When the book, The Secret, came out, I think I saw it on Oprah and bought it. I read it. I rolled my eyes a lot and didn’t really understand what this lady was talking about. It sounded very wistful and new agey and I, mentally, wasn’t in a space to listen to something like that. So I shelved the book and anytime the book came up on a show or conversation, I would roll my eyes and tune it out.

The thing is, I think something in that book resonated with me. I still am not a fan of the vague languaging of the book, but I think there was something to her message that was true. And now, as a yoga instructor, I feel as though I’m sending a similar message all the time.

Physics teaches us about the presence and effect of energy. We know energy is real because we have electricity and conduction of heat or cold. We can see the energy and how the absence of energy affects us. But what about the energy we don’t see? What about the type of energy that is transferred energetically, daily?

Example #1: The Problem Starter

You’re at work and you get a phone call. On the other end of the phone is a regular client who is always a problem. They either call unorganized and not giving you all the info to do your job or their problem is so big they are dumping it on you.

When you pick up the phone you’re fine, but as soon as you realize who it is, the dread begins to set in. As history has taught you, you begin to react to this client internally, even though the client may not realize you’re having a reaction.

Example #2: The Negative Nelly

Stepping away to get a cup of coffee should be a nice little break to bring movement to the body and a little space in the mind. But as soon as you walk into the kitchenette, you see the person who you’re convinced has been put on this Earth to test you. Once they have put their eyes on you, you know you’re hooked into a live feed of their internal dialogue for at least the next 10 minutes-which, is the most anxiety inducing experience you get to have all week.

This person is always delivering the worst-case situations, as though they are really about to happen. Whether it be something happening to them personally, or to everyone in general. If its not the worst-case prediction, it’s an outline of poor behavior of another colleague or the unfairness of the boss.

No matter what you say, this person has the magic ability to spin your solution into their web of suffering and pretty quickly what was supposed to be a rejuvenating coffee run, has left you feeling worn out.

Example #3: Living Chaos

This person can be a friend, family member or co-worker. You love this person and when all the stars are aligned, they can be the greatest person on the planet, but lets just say, that Halley’s Comet has a higher frequency of occurring than getting this person on track. Being around them is a gamble because within a matter of moments everything can quickly go wrong and change the entire dynamic of the visit.

This person’s energy is typically in the balance of several factors that are usually well laid out upon your arrival and you and your presence are secondary because you are there and did what you said you were going to do that day. Now its up to the rest of the support system to help ensure the original plan stays on course.

Its not that you’re not being supportive or care if the plans change and the kids come along. Its that you’ve carved out time to spend with someone who is so preoccupied, you spend your entire visit trying to soothe the situation and saying things like, ‘its no big deal, don’t worry about it’.


You have surely encountered people like this in your life and heck, you may have even been one of these people before. Over time, these different scenarios play out so often, you begin to have a physical reaction to the individual.

Here are my tips on how to protect yourself from the negative energy you’re encountering.

#1: Begin building your ‘force field’.

Creating a mental barrier between you and this person is imperative. The foundation of this exercise is each time you see them, their name or something that reminds you of them, take a deep breath.

Pranayama is two words in Sanskrit. Prana means energy and yama means rein or reining. The ancient yogis believed that we send out energy into the world and the way to protect ourselves from chaotic or unwanted energy was by using the breath. Even now when someone is upset or stressed out, we say, ‘Take a deep breath’, but I wish we would say, ‘Take a long exhale’ as it is the exhale that conducts a calming effects in the body.

As you practice this exercise, the breath you take creates a reminder of the space between you and this person.

#2: Bring wanted energy around your workspace.

Decorating your workspace may be something you’ve done in the past, and at first it was appealing and motivating to have your slice of world at work. But if your desk doesn’t bring back any feelings of home or hobby, maybe its time to reevaluate your space. A workspace needs calming reminders of who you are as a person. These items keep you grounded and give you a window into the outside world.

In some work settings, you may not be able to have a lot of tchotchkes or pictures at your desk (if in this setting you use a desk at all). In these cases you can usually get by with a well placed post-it note. I know its not as lovely as flowers or your Cubs bobble head, but a post-it with a phrase that really connects you can be just as powerful in the right moments.

#3: Remember this person may have something else going on.

Not what you expected right? Why in an article about bringing peace to your environment would I ask you to think about the person who is stressing you out? Because in order to redefine these spaces in your mind and build a stronger defense, redefining your perception of the instigator can help you to empathize and put down your own burden.

What is this person working from? Probably fear. Usually someone this vocal and invasive of others is more than obvious with their own fears. Without taking much effort, it can become easy to see the reoccurring theme to each of their conversations?

  • Are they a scorekeeper? Maybe they’re worried about their job.
  • Are they complaining about another person? A feeling of inadequacy could be at play.
  • Are they always unprepared? Maybe they don’t understand their role, and they KNOW it! But who wants to admit that?

Bringing some compassion in doesn’t require you to rollover to their stuff. But it can help you better navigate your own feelings and reactions to their behavior.


Looking for more on this topic? Join Carmen at her workshop: Yoga at Work: How to stretch in a cube, repel negative people and create a better work environment. This 3 part series kicks-off Thursday, March 8th from 6-7pm and meets the following 2 Thursdays in March. Visit www.mainstreetyoga.com/workshops to register.