The following post was written by Caitlyn Johansen, a dancer, yogi, and administrator. She received her BFA in Dance from NYU, and her 200 hour yoga teacher training from The Perri Institute for Mind and Body.
Since completing the 200 hour yoga teacher training program with The Perri Institute for Mind and Body, I have been teaching yoga to private clients, at dance programs, and to office groups. I’ve also made a huge career switch, and started working in administration for large corporations. Before this career change, I worked in restaurants and studied dance at NYU. When I decided to make the switch, I was worried that I was ill-prepared for office life. However, I quickly realized that teaching yoga had unknowingly prepared me for my switch to corporate life.
Large companies spend a lot of time and money selecting, educating, and training managers. The idea behind this is that stronger management creates a stronger company. Employees count on managers to be educated and knowledgeable, communicate clearly, allocate tasks, manage time, and maintain team morale. I expected the culture of the corporate world to clash with my yoga teaching. However, I quickly began to notice commonalities in my two lines of work.
Corporations generally offer educational programs such as online training modules, live training sessions, and educational reimbursements. These educational programs serve to expand and fortify a manager’s knowledge of relevant subject matter. Ongoing education is vital to successful management, because employees are more apt to respect and trust a manager’s decisions if a manager is well educated with diverse sources of information.
As a yoga teacher, one must continue to train as a yogi. An important part of my ongoing education as a yoga teacher has been diversifying my information sources. I take classes and read literature from as many different yogis as possible. I have found that exploring a variety of yoga methodologies and practices has grown my teaching vocabulary. For example, when I experience a yoga-class-planning block, I go take a yoga class. Hitting the mat as a practitioner often inspires my teaching practice. Inspiration can come from a theme, an adjustment, or a creative sequence presented by another yoga teacher. By diversifying my yoga training, I have more knowledge to draw upon. Therefore, I am more confident that I am prepared to manage whatever situation I am presented with.
Corporations rely on managers to effectively communicate information to employees. Effective communication is the thoughtful presentation of subject matter, tone, and phrasing. When a manager leads a meeting they provide an agenda, set a tone for the meeting, and phrase their statements with care.
In the past year, I have been fortunate to teach yoga to an incredibly diverse student body. Teaching to a diverse student body has taught me to consider the class demographic and setting when deciding upon what subject matter to present and how to present it. For example, the class theme ahimsa, non-violence, should be presented mindfully to a group of military veterans or domestic violence survivors.
Tone is used to energetically support a class. For example, an early morning class of adults may need a more vibrant tone of voice to wake them out of their early morning sluggishness. On the other hand, an after-lunch group of young children may need a firmer tone to focus them during their post-lunch jitters.
Phrasing is particularly important for verbal cues.I have found that dancers are more likely to be able to locate their sitting bones than non-dancers because of their prior movement education. Therefore, reach the sitting bones on the upward diagonal may be a more effective cue for dancers, and reach the hips on the upward diagonal may be a more effective cue for non-dancers. The difference is subtle but impactful. As a teacher, I prepare myself with multiple phrasings of the same cue. When administering cues, I take note of how practitioners are responding and continue trying new phrasings until practitioners are physically responsive.
Corporate managers are responsible for allocating tasks among their teams. Task allocation is more than simply ordering team members to achieve certain tasks. Task allocation requires a manager to intelligently guide and challenge their employees.
From the moment students walk into a room, a yoga teacher allocates tasks to practitioners. Yoga teachers guide students to their spots in the room, and guide them through a series of asanas by giving verbal commands. For example, “Grab a mat and two blocks and set your mat up facing the center of the room,” and “bring the hands onto blocks and step your right foot back to low lunge.” Beyond providing practitioners with physical challenges, yoga teachers provide practitioners with mental tasks, such as, “Focus the attention on the breath,” and “bring your attention to the room.” As a yoga teacher, I have to continue to challenge practitioners with mental and physical tasks. I have found that this is particularly important with private clients, as teachers are able to customize their class plans to the capabilities and needs of one practitioner. In my past year of teaching, I have had the opportunity to guide practitioners consistently from week to week. Challenging practitioners to grow their yoga practice over an extended period of time has been incredibly rewarding.
Along with task allocation comes project management. Corporate managers are responsible for ensuring that tasks allocated to their team members are able to be completed on time. Project management is the setting of goals within a time frame, to ensure the completion of a project by a certain date. Managers often have to make adjustments to employee workloads and tasks to meet deadlines.
A yoga teacher must manage class time in a similar fashion. Beyond starting and ending a yoga class on time, a teacher manages class time through class preparation and class pacing. When I first began teaching, effectively managing class time was a challenge. I would become so excited by the students’ responsiveness to an asana workshop or pranayama that I would lose track of time and have to rush through another part of class. I have found that when I class plan, I now keep in mind what aspects of class are optional to teach and what parts must be taught for students to be well-prepared for future asanas. I sometimes make on the spot adjustments to my class plan and pacing in order to provide practitioners with the healthiest and most fulfilling practice possible.
Corporate managers determine team morale by assessing factors like resources, productivity, and accuracy. When team morale is low, managers employ strategies such as work assignments, promotions, and fiscal compensation to motivate their team members. However, a manager must employ motivational strategies to individual employees while prioritizing the needs of the entire corporation.
A yoga teacher listens to the verbal and nonverbal communications of practitioners, and makes teaching choices that best support the individual practitioner and the entire class group. Attending to the needs of the individual and the entire group is challenging. A yoga teacher must simultaneously take note of patterns occurring among the entire group and individual practitioners. A yoga teacher then tries to use verbal adjustments, physical adjustments, and self-adjustments to benefit the entire class. When I first started to teach, I would sometimes sacrifice the pacing of class to focus on adjusting one student. Through teaching experience, I have learned how to dive in and out of individual adjustments quickly in order to provide continued support to the entire class group. I have also become more sensitive to the class group’s energy when they first enter the room. I take note of whether the majority of students seem restless or exhausted and may adjust my class plan accordingly. I also check in personally with students as they enter the class. I ask students if they have prior yoga experience, injuries, and are comfortable with hands on adjustments. I have found how to balance my attention between individual practitioners and the entire class group.
In closing, I am extremely thankful for my yoga teacher training. For the past year, I have been sharing yoga with others! Beyond the sheer joy of teaching, my yoga teaching practice has made me a better employee. I shifted into a corporate job with more ease than I anticipated and my career has continued to flourish. Yoga constantly sneaks ancient wisdom into my modern life. I look forward to a lifetime of teaching yoga and being taught by yoga!