When what you want is so damn different to what you need

I've been having an ethical dilemma. A teaching dilemma of sorts.

Dilemma 1. Which comes first, yoga teacher or business owner?

Dilemma 2. Should I teach people what they want or what they need?

Dilemma 3. How do I know what they need?  That's a tad arrogant isn't it?

Let's start with dilemma 2. My most useful teaching tool is a spectrum. At one end is flexibility and the other end is strength. If you want a sustainable body you need to straddle the two ends. Plant one foot firmly at each end. Don't water one down. Don't let one erode the other. Pay equal attention to both.

What tends to happen is people have both feet at one end, committed entirely to either the strength end or the flexibility end.  At that point all they feel comfortable with and all they crave is to stay at that end. It's familiar, it's habitual.

Insert my dilemma. Do I teach them postures that will take them where they want to be, which is more of the same or somehow turn their head to glimpse across at the other end. To take a few tiny steps toward it. Do I give them what they want or what they need?

Now dilemma 1 shows up. They are paying. They should get what they want.

Something random helped me with dilemma 3. I'm doing work placement for uni this semester. I have to plan and execute a competitive event and find a sporting organisation to host it. Unfortunately for me, yoga is in no way competitive and try as I might, I couldn't manipulate it to fit the competitive criteria. So I came up with another brilliant idea. Found a workplace. Tick.

For my event I needed personal health and statistical information from five professional football players to use as benchmarks. Difficult. Information not available on wiki. Problem.

I got my hands on the direct contact details for the CEO of a football team. I emailed him. I wasn't rude but I was super direct. I was respectful as I asked for exactly what I wanted. I named the five players and outlined the data I needed. I didn't sugar-coat it. I didn't think about what I was likely to get, I just asked for what I wanted.

I got it. I got every single thing. No kidding.

Learning for me. Ask for what I want.

I couldn't control what I was going to get but I could control what I asked for. Just by putting it out there. So I'm putting it out there for you to think about yoga in the context of want vs need.  Think about where are you on the spectrum? What do you need to get to the middle? Yoga isn't designed to be comfortable. It's designed to keep you balanced. To keep one foot firmly planted at each end.

To keep you strong, resilient, dynamic and active enough. To allow you to be soft, bendable, fluid and gracious enough.


Theory of 3

I was recently interviewed by a magazine on my occupation as a yoga teacher.

I was asked to focus on the occupation of teaching yoga rather than what yoga is or is not. And so my theory of 3 emerged. I’ve had this theory for quite a while now. All jobs can be categorised into 3 types. The enablers, the enrichers and the evolvers.

The evolves are the drivers.

They are responsible for 2015 being a vastly different landscape to 1915. Think scientists, researchers and financial planners. Think engineers, computer techs and creative marketers. They are not concerned with today, they exist for the future.

The enablers are the lifelines.

Nurses, doctors, firefighters; they all provide assistance to people who may be having the worst day of their life. Teachers, disability workers, aged carers; they give people the skills they need to make their way in life. Speech therapists, childcare workers and mums and dads are all lifelines for their clients.

The evolvers need the enablers. When a financial planners house is burning down he needs his firefighter lifeline. A childcare worker is the lifeline for the engineers baby between 9 and 5.

The enablers look to the evolvers to make sure 2070 is going to be a more colourful, more sustainable, more accepting and more prosperous world than today.

The enrichers sit in the middle.

They enrich our lives so we're a little more comfortable and more at ease. These are the jobs that often didn’t exist in years gone by. They are the retail assistants, petrol station attendants and baristas. The telco workers, hairdressers, butchers and builders. Truth…we don’t actually need them. The fact is we can do without a haircut but how amazing do we feel when we get one. We can do without petrol stations but we’ve outgrown bikes and become much more globalised. We can do without shop clerks but I don’t know how to grow a leek. We could actually do without builders, we used to live happily in caves but how can you compare a tent to a house. We can do without writers but how delightful is it to curl up in bed with a good book.

It’s going to be really challenging for an American scientist to connect with his Finnish counterpart without a telco worker. Not impossible but really difficult. A doctor doing a 12 hour night shift will happily hug her skinny flat white. She’d still make it through her shift but will be much nicer and more attentive. Two desirable qualities in a doctor.

Our positions all have a higher purpose, not just to cut hair or process a payment. It’s not just about putting out a fire, soothing a wound or creating a website. It’s really not about teaching ABC or how to play guitar. The purpose generally isn't listed on the position description, only the requirements, skill sets and pay grade.

The magazine article finished with my thoughts on the occupational highs and lows of being a yoga teacher. The things I didn't anticipate, wasn't trained for and the things I wouldn't trade for anything.

  • I wasn't trained but have had to learn the art of restraint. People share a lot and it takes restraint to only listen, not try to fix the problems of the world. Dr Phil is for that.
  • Also being trained as a counsellor would be super helpful most days.
  • Teaching body awareness is a feat that constantly needs finessing.
  • Being ok when people cry in class, show me their scars, look at me with daggers, come every day or don't come for a year. It's not about me.
  • Reading situations so I can respond appropriately when people speak ill of yoga. The 5000 year old system needs to be protected but it's not mine to own and finally...
  • Having skin under toes contributes greatly to overall foot comfort. I regularly have no skin under my big toes from 35 hours a week turning left and right to demonstrate postures. Just goes with the territory I guess.