Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Compassionate Leadership in Yoga: The Skills We All Need Now, Accessible Yoga Online Conference 2020

Pamela Stokes Eggleston and Amina Naru

This post is by presenters for the upcoming Accessible Yoga Online Conference 2020.

By Pamela Stokes Eggleston, MBA, E-RYT-500, MS, C-IAYT

(Amina Naru, E-RYT, YACEP will be presenting with Pamela Stokes Eggleston)

In the corporate world, leaders, managers and CEOs are often booked all day based on the societal proposition that it is both necessary and leads to greater work productivity, despite evidence to the contrary. If leaders believe they don’t have the time to work through all aspects of a problem or challenge, they are more inclined to be limited in perspective, reactive and impulsive. Their thoughts and actions become unconscious and reflexive.

As avid yoga practitioners, yoga service providers, and yoga therapists, we have sojourned to unlearn some of these behaviors through the experience of sweet reconnection to ourselves, a keener focus and awareness, and a blossoming appreciative value for others. We have, through this transformative and embodied process, witnessed the unfurling of these experiences with the clients we serve and the students we teach. This significant shift can be described as compassion. Thupten Jinpa describes compassion as “a mental state endowed with a sense of concern for the suffering of others and aspiration to see that suffering relieved.”

It is exciting to note that these ideals are some of the core components of compassion in leadership. Compassionate leadership invites the leader, manager, and CEO to pause and become present with their colleagues and employees, and to see them as equal contributors. Indeed, it is the new paradigm of leadership. And what can be discovered is an exciting way of navigating––through integrity, authenticity, vulnerability, and purpose––the yoga service and yoga therapy communities.

... How can the leader seek to become more compassionate in their role? Through these queries: How much of this am I bringing unconsciously to a situation, challenge or issue? How much of this is story? How is this affecting my leadership? Through this self reflection, spaces can be created for allowing and bearing witness the rise––a recognition and remembrance of the true self––through regular inquiry. To do this: 
1. start your day with a contemplative practice; 2. before you get to work, remind yourself of the company's purpose and recommit to your role as a compassionate leader; 3. throughout the day, pause to presence before starting the next important task; 4. review the day's events at the end of the work day so it does not spill over into home life; and 5. before bed, read something inspirational.

Harvard psychologist Ellen Langer advocates leaders developing an “environmental mindfulness:” a constant questioning and listening––inquiry, probing, and reflecting––to gather insights and perspectives from other people. This active engagement leads to smarter questions, better learning, and a collaborative trust.

Finally, be curious. Leaders can enter conversations with close-mindedness and an unwillingness to see other perspectives. The mindful practice of the beginner’s mind, in which you make no assumptions about what has happened or needs to happen, but rather keeping an open mind, and seek out others’ perspectives in an open way will make the conversation more meaningful. This requires the compassionate leader to make fewer assertions and ask more questions. A few compassionate leadership strategies to help with self-reflection include:

— Cultivating love in abundance

— Developing self-care techniques

— Creating healthy boundaries

— Being brave and vulnerable

— Using peace, compassion, and healing energy tools

— Identifying strengths and challenges

— Cultivating relationships and partnerships

— Strategizing short- and long-term goals

— Uncovering what gets in the way

— Discovering what works

Compassionate leadership does not have to be a difficult task. Once we get out of our own way, address samskaras, soften the ego’s edges, tap into the power of yamas and niyamas, open our hearts and ask ourselves why we practice, serve, teach, and share yoga as service and as therapy, the answers will come.

“Compassionate leadership nurtures innovation.” ~Lionel Valdellon

Originally published in Yoga Therapy Today, Summer 2019, a publication of the International Association of Yoga Therapists ( Shared with permission.

Pamela Stokes Eggleston and Amina Naru are the Co-Founders of Retreat to Spirit, the former Co-Executive Directors of the Yoga Service Council, and board members of Accessible Yoga. While both are heavily immersed in trauma-informed yoga, 

Amina works with the jail and prison populations through POSH Yoga, 

and Pamela works with veterans, service members and their families and caregivers through Yoga2Sleep. In their collective work with Retreat to Spirit, Amina and Pamela focus on the subtle, energetic, and soul-inspired aspects of yoga, connection, leadership, and wellness.

This post was edited by Patrice Priya Wagner, Managing Editor of Accessible Yoga blog and member of the Board of Directors.

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