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"Yoga occurs where two things meet."

- Richard Freeman, Yogi & author

Does practising Yoga have anything to do with Emotional Intelligence?

By Mark L Chaves on 25 May 2015

Why are corporate "suit" types practising Yoga and Meditation? What is all this hype about Emotional Intelligence (EI or EQ)? And why are Yoga practitioners starting to raise their eyebrows at EI?

Are you like me right now?? Is your head spinning with all the mindfulness and emotional intelligence buzz flying around. Do your eyes roll when your HR manager informs you that you have to attend a touchy/feely EI training course Monday morning? BTW, I heard that in some organizations rolling-your-eyes is considered exercise at the desk. Be careful, this could negatively impact your health care entitlements.

Don’t get me wrong. I am super psyched about all the media attention. However, just like all buzz (no industry is immune), the original spirit or the original “good intentions” tend to become diluted.

Fortunately, we are still early. The Yoga community hasn’t fully embraced the emotional intelligence prophesies (some parts of the world it’s catching on like wildfire as I write this – see excerpt below). I think the main intimidating reason for the early adoption is because there is an atmosphere of confusion engulfing said buzz. So let’s explore this relationship.

  “10 Years Retrospective
Then: Cutthroat Wall Street culture emphasized money and power
Now: Workplace yoga and meditation programs have replaced the three-martini lunch”

-Huffington Post

In the early 90’s, doctors Salovey and Mayer defined Emotional Intelligence (EI) as

  “The ability to monitor one’s own and other’s feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them and to use this information to guide
one’s thinking and actions.”

—Peter Salovey and John D. Mayer

If you are practicing Yoga asana (postures) or dhyana (meditation), you are probably punching your fist in the air and screaming “naaamaaastaaaya!!!” Yes, this is probably “old hat” for you. And that’s pretty cool. So the first requirement for EI and Yoga are the same, Mindfulness. Hey, we are off to a running start.

In the mid 90’s, Daniel Goleman authored a book that catapulted the term Emotional Intelligence onto almost every American CEO’s desk (via the Harvard Business Review). Goleman cites the following five skill sets (domains) needed for EI:
1. Self awareness
2. Self regulation
3. Motivation
4. Empathy
5. Social skill

So, I’m going out on a limb here & do some yoga mapping (love to see your comments on this one): 1) self-awareness is mindfulness directed towards the self; 2) self-regulation can be directly mapped to Patanjali’s yamas (not harming, lying, stealing, etc.); 3) Bhakti (devotion) practice is one of the strongest forms of motivation; 4) what form of empathy can be stronger than Karma Yoga (yoga of service); 5) and Yoga practice is incomplete without community support (Kula or Sangha).

Now, we are witnessing Yoga becoming more mainstream than it already is (imagine that!). Here is a quote from Chade-Meng Tan from Google:

  “I had found my vehicle for aligning meditation with real life, and that vehicle is emotional intelligence (EI, sometimes known as EQ) .”
—Chade-Meng Tan

As for me, I found my vehicle for aligning emotional intelligence with real life, and that vehicle is Yoga.
Yoga and Emotional Intelligence

About the author


mark l chaves

Independent Consultant, Writer, & Photographer

Mark became a consultant, writer, and photographer after working in the software industry for 20 years in Fortune 500 companies. He recently transitioned from his roles as a Wellness Consultant and…  Read full bio

mark@marklchaves.com