Putting up the Closed Sign

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image by Nick Papakyriazis on flickr.com

I just cancelled a class. The reason: I am struggling to speak.  I am suffering from the  long lasting  after –effects of a cold. I did an hour long chanting session with a fellow teacher yesterday and I think I might have breathing through my mouth last night when I was sleeping ( no NOT snoring!) And then I chatted and laughed my way through an  hour long mentoring session with a student this morning and my voice was really struggling.

All of this seems to have resulted in me losing my voice. (Funny expression that isn’t it? It’s still there, it’s just not very effective)

And so I had a choice.

  1. Show up to class, suck lozenges and sip water and croak my way through, or
  2. Take time off to rest and gargle before teaching class this evening?

My impulse was to turn up. To be there, as I always am, despite how few students show up. (This is a lunchtime class that isn’t very well attended) This is definitely part of what I consider to be my ethos: integrity, consistency and reliability.  But as I walked to the studio this morning, feeling that burning discomfort in my throat I reflected on just exactly who I was serving with this intention. Not myself – as with all teachers and performers – my voice is a precious instrument. And my students? Do they not deserve to have me fully present – voice and all?

I reflected on what I would advise my students and therapy clients if they asked for advice on this situation.

And my answer would  invariably be: rest.

As a teacher, is it  enough for me to give out advice that I do not feel able to also take for myself? When students come to class with an infection or an injury – following that  culturally conditioned impulse to push on and through – then, depending on the circumstances,  my advice is often to go home and rest. Listen to what your body is telling you it needs. You have permission. As a teacher, I realise that it is important for me also to reflect the value of not pushing. If I turn up to class unable to speak, what message am I reinforcing?

Take my advice –  I’m not using it?

We live in a culture of overwork. Despite what publications like our old favourite the Daily Mail might have us believe, we are far from work-shy, quite the opposite. Often justified as a healthy “work ethic” , we work longer hours, take fewer holidays and fewer sick days than many of our European colleagues. No wonder there are so many people experiencing the effects of chronic fatigue. Pushing oneself to the point of illness cannot in anyone’s book be considered healthy.  Those in employment may feel pushed to work long hours for fear of losing their jobs, and self-employed people like myself may feel that they simply don’t have a choice, because there is nobody else to do it. The truth is, despite how indispensible we imagine we are, things can and do survive and thrive perfectly well in our absence . They really do!

I’m side tracking. I suppose what I am getting at is that this work ethic, this drive to “push through” fatigue, illness, injury and pain also manifests outside of the working environment. Even on the yoga mat. I’ve seen it countless times when students show up at class thinking that somehow they are doing a good thing by making themselves go to Yoga. Because Yoga is good for you, right?

I have had students arrive at class with the flu, in the vomity early stages of pregnancy, with fractures (yup), with a migraine, even with a nose bleed and always, I think ( and often say it too) you should really GO HOME ( via  a doctor if appropriate)

(I should say – because it is my area of specialism –  that in the case of chronic conditions, then it’s a bit different.  Happy to discuss.)

In a recent workshop with my friend and mentor Lorna Penney, we were doing some really deep work and I realised maybe half way through the day that I might not have the necessary emotional resources to teach class that evening. I think I actually said something like “I feel like I never want to teach another yoga class!”  – It’s Okay I changed my mind 😉

What Lorna offered was massively empowering and – at risk of sounding over-dramatic – life changing in its simplicity. She offered to put a closed sign on the studio door and if necessary wait for the students to arrive and tell them that I wasn’t going to be teaching that evening. As it turns out I didn’t take her up on her offer because enough processing was done during the remainder of the workshop to bring me out of my funk, but at that moment, it gave me the sense of space that I needed.  If I  COULDN’T teach, then I didn’t have to – simple.

What came after that was an opportunity to reflect on when it is appropriate to put my own closed sign on the door.  It doesn’t happen very often, but I realise that if I am to be of service to my students and therapy clients, then it is better that I work when my physical, emotional and psychic resources are not depleted.









Business at Heart

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blog also appears at  Ceibhfhion.blogspot.co.uk  and switchingoffblog.blogspot.co.uk

“Every act of business can be an act of love.” Mark Silver, The Heart of Business 

As I mark a year in business with In the Moment , I celebrate what has manifested over the last twelve months. Things I would never have imagined when I started on my journey as a yoga teacher. One of things I have always celebrated about creating the space and the project is the organic and intuitive process that brought it all about, that brought me to the space and brought teachers into my life to share the vision. I have a vision that is based on integrity, non-violent communication and love. 

Yes, Love!

I never had a formal business plan. I did have a vision and a clear idea of what I wanted to create and who I wanted to help, and I had a clear handle on the finances. I originally applied for Social Enterprise funding – which I didn’t get because my desire to be integrated and help everyone wasn’t targeted at one specific group.  The point is, documents exist that formally communicate about my plans, I am not completely flying by the seat of my yoga pants. I just don’t have a “business plan”.

My commitment for this year was to focus more strategically on the marketing of the business and felt that I wanted to take advice. Easy. There’s lots of help out there for small businesses, right? Well… yes. But what I discovered was that there isn’t much help for someone with my business “model”, or with no business plan! One biggie is that I am not interested in growth. I don’t mean I am not interested  in expanding my business or catering to more people, or making money.  I mean I am not interested in the capitalist idea of growth. Actually, it would be more accurate to say I don’t align myself with the idea of growth. What I want to do is run a heart-centred business that also makes me enough money to live on. In normal business parlance – a “profit”. I don’t think my business is failing if my profit doesn’t get exponentially larger. 

I was excited recently by being offered  free mentoring by a local business organisation until I read this in the criteria : “Growth potential £100K to £250K within 3 years.” I turned the leaflet over checking that I had the one for small businesses! Apparently so. And apparently not for me!

Realising that business help was available to me only if I had  the sort of business that fits this idea of growth, I decided to help myself. The business was born that way, so it wasn’t a difficult thing to envisage. So I started looking online for business information from people that were running my sort of business. I found a site (recommended and endorsed) aimed at marketing for yoga businesses and studios.  I downloaded all the free stuff. Great!

Not great!

Every single piece of advice I read was stated in the negative. “Don’t do X” and “Stop doing Y” and “You’re probably not doing Z” 

I kept going. Maybe there are things that I am doing wrong?

And then I got to the bit that said – and I am paraphrasing ” Maybe your teaching isn’t good enough!”

OK. Enough. I have my own inner demons and critics without someone who is supposed to be HELPING ME jumping in on the act. And in a week where my despondency monsters were manifesting, it is not what I needed to hear. It’s not what anybody needs to hear. It’s not that I didn’t agree with the idea, necessarily. I believe sincerely that the teaching we offer in the centre should be high quality and I include myself. But there are other ways to say that, and better ways to motivate. 

It was then that I came across an article in a yoga magazine which was written by business coach. Via her recommendation I came across The Heart of Business. Now we were getting somewhere. Other people run heart-centred businesses! 🙂  I have been enjoying some of the generous downloads from this site over the past week. I also discovered Leonie Dawson  who embodies heart-centred business for women. I recommend both. 

Just those two resources turned my thinking completely. Somehow, despite my rejection of the traditional business model, I had managed to get caught up in thinking that I needed to be doing something different to be successful. And what I really needed to do was to continue to believe in what I was already doing. To do what Mark Silver calls The Remembrance . And to do more of what I know I am good at, and give more of what I have to offer. 

I discovered that my best business coach and mentor, is myself. 

“Your amazing life and amazing business doesn’t have to look like ANYONE else’s.That it doesn’t have to be about sacrifice and burn out and disconnection from those things you hold dearest: your family, your peace of mind, your spirit, your integrity, your time out. It can be crafted the way YOU love it. The way it makes YOU happy.” Leonie Dawson