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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


Left side, right side…

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I had a wonderful day on Sunday teaching my seasonal Celtic Yoga Journey Workshop.

As always when I teach these days, there  was considerable food for thought . I  came away with questions for my inquiring mind to investigate. Any excuse for a good old Google! Why does frozen shoulder affect women over 50?  Does massaging the calf release the neck? Can ticks  cause meningitis?

 AND Why do we roll onto the right side when coming out of relaxation?

My knowledgeable and erudite answer?

“Erm- I dunno!”

There were some other yoga teachers there and they said that they had been taught that lying on the right side relieves pressure on the heart.  I am pretty sure I wasn’t taught this. I was still on the journey home when I started to investigate.  I am ever conscious of finding the “truth” in yoga  and  this is fuelled by a lifetime’s annoyance at “made -up -science”- there’s a lot of it about and Yoga is not immune. Those of you who know my teaching will know that one of my pet peeves is the still perpetuated – and in my opinion misogynistic- “advice”  about avoiding inversions during menstuation. Think about it!

So, having some valuable Google time on the ferry -I came up with a few answers.

Firstly – does it avoid pressure on the heart? Some yoga teachers have traditionally been taught that it makes “space” for the heart. Hmmm. Isn’t the heart inside  the ribcage to protect it from any external pressure? Even if it did have a minor effect, the length of time that we spend on the side coming out of Savasana would have little effect. Any real massaging effect of yoga on the heart comes from increasing cardiovascular activity – e.g. in inversions.

The cardiologists’ consensus to this is that it makes little, if any difference to healthy people. There is some suggestion that there may be some effect on the sympathetic nervous system which may make it more comfortable for people with heart failure to sleep on their right side ( helping to lower blood pressure and reduce heart rate) so some people who have had a heart attack have been advised (by some doctors, not all)  to try and sleep on their right side. Bear in mind, this is to do with sleeping. However,this advice has , somewhere along the line,  mutated  into “Sleeping on your left side is bad for you” . It should be pointed out that there is NO CLINICAL EVIDENCE of this effect on healthy people.  Symptoms of Gatric Reflux disease may also cause cardiovascular symptoms and, interestingly – there is some evidence  that lying on the LEFT side actually relieves GERD symptoms, so…you choose!

Then there is the possible effect on breathing. What I teach is that sleeping on either side can favour one nostril or the other in terms of breathing.  I am not sure if the length of time we spend on the side coming out of relaxation would make much difference. But in terms of sleeping on either side, this effect is to do with sinus pressure. In Yoga, of course, the belief is that this has an energetic response with ida/pingala nadis. Right side = active. Left = passive. So lying on the right side was perhaps considered a good way to re-activate after a relaxation in order to re-enter the real world.

And then the real world response from ever practical Yogi Graeme. It avoids chaos in the yoga room. If everyone turns in the same direction then there is no clashing of bodies! 

In terms of my own teaching, maybe I will no longer suggest rolling onto the right side. I will ask people to choose the side that feels appropriate. Or maybe it doesn’t actually matter! If someone was in heart failure and there was any likelihood of them expiring from lying on one side or the other, then I might want to question them being in the yogaroom in the first place!

 I think my point is that I have reached a stage in my teaching where it is not enough for me to continue to teach something that is more about what we are taught to say, rather than  about my own practice.