by Phil Neurnberger

Many years ago, a friend who was a senior officer in a bank asked me how one could possibly translate the esoteric concepts of Yoga Science, meditation and its allied disciplines for practical-minded business executives. I was somewhat dumbfounded by the question, since meditation has immediate application in every aspect of life, and is particularly useful for any businessperson or executive. In fact, the higher you go in corporate life, the more valuable the knowledge of meditation becomes. His question indicated to me that while he may have read or heard about the philosophy of Yoga Science, he had not worked with the practical aspects of this profound science.

For simplicity, we can organize the application of Yoga Science to corporate life into three interconnected areas: health, performance and leadership. The first and most immediate application is with our health and wellness. Stress is probably the number one social and medical disease in the nation. Health care costs for business now exceed 20% of corporate expenses, and often reach levels of 25 to 30%. Health care costs are increasing at a rate of 7.4% a year—double that of inflation. The cost of stress in terms of productivity is mind-boggling. Yet, some easily learned practices relating to breath and breathing could eliminate much of the stress in our lives.

Diaphragmatic breathing is the critical first step. Unfortunately, the high anxiety levels of our modern society have made the habit of chest breathing, rather than diaphragmatic breathing, the norm. This not only creates more pressure for the heart, but leads to subtle and constant fight or flight reaction that predisposes us to over-react to stimuli. Yoga Science clearly points out the dangers of chest breathing, and tells us that if we want to balance and strengthen the autonomic nervous system (the neural system responsible for stress in the body), we must breathe with the diaphragm to stabilize and balance this powerful system. Sleep deprivation provides on example of how powerful an influence diaphragmatic breathing can be. Poor sleep is not simply a safety problem; it also causes staggering costs every year in lost productivity costs. According to a study done at Harvard and the University of Michigan, the average U.S. worker with insomnia causes his or her employer 11.3 lost days every year (about $2,280 in lost productivity). In total, insomnia costs the U.S. workforce $63 billion annually. This does not include the costs of sleep medications—the fastest growing class of drugs on the market. Yet, simple diaphragmatic breathing, done mindfully, right before sleep, often solves most sleep difficulties. Just solving this one single problem could virtually eliminate an enormous productivity loss suffered by business.