I came across a clever LifeHack article on the spectrum of introversion and extroversion. Sure, some of us are innies. Some of us are outies. But we also can be introverts with extroverted personas. (I’ll raise my hand for that one.) I remember when I read the book Quiet by Susan Cain. It was like reading a gospel authored for me. It gave me the courage to actually begin allowing my introversion with this external persona to be an asset instead of the pain-in-the-ass set of social needs that made me awkward, boring and confusing- or so I had been told.
I have spoken and written about a deeper need to understand ourselves at length over the years. Well, I have made a career out of it actually—this educating on the intersection of psyche, soma, heart and culture. And why does any of that even matter anyway? I have long felt that much of the current yoga industry can be like trying to shove square pegs into round holes. And that leaves us two choices— change the peg or change the hole. Or perhaps a third option exists.
Finding a place where you can actually fit in.
Much of the yoga culture these days is demanding us to be extroverted when so many of us are much the other. That is not the whole story though. Many of the extroverts get shamed for being so by the sadhana police.
(insert eye roll and annoyed face.)
I have been called standoffish, aloof, mean and more because I simply need to connect within before I can meaningfully and sincerely connect with others.
In the "business" and "client centric" models of studios and programs the introverted teacher is often bashed and told they are bad at sales and welcoming. Shame on you for not being cheery and delightful. Attrition occurs because of you lack of pep. Less than 20 people in a class is no class at all.
(Ok, I am obviously getting a bit cheeky.)
But seriously. This is not far from what I have heard.
What if we fostered introverted teachers to model for others what magnificence quietude can bring. What if we supported introverted teachers by giving them other studio tasks that didn't involve talking to people. Frankly, I would rather fold blankets then sign in students at a desk. Now to make things seem confusing, I happen to really enjoy engaging with students one a time, in a smaller space. I cane a rather delightful yoga hostess. And I adore that connection. That way I can actually make meaningful contact. So its not so opposite you see.
But rather, where do I fit in.
Now before we go all fist pumping for the introverts (introverts don't usually fist pump anyway) let us remember that introversion is not code for being a jerk. No, you do not get to be aloof and then call yourself an introvert. That is not how it works. And if you are introvert I am not going to cajole you because you do not want to be social today. (I don't want to be social a lot of the time. Guess what, its actually really good for me to see other human beings. Its actually critical to my—dare I say— spiritual practice, to engage in social constructs.)
Left inside myself too long I become my own narcissus and nemesis. Engaged in the collective I become better, more whole. Left too much to the pack too long I become rancid, renegade and resentful.
Of course, any introvert choosing themselves to be in a person related job has to rise to the social occasion. Just because you are an introvert does not give you license to be mean or arrogant or judgmental without due cause. you have to watch that resting bitch face. It’s a tough world to go out and engage with humans day in and day out in the practices of yoga--so much contact. I know. I get it. But also, (and I do mean this pleasantly), suck it up. You can be introverted and find ways to be socially appropriate. In so doing you may cultivate waysto be with yourself, deeply nourished and find external engagement meaningful and satisfying.
Ok, now onto the extroverts…
I know plenty of extroverted yoga teachers who feel shamed for being loud and boisterous and the life of the party. They are often told they are "unyogic" and "showoffs". Now, come on people. That;s just not fare. You can't judge someones sincerity in practice by only what you see that is consents with a demanding extroverted cultural ideal. In fact, I love an extroverted yoga teacher. They make things fun. They bring out the side of me thats more playful. They are charismatic and catching and charming. I want to pet them. They give adjustments and love to do it. And sometimes I just really want that. And apparently, a bunch of others do too. These are the folks you should be having at the front desk studio owners. These extroverts will talk you and your studio up to the high heavens and bring student after student into your space. And frankly then can give those quiet teachers some relief.
Extroversion does not negate reverence. It does not preclude depth. But it can also be helpful when those extroverts stop talking enough to look around and see. Dear extroverts, I know there is a big coming of age for the power of the introvert right now. But thats because you have been in the light a long time. Whole cultures are based off your inherent traits. Might you step back just enough and long enough for those who need more time and space to step forward to do so?
Basically my point, if you couldn't already tell is a call to action on several levels.
If you are a studio leader of any sort, perhaps try getting the introverts and extroverts to work together to help your space and students thrive. We need the balance and the harmony of both these energies. Most people are on a spectrum anyway, and encouraging acceptance profits connection and useful coexistence. If you care about your business to the degree you are asking teachers to be and make of themselves something they are not, then you add to the confusion and the noise. You have an incredible opportunity to uplift. But you cannot unite without seeing and respecting the difference difference makes.
Before yoga, comes the people. Your people are the yoga.
Also, let us not be down on ourselves for who we are--truly, deep inside. Let us not walk in shame and doubt wishing we were like someone else. Life is not better as in innie or outie. Let us find mutual respect in supporting what is hard and celebrating what comes innately. Let us forever quest for the truest expression of who we are in the world. Only then can we take a seat, an asana, of truth.
If you are an extroverted yogi, then fabulous. We need you. If you are an introverted yogi. Fantastic. We need you.
Lastly, for the sadhana police, this is for you. Cut the crap. You are not the judge of enlightenment. You are not the spiritual law enforcement authority.
Yoga offersa chance to become witness and ceremonialist to our own Inner World. Admission: One. You.
We are at an all time high of noise and overstimulation in our world. We could all stand to take some inside time. We need more silence and less noise. This I know for sure. And similarly, which I also feel confident about is that yoga is at an all time place of evolution. We are in the process of creating what yoga is in the west. We don't totally know how that will pan out yet. And like any true extrovert, we also don't know where we are going and in some cases nor should we care. We just know its one hell of a party and we need to be there.