Change management using Yama and Niyama

School of Yoga explains managing change using yama and niyama

All theory is only as good as its applicability and change is the only constant. So, let us examine how the principles of yama and niYama can be used to achieve success. For this article, I will be reaching into my own experience, hence some of the tools which I suggest may not apply to you. The objective is to share some experience for you to develop your own solutions;

School of Yoga explains change, the great equalizer:

The only constant about change is change itself. Change brings uncertainty and consequently fear of failure. This impacts our identity and our team. Also, change impacts our integrity, transactions, conflict, and all adjustments which we make to perform our duties.

Recognising the reality of change is critical for managing change. Firstly, we need accept change. Secondly we need to confront our fears of its consequences, including its impact on our sense of identity. lastly,  we must understand the process of coping, response and finally giving or receiving feedback.

Ahimsa  (non-violence): covers anger, fear and conflict. Hence;

School of Yoga explains how to choose your battle:

When we are young, we got into multiple activities. Often, we take relationships for granted in the rush to prove our self-worth. So, while these activities cement our sense of identity, the neglected relationships begin to suffer.  Consequently, as we age and our need for relationships increase, we find that those relationships no longer exist. 

Hence, it is important that we exit from non value adding activities and slow down wherever possible. The slowing down allows us time to recover from destabilization brought by change and allows us to build our emotional and spiritual intelligence.

How does one discriminate which activity to engage in and what to leave? Look at whether you are responsible for the outcome and whether you can control it. If you are neither responsible nor have any control over the end result, then its best that you avoid active engagement.

Finally, if you want to get out of an activity which is being thrust on you, say “No”. It’s often hard, but the consequences of not biting the bullet in the beginning can mean getting shot in the end!

School of Yoga explains conflict management in change:

Ancient Indian literature recommends an escalating tool that has four phases (upayas):

  • Sama (negotiation) – conducting a consensus based resolution. All parties win.
  • Dana (inducement) – this requires a trade off, bargaining, exchange or any form of compromise for a solution. Additionally, this may involve bribery, inducement or reward for a solution. No power is used but generally all parties accept a compromise. No one wins, but no one loses.
  • Bheda (influencing) – using indirect pressure or discord for affect a solution. This can also mean fragmenting the opposition. For the first time power is used, albeit indirectly. The outcome is generally win-lose.
  • Danda (stick) – applying direct power to effect a solution.

Escalation should follow the following rule –

  • Sama (negotiation) should be used in 90% of all conflict resolution situations. 
  • Dana (inducement or trade-off) should be a 90% of the remaining 10% situations or 9% of all solutions.
  • Bheda (influence or fragmenting) should be used in 90% of the remaining 1% of situations. Finally,
  • Danda (stick or punishment) should be used in the balance 0.01% choice for resolution management.

Obviously, the escalation in any conflict should be negotiation, followed by inducement, then influence and finally punishment. Needless to say, once a stick is used, then the conflict can rapidly go out of control and there is no telling how it will end.

School of Yoga explains politeness always works when change occurs:

This I learned while watching the cartoon “Barney” with my kids… “Say please and thank you, these are the magic words” and indeed they are, with an ability to reduce temperatures at bring logical discussion back on track. Don’t forget to say “Sorry”, even though it seems to be the hardest word, when appropriate.

School of Yoga explains how to separate the person from the problem:

When the sense of identity is not under threat, then the conversation is calm and both sides become amenable for a rational discussion.

It is also a very important tool when punishments have to be delivered. It allows a personal reach of empathy to the person affected by use of power.

How does one implement this suggestion? Focus on the action – “I think this is a better option” or “this action has the following consequences, hence should be avoided” instead of “what were you thinking when you did this?” or “Are you out of your mind?” which impact the sense of Identity.

Ahimsa is not “turning the other cheek”. The reason is that, if the other person doesn’t respect your sacrifice but slaps that too, the damage to the sense of identity can be devastating. Not everyone can absorb an assault on one’s sense of identity without damage to the Self.

Consequently, ahimsa is not non-violence under any circumstances. Ahimsa is any action which does not damage the sense of identity of any entity we interact with. This includes people, animals, plants and environment and most importantly, our own sense of Identity.

Let us review the other elements of yamasatya (truth), astheya (non-stealing), brahmacharyam (sexual continence) and aparigraha (rejecting material possession).

  • What is common in all the above attributes? It is the ability to work in harmony with others.
  • What is the basis of effective functioning of these attributes?

Some essential requirements would be;

School of Yoga explains how to inspire trust in others:

It is simply not possible to function in a team if the team mates don’t trust you. So, how does one inspire trust in others? To start with, the gap between one’s words and actions should be minimal. This is integrity.

One should not take that which is not one’s due; for instance, if someone has worked for the team, he should be acknowledged. Otherwise, the lack of integrity will destroy the team cohesiveness.

Similarly, not respecting the diversity of others could lead to isolation of individuals, thus reducing team cohesiveness.

School of Yoga explains how to increase the ability to control fear, anxiety and anger:

Anger arises from fear. Fear always arises due to probable loss of identity and manifests itself as anger. Also, fear can be very destructive because of the uncertainty it introduces into outcomes. Due to its nebulous quality, fear has the ability to destroy individuals and since it is easy to transmit, it can destroy confidence, capability and drive.

But, fear has the ability to disappear once it is confronted. How many feel fear before a test, going on stage or the annual appraisal only to see it disappear once the exam or show starts?

School of Yoga explains – Fear

Fear makes us do what we would not ordinarily do. Consequently, this damages our sense of identity or personality or Svatantra. Therefore, te ability to comprehend the truth in any situation, confront our fears and that of others and to follow through without compromise is a very critical test of integrity.

This applies to teams also. The ability to not take what one has not worked for is both astheya and sathya. Finally, team identity will be subjected to stress and fear of failure. Emotional balance within the team and its members can easily be lost. But, integrity must be retained and fear should to be overcome so that the goal is reached. This is the role played by leaders.

Example: It is a historical fact that the losing side in any battle suffers maximum casualties during retreat and flight when fear, anxiety and panic grip the soldiers, leading to loss of unit cohesion. Consequently, they become easy prey for the victorious soldiers.

How does one control anxiety attacks and bouts of fear? Not easily. One has to keep confronting one’s fear which will come in various forms and slowly overcome them. This will take time and one will need to be aware of one’s behavior and the underlying fears driving those behaviors.

Example – how often do we hear the term – “he makes me so angry”. Well, actually how can the other person make anyone angry? It happens because we have given the other person the permission to make us angry! If we refuse to get angry, then no one can force us into that state.

School of Yoga explains why the ability to deal with diversity is critical:

As the world becomes a smaller place, our ability to deal with differences in cultures, sexual divergences, food habits, cleanliness, values and behavior becomes a critical requirement. Why is it a problem? We are all brought up in a particular environment with certain values and systems which we imbibe and use as guiding beacons in life situations. This is conditioning or dharma. Consequently, when we are confronted with another dharma, we are able to adjust to those changes which are closely aligned with our own. However, as the differences increase, the fear of change increases resistance to change.

How does one increase one’s tolerance to diversity? Assimilate what you like, accommodate what you can, compensate if you need to, ignore if the situation is beyond your control and finally, if the situation is really terrible, disengage and walk away until balance is achieved again. If the anxiety is at a point which makes you dysfunctional, seek medical help.

Change is constant, our drive and ambition force us into various situations where we are either drivers or responders. If in this process, we are able to retain Homeostasis or a semblance of peace or if we are able to recover our balance quickly after we are subjected to any stimulus, then we can say that we are progressing…

Editor at School Of Yoga
School Of Yoga is a single point resource for all aspects of Classical Yoga practise. We try to achieve this by placing Yoga's traditional methodology in front of the reader and eliciting his or her experience. We value everyone's Yoga experience and would like you to share and enrich other practitioners so that everyone benefits.
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[…] independent of outside influences. While fear of loss of relationships is managed through yama and niyama, physical, physiological and psychological fitness is managed through use of asana and pranayama. […]

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