14 February 2017

Reflections on Assertiveness as a Yoga Teacher

I had a rather tough day in my life as a yoga teacher. I experienced situations in which I had to be assertive and others didn’t receive it well. I felt pressure to justify my decisions, my thoughts and actions and was even indirectly implied to be inflexible in my approach to things.

It’s funny, if it were the corporate world I was working in, despite the sexist challenges of being a woman, I would have still been encouraged by the company to be even more assertive. e.g. telecom companies don’t take it lightly when you miss a bill payment, exceed your data threshold or run out of credit. It is because this is yoga and and it is in the field of care, consciousness and mindfulness, there is an assumption that as teachers we have to give up parts of ourselves to others, and that we are not entitled to being assertive, which is not true, from my perspective, for several reasons;

Firstly, teaching yoga is my job, which I commit to and am disciplined in to the best of my capacity. I expect the people I engage with to also be committed and disciplined in order for us to have a mutual ground to work together. This commitment and discipline takes the shape of non-written and written terms of a “code of conduct”.

Secondly, as dry and unemotional as it sounds, when I run a class I am running a business and not a charity. It has to make business sense. Yes, rates, timings, terms and conditions are set in major consideration to customer needs and behaviour, and at the same time, equally important, they take into consideration the business aspect as well as the employee and employers, so businesses do not fully and completely revolve around customers. The phrase, “the customer is always right” is misleading and inaccurate. Professional relationships, like all relationships, are governed by chemistry. Certain business models suit certain customers, and some don’t. If either party is uncomfortable with a setup, they either adapt accordingly or seek what they require elsewhere.

Yet the most important reason why I stick to being assertive when needed is because I am simply entitled to, without an ounce of guilt. My needs, my wants, my time and effort are utterly valuable. I am fully entitled to, if not even obligated towards myself, to put myself first. Always. Always. Always.

Even when I am doing a job that is of service to others, if I don’t put myself first, I have nothing to offer people. It may be judged, it may be perceived as selfish or rigid, yet it’s the bare, honest truth. In a society where we are pressured to shy away from giving ourselves the attention we deserve, what I reflect on may be difficult to digest and accept. Yet there’s no space to be shy about loving and caring about myself. As flexible, adaptive and lenient as I believe I need to be, I need to be equally strong, steady and stable.

Claiming one’s rights doesn’t deprive anyone of anything. When I claim my rights, I am empowering myself, I am accepting that I deserve what’s good for me. I am creating space to receive abundance. And the universe is a magical place, because this universe is infinitely abundant.


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