Ashtanga yoga and organization change 

Like most of you, I have over the years attempted multiple courses in Yoga and meditation – and never internalized or sustained them. Over the last 1 year I have immersed myself into the world of Ashtanga Yoga, surprising myself with the progress and sustainability.

I think there are some interesting lessons in the school of Ashtanga Yoga for organizations to create sustainable change.

Ashtanga Yoga is a style of Yoga codified by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois and taught by 100s of his students around the world.

The instruction mechanisms have a few unique characteristics:

  1. DESIGN and a common LANGUAGE: The 6 levels / series are codified and followed every where in the world by anyone who teaches today
  2. ESTABLISH the BASE: The student progresses only when the asanas / postures are mastered at every level. Only after the teacher believes you have mastered the current level, does he teach you the next asana
  3. ALLOW for INDIVIDUAL LEARNING CURVES: Everyone’s body and mind is different. So the class is designed as a self practice session, where you progress at the pace you can. The teacher observes you to occasionally correct, guide and move u forward. This makes learning extremely personalized and internalized
  4. DEVELOP the SELF PRACTICE MUSCLE: We have all seen how not having the teacher around significantly erodes the nature of our practice. Ashtanga Yoga is based on self practice and not explicitly linked to the presence of the teacher
  5. LAYERED: On the surface there is a lot of physical bending and sweating. Below the surface there is a mental and spiritual transformation

I see very strong parallels to these ideas in implementing any new initiative or any organization wide change.

What do you think?

Various asanas in a sequence and organized as levels, as shown below


Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, creator of Ashtanga Yoga


My teacher Gururaja Anemajal who has devoted his life to learning and teaching yoga. His Ashtanga Yoga Kendra is in HSR Layout, Bangalore



  1. Ashtanga Yoga levels
  2. Sri K. Pattabhi Jois
  3. Where I learn – Ashtanga Yoga Kendra in HSR Layout 

Head winds / tail winds asymmetry

Do this exercise before you read rest of the post.

Round 1: List in 3 minutes all the head winds and tail winds in ur life.

Round 2: Them double the number of tail winds in 2 minutes.

Round 3: Double them in 2 minutes more.

Count the # of  head winds and tail winds after each round.

Typically the # of head winds and # of tail winds are very similar or the former is more at the end of round 1.

At the end of three rounds, most people were surprised to remind themselves the # of tail winds in their lives. And how they underestimate them.

Why is it that people easily recognize head winds in their lives more than tail winds? When they do people mostly recognize ‘other people’ than ‘systems / environments / intangibles’  in tail winds. And vice versa in head winds.

Why this asymmetry?

Listen to this NPR talk on Why is my life so hard? or read the transcript

What do you think about this concept?

What would you do with this asymmetry?


  1. Talk on Head winds / tail winds asymmetry by Dr. Thomas Gilovich
  2. NPR talk – Why is my life so hard?
  3. Life’s headwinds and tail winds