Right thought | wrong speech

We all do it. We all excuse it.
When is gossip right speech and when is it just wrong?

In many teacher trainings, discussions about the Yamas and Niyamas are often condensed into easily digestible concepts.

Satya = truthfulness, right speech, non-gossip…sorta. It’s much more complicated than that but it’s a good start.

Every workplace, including yoga studios and fitness clubs, has a policy against malicious gossip. If you’ve ever needed to go to human resources to address it, you know that the line between malicious and unintended is broad and mobile.

When is gossip a positive? Here are three areas to consider:

Are you sharing your personal experience or speculating about others?  Malcolm Gladwell talks a little about the other minds problems in his book, What the Dog Saw. That’s the phrase psychologists use to describe our innate curiosity about the interior lives of others. How often do we ask, what do you think about this? Tell me more about that? It’s fact vs fiction.

Are you exploring bigger concepts or just looking for angry allies? Discussions that are often, and sometimes rightly, avoided at work can be had with close work-friends with respect and integrity. Talking about cultural antagonisms, social movements or even the weather can be an honest exchange for deeper understanding. But, phrases like “don’t you agree that…” are a form of peer pressure that are often used to gather support an unstated agenda.

Humour vs snark. Many people love a catty sense of humour. It takes time to get to that level with work-friends. Friendly jabs at those who are present can be fun. A friendly jab at someone not present who has already heard it directly on other occasions can be on the line. A ‘friendly’ jab at someone called out or named, who is not present and has no idea tends to go over the line.

We all do it. We all excuse it. When is it right speech and when is it just wrong?


Check out this interesting article on how to “Gossip Like a Leader”

LeadeshipFreak

 

I quit! And, you’re fired!

Have you ever left a studio?

Of course, schedules change or you need more time for yourself.

But, have you ever quit?

Sometimes we forget to look at the big picture when where excited about teaching each class.

I once taught at a local Ashtanga shala near my home. It was just a 15 walk away. How wonderful! But, the dynamics of the city changed. And, as the studio struggled to maintain students. I saw my paychecks shrink. Being paid per head is great when the room is full.  But, it was just a short walk down the street. The class time was convenient. I love teaching. What’s the problem?

I did the math.  The numbers revealed the ugly truth. The pay no longer covered the time and energy I spent getting there. I was clearing less than minimum wage, far less than the normal rate for a senior teacher. So, I left.

It’s not always about money though. I taught at another studio that paid a fair flat rate. I was really excited to be a part of the community. This studio was renown throughout the area, the world, and had a legacy. But the community wasn’t welcoming. The addition of a “power yoga” class was sneered at by existing teachers. Yes, air quotes were often used and not so subtle references to “trendy yoga” and “ridiculous poses”.  What I taught was different and many teachers in the space weren’t capable of the vigorous asana. So, they belittled what they were afraid of. It was pretty toxic. So, I left.


“We often say ‘yes’ with regrets.

But sometimes, we have to say no.

Sometimes, we have to walk away. “

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Have you ever fired a student?

I know, I know…it sounds like self-sabotage.  It’s really self-preservation.

I volunteered at the International Film Festival for years. There were several dedicated volunteers who had been with the festival for decades. When I was invited to join the seasonal staff, I used them as a valuable resource for best practices. Things would go well if things went their way. Too often, new volunteers found themselves iced out and discouraged from coming back.

One year, the operations director uninvited dozens of long time volunteers from the festival. It was scandalous. They were fired. And, we were better for it. The general atmosphere was more welcoming and friendly to everyone. A heavy weight was lifted from everyone’s shoulders.


Sometimes, students need to leave your class for their own benefit or for the benefit of your teaching. The student who stays in the beginner class because it’s safe or easy, needs to move on. The regular student who dominates your time and energy before, during and after class is interfering with your serving the other students.

We often say “yes” with regrets. But sometimes, we have to say no. Sometimes, we have to walk away.


Check out this interesting article from James Altucher about the realities of selling oneself…pay close attention to points B and I.

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…in with the new

Every January, teachers, trainers, instructors all talk about the surge. You know those people who make New Year’ resolutions and show up to class en masse for a few weeks.

Some teachers thrive with the crowds.  The more the merrier. Others are caught off guard with a room full of people who don’t know thew cues or understand the language.

Regular students are greatly impacted too. During the first week of January, I had a regular student declare the he “hates those resolution people”. Hmm.

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The New Year is a dynamic time in the club or studio. There a a lot opportunities to get it right and to get it wrong. Here are a few things to consider during the influx of new students.

1. Humility. Keep your ego in check. The larger class size is not about you. People go for what time, place and price are most convenient.

2. Clarity. Regulars know your tone and cues, sometimes even your sequence. Be as clear and direct as possible as if you have a room full of strangers…because you may! Feeling confused or lost can drive people away.

3. Empathy. New students can get guidance and empathy from regulars who are welcoming. Offer up a story about your own first class or first breakthrough to help remind regulars that everyone has a first time some time.

4. Loyalty. Not every one will stick around. Schedules change or some other class is preferred. But to keep class retention high, offer solutions, not just resolutions, to new students showing up in January.


Check out this interesting article from INC magazine about customer loyalty done right.

https://www.inc.com/alison-davis/cvs-pharmacy-just-took-a-big-step-to-increase-customer-loyalty-heres-how-you-can-use-this-idea-to-meet-your-customers-needs.html

Mindful ~ Schmindful

Mindfulness has become an action word in marketing and business on the same level as disruptor, hack or even metta (I still hear it used with seriousness).

So how can you bring authentic mindfulness into your classes, especially corporate clients, without sounding like a old fashioned feminine product?

  1. Be honest: Sometimes you feel, great sometimes you don’t. Did you engage in some serious road rage on the way to the studio? Well, that’s ok. We’re all there sometimes, including teachers. I once watched a teacher scream obscenities out of her car window in traffic and minutes later glide into the studio on a goddess cloud with namaste hands.  Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde don’t represent mindfulness.
  2. Be present: The Dalai Lama said it really well “There are only two days in the year that nothing can be done. One is called Yesterday and the other is called Tomorrow.” If your head is in the past or future, how can you keep your students present?
  3. Be nice: Everyone has baggage. The size ranges from a coin purse to a steamer trunk. If someone starts unpacking their baggage or setting off triggers, you don’t have to like it (remember #1?) or even accept it. Just be polite. Be nice. It only becomes your issue if you choose to pick up what someone else is unpacking.

 

Simple actions every day can set a reasonable standard that we all can strive for in our pursuit of mindfulness.


 

Check out this article on Mindful Working

with more tips for students and teachers in every day life.

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Measure Twice, Cut Once

As teachers, we teach what we know. Sometimes it’s easy to get into a rut of teaching what we’re good at. I’ve taken classes with yogis who have dance backgrounds and very flexible hips. Every class explored hip openers. Every class featured the teacher demonstrating the “right way” to do a pose.

What about the rest of us?  How can a student find his or her individual practice when, as teachers, we preach right vs wrong poses and only teach what we can do well.

We all come to the mat for different reasons. And, every body is very different. Someone handed me an article about a decade ago that explained why some people will never get their hips to the ground in virasana. NEVER. It’s not about flexibility, knee health or dedication to the practice. It’s about the shape of the pelvis and its relationship to the femur head. Bone against bone. I constantly meet students who have become convinced that they aren’t “really doing yoga” because their hero’s pose doesn’t look like the picture in the magazine, the teacher at the front of the room, etc. So, what’s right and what’s wrong here?

By relying on what’s easy for us, we can involuntarily teach our students to measure themselves against our personal standard instead of what’s right for them.

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I recently taught an inversion workshop during a period of time when my own handstands weren’t very stable. I still had to demo the action of lifting up instead of kicking up. I fell backwards and sideways every-single-time.

I was embarrassed but it was what it was. I got the point across.

Thankfully, one student remarked that she was terrified of trying a handstand without a wall until she saw me, the teacher, fall …fail. I wasn’t perfect. I did something I wasn’t good at and it helped the class.

There is no right…just right now.

We should often try to teach those poses that we don’t love or aren’t proficient in. The students come to benefit from the wisdom of our journeys. If that journey is long and difficult, the wisdom we share may be deeper and more impactful in a positive way.

Every time I teach pincha mayurasana, I tell the story of getting unilateral direction for success. I tried to follow that direction for over 8 years and never went up. EIGHT YEARS!!  Then I noticed another teacher doing it differently. I tried it and I’ve had a stable pincha mayurasana ever since. But, it works for me. The other direction works for others. I teach both and everything in between so students have the opportunity to find their own practice and not just watch me do it the right way at the front of the room.