Why Yoga Should Be A Staple Of The Construction Industry
A Labourers Waltz
My emergence into the field of construction began when I first left home amid my early teens to explore the wonderful world of bills and the cost of living within one of Canada’s most expensive provinces, not to mention, cities (Vancouver, BC) to reside in. Oh, the joy!!! Truth is, I quite enjoyed—and still do— working with my bare hands, being exposed to the elements, and eaves dropping in on the conversations between my peers which pertained to all manner of things... enticing, if you will. Especially for a man of my age and circumstance. Anything, at that point, was better than dealing with three hormonal sisters and two adults who eased the sting of parenting young teens with copious amounts of cheap wine and Sailor Jerry’s Spiced Rum.
Fast forward six years later to when I left behind framing and cabinetry to join the illustrious ranks of masonry labourers. I had taken on a small siding job with a friend when I noticed a young man applying cultured stone veneer to a newly built home. I had always been imbued with a creative spirit, so when I observed a massive jigsaw puzzle coming together before me, I could not help but feel the pull to pursue employment in that particular trade. Luckily, I found myself in the palm of what many stone masons would deem as the “Kim Jong-un” of masonry. He was, undoubtedly, the best at what he did, but ruled with an iron fist when it came to his employees. Not that he asked too much: just pure, unabridged perfection every moment of an 8-12 hour day.
In hindsight, I cannot help but thank him for his unforgiving ways, as not only did he sculpt me into the successful stone mason and business owner I am today, but his teachings also infiltrated every other aspect of my life: how you do anything is how you do everything.
My former employer could also be referred to as the “Jiro Ono” (Jiro Dreams of Sushi) of the masonry world. Under his reins, I spent the first five years mastering the art of making exquisitely consistent mortar with a shovel and a wheelbarrow, not unlike Jiro's employees who spent nearly a decade learning how to cook rice to a pinpoint of accuracy when it came to moisture retention. I would then lug 80lb. buckets of “mud” (masonry slang for mortar), as well as stone and brick, up several levels of scaffolding and eventually lift it above my head to an impatient and crabby brick layer: the highlight of my existence at the time. As you can imagine, I was fit as a boxer, though my body was littered with lactic acid and strained in ways I never knew possible. To say that I felt weathered and nimble for a 23 year old would be the world’s greatest underestimation. And, no, I’m not just being overly dramatic, as I have a tendency to do when embellishing stories like all great storytellers do...
Yoga meet Sean, Sean meet Yoga!
After "throwing out my back" for the 18th time and listening to my foreman complain, tirelessly, about his recent back surgery, I opted to do some necessary research and stumbled upon a poorly—and I mean so poor it was painful— written article about the importance of stretching before, during, and after any exercise routine. And, of course, after labouring through the authors tragic rant, that piece lead to another, which lead to another, until, ultimately, I discovered Yoga.
Now, I had heard of Yoga before in passing conversation, but when someone tried explaining it to me, it came off as a foreign language, such as German, and I didn’t bother investigating something that I had no interest, nor desire to implement into my vocabulary. But, with a strained body and a screeching foreman in my left ear, I felt the nudge and leaped into a pool of tight pants and exotic postures.
I discovered two things while dipping my toes in the shallow end of the Yoga pool:
1) not only did I become consciously aware of how I moved my body, but I was also much more in-tune with its needs. This improved my job efficiency by being acutely alert as to when I needed to slow down and stretch certain areas to release lactic acid buildup and, also, it translated itself into less time off, due to injuries caused by stiff and aching muscle joints.
2) my performance increased nearly 10 fold. Where once I was applying roughly 60-80 square feet of stone a day, I was now applying anywhere from 100-140 square feet of stone a day; grouted, jointed, and looking immaculate, mind you —did I mention that I was also labouring for myself? My energy levels were on the rise and so was my paycheque.
Tending to your bodies needs, via Yoga, especially in the field of construction, leads to not only longevity in this trade, but also increased productivity, which will undoubtedly transfer to other facets of your life. And I, for one, would not be in the shape I am today, nor as successful as I have become, if it were not for this simple yet elegant practice. I believe the future of all companies, rests solely on the productivity and ingenuity of its workforce in this ever changing industry and that implementing a staple such as Yoga into the core of its workforce, will prove to be an invaluable asset. I know, for a fact, that it has in my case. Happy stretching, my friends!