When I started teaching yoga, I felt confident that my experience in business would serve me well.
I had good people skills.
I could manage and motivate a group.
I possessed strong time management skills and could dispense clear and concise instructions.
What I did not anticipate was how my yoga teacher training would inform my business practices.
I own and operate a travel business and as occurs with many businesses, from time to time, we face crises. Last July, we were faced with a complex one involving multiple groups of people spread across several cities and two continents.
After the initial chaos and confusion that happens in an urgent situation, I began to employ our response plan. It struck me that, not only did our response plan align with the five steps that I employ through my 90 Monkeys teacher training, but that they positively impacted how my team and I managed the situation.
Step 1: Be Receptive
Step one in our 90 monkeys principles is to be open to positive possibilities by setting a stable foundation and maintaining a soft awareness. In any intense situation, it’s easy to react impulsively, to look for immediate solutions, to try to fix the problem as quickly as possible.
However, the first solution is not always the best one. During this particular serious incident, remembering this step allowed me to take a deep breath, remain steady, and to look at all possibilities. Most importantly, rather than becoming angry and defensive (“why is this happening to me?!?!”), this step promoted empathy and kindness.
Step 2: Muscular Tone
Imagine that you are in the pose Virabhadrasana 2. Your feet are placed wide on the mat and your arms outstretched. It’s easy to feel as if you are swaying or unstable.
However, once you activate your muscles energetically, and draw in to the midline of your body, all of a sudden you are super strong!
Similarly, appointing an “anchor” or point person to be the central communicator for our team during the crisis maximized the focus, energy, and strength needed to engage in the situation.
Steps 3 and 4: Align Internally and Externally
Alignment instructions can promote ease and stability in any pose. As a well-trained yoga teacher (thank you, Amy Ippoliti!), I can offer verbal instructions or give an adjustment in order to refine a student’s form, to help them to feel open, healthy, and maximize their range of motion. In a workplace setting, we receive these “instructions” from both our own inner dialog and also from colleagues and our professional team. In the case of this serious incident, we got our team, our lawyer, and professional counselors involved to assist us in our response plan. No need to do this step on your own, folks!
Get both your internal team and the outside experts involved for support. It was during this step that solutions came into focus, action steps aligned, and we were able to stabilize the crisis for a positive outcome.
Step 5: Organically Extend
Make space in your pose. Expand out. Yoga is a practice; and, when we combine the alignment principles with reflection, we form a solid foundation for life.
Similarly, the best way to avoid a future emergency is to learn from it. Experience followed by reflection creates the good judgement necessary for running a successful business.
Once this particular crisis was resolved and everyone involved was safe, we didn’t stop there. We held intentional debriefs with our team and others involved, as well as a comprehensive review of our rapid response systems. This reflection helped us to grow in our wisdom, focus, and resilience.
At times, life can be random, chaotic, and can feel out of your control. However, as yogis, we know that a solid practice is what prepares us to face any situation that the world throws our way with strength and grace.
Yoga teaches me daily to be calm and not to overreact, to draw on both my inner strength and external resources, and to extend my offerings to all those in my community.
Polly draws inspiration from all the talented yogis and yoginis in her hometown of Louisville, Colorado! She teaches vinyasa style classes at Yoga Junction where she aspires to promote a sense of community and to guide students to lead active, healthy, introspective lives on and off the mat. In addition to practicing, teaching yoga and training with 90 Monkeys, Polly owns and operates a travel business with her husband. She loves to ski, hike, dance, and laugh with her two young daughters.