned in favour of flexibility, or the monthly saving target not met to because there was a sale.

The eating-healthy-at-work intention sacrificed at the first working lunch where pizza was served. And yes, the New Year resolution abandoned within the month.

What goes wrong? Believe it or not, you are not unique in facing these challenges. People have faced this issue for a while now and the ancients knew a thing or two about it. So predictable is out predilection for giving up that all our possible reasons for going off-track can be listed on a menu.

Let’s call it the menu of derailments, if you please.

Patanjali lists the nine types of obstacles that arise when one sets out on the path of yoga in the Yoga Sutra.

1 Vyadhi: Physical illness

2 Styana: Lack of interest or enthusiasm

3 Samshaya: Doubt or indecision

4 Pramada: Carelessness or negligence

5 Alasya: Physical laziness

6 Avirati: Desire for sense objects

7 Bhrantidarshana: Living under illusion or wrong understanding

8 Alabdhabhumikatva: Missing the point or inability to hold on to what is achieved

9 Anavasthitatva: Inability to maintain the achieved progress

While this list was initially meant for the practice of Yoga, if you think about it, this sums up most of what keeps us from achieving our goals in other endeavours too.

Let’s pick the first of these - the lack of health.

Most corporate cultures have no place for conversation around an employee’s physical fitness. On the contrary, there are active impediments by way of late nights, travel at unearthly hours, stress and a sedentary life behind a desk.

Even the celebrations are around alcohol and greasy, rich food. Very few organisations will nudge employees on the path to a balanced lifestyle where nutrition, sleep and well-being go hand in hand with performance.

We are a little on our own here. Good health is assumed to be an employee’s concern - a table stake for being part of the team. Most people keep borrowing from their health account without putting anything back. Until the day they can’t.

Yoga counts good health or the lack of illness as a necessary condition for deeper practice. The four things needed for this to happen are right breathing, right movement, right rest (sleep) and right nutrition.

Let’s begin at the very beginning then - with right breathing. The Chinese philosopher Lau Zhou said that the perfect man breathes as if he is not breathing.

Most of us go through life without really breathing correctly. Incredible, I know. We start our lives as children who know the art of breathing. However, as we grow, our breathing gets distorted. It becomes shallow and quick, instead of the deep and slow rhythm we had as children. The closest we come to it is when we fall asleep and our mind’s fluctuations no longer affect our breathing.

The yogis realised that the reigns of our mind and its moods lie in controlled breathing. Indeed, getting in control of our breath is essential to workplace excellence.

Think about the time when you absolutely must perform under pressure in office – the presentation, which will decide whether your project gets funding, the interview, the keynote speech, where you want to dazzle listeners with your insights.

Breathing right defuses the stress out of all these situations. So, where do you start? Quite literally at the very beginning.

Even before you get to pranayama or breathing exercises, start with saying hello to your diaphragm and try to slow down your breath. Here’s a guide to abdominal breathing that anyone can start with. And the beauty is that this calming and centering procedure can be done anywhere and no one will be the wiser for it.

Once this is mastered, there are other yogic breath-control Pranayams and asanas that lie in wait for those who seek.

You don’t need to be a Godman with a beard to own the benefits of yogic breathing. Set up a daily reminder on your smartphone for 10 minutes where you will do nothing but listen to the music of your breath in silence with your eyes closed.

Being calm is a superpower. In the corporate world it separates the real leaders from the pretenders. Go on, make it yours and take the first step to staying started.

The views expressed in this article are not those of Fortune India

Anamika Sirohi
Anamika Sirohi

The author is a business leader, marketing passionista, and a raconteur of  stories. She is interested in all things digital, is an enabler of  women in leadership. Running and yoga are her meditative escapes and humour her go-to defence. She enjoys travelling and food experiments with her family. You can find her at

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