5 Reasons I love Hot Yoga
I owe my DevOps career to Hot Yoga
Many of us in the DevOps community have a Phoenix Project story. In my case, I was lucky enough to catch Gene Kim discussing many of the concepts from the book such as the three ways and I felt thunderstruck by the application of Theory of Constraints and many of Deming’s ideas to IT.
These ideas made a ton of sense to me. Earlier in my career I had spent a number of years designing, implementing, and sometimes operating large scale Supply Chain Planning Systems. Occasionally this also meant leading manufacturing transformations (Toyota Production System, Lean, Just In Time, Kanban, etc.). At the time I was leading our software development teams (.NET, java, ABAP, SQL, EDI, BizTalk, Informatica) and we had started exploring some areas to apply DevOps. In those days you didn’t hear about very much DevOps innovation in enterprises let alone in enterprises focused on the Microsoft stack or N Tier Packaged (COTS) Software.
I thought you were writing about Yoga! Around 2014 I was doing a lot of hot yoga and during Shavasana (aka Corpse Pose) I was reflecting on what I really wanted to be when I grew up. Although I enjoyed most things in the IT leadership realm, I was getting a bit restless and I really missed being a part of an active business transformation. Luckily I had opportunity to lead the Platforms & Systems Engineering teams which would be well outside my background. In addition,these teams would be a great place to focus on building a learning organization focused on continuous improvement. I credit Hot Yoga with putting me into the frame of mind to take on this new challenge. Without hot yoga I likely wouldn’t have felt confident in taking the plunge.
As DevOps practioners we often talk about going outside of a comfort zones by challenging ourselves with different ways of working, new technologies, or taking risks. These ideas have been popularized by Dr. Carol Dweck’s mindset research in which describes both a fixed mindset and a growth mindset. Individuals with a growth mindset don’t mind or fear failure as much because they realize their performance can be improved and learning comes from failure. Conversely, individual with a fixed mindset dread failure because it is a negative statement on their basic abilities.
I appreciate that Hot Yoga is self-contained, relatively brief opportunity to push myself outside my comfort zone. The more I push myself, the greater the payoff. In contrast to IT work the feedback cycles are nearly instantaneous. One pose I’m trying to improve my consistency in is side crow (parsva bakasana).
Whenever my alarm goes off at 5:20 AM, I am super tempted to go back to sleep … Perhaps the 6 AM yoga class reminds me too much of my time in the Army? Regardless of my reluctance, I can tell you that I am always glad that I made the effort. Starting the day with something difficult creates momentum for the rest of the day and makes it easier to go outside my comfort zone again. PS - I’ve noticed that the more I role model a #GrowthMindset the more I see colleagues going outside their comfort zones as well.
Counter Measure for aging
Sitting at a desk multiple hours per day can cause tension, back problems, and other issues. Although I’m a big proponent of walking one on ones and I try to stay active, aging seems to be winning. Yoga is a great counter measure. I’ve noticed that I’m becoming more flexible. If you are willing to give it a try you can probably find a local studio with a week of free classes.
Shavasana - 3 minutes of clarity
There are few times in my life where I’m absolutely still and I have a clear mind. On a number of occasions I’ve been wrestling with some issue or technical problem and after Shavasana a solution emerges. I’m not sure what the mechanics are exactly but I suspect it has to do with subconscious problem solving, perhaps like “sleeping on a problem”. Evidently our subsconscious mind has orders of magnitude more resources than our conscious mind. If you are interested, David Creswell from Carnegie Mellon has some interesting research on the topic.
Almost once per week I’m able to take the noon yoga class. Due to the 100 degree temperature and 40%+ humidity sweat is dripping off me like a slow faucet leak. This mixture of heat and humidity helps students to move deeper into poses than might otherwise be possible. Athough I emerge from class a mess, I feel as if sweated out lots of impurities.
After a quick shower I’m off to my favorite Pho place. Unfortunately, the shower hasn’t really stopped the sweating very much. It doesn’t really matter because I make my pho extra spicy which induces a second sweat cycle. Pho is the perfect treat after pushing myself in class.