April 20, 2012

The Power of Introverted Yoga Teachers. ~ Duncan Parviainen

This post was inspired by Susan Cain’s book, Quiet.

We all know the extroverted yoga teacher: the one who has a lot to say, who is an engaging and fascinating speaker, the one who is always out and about, making grand gestures and expressive faces, networking, promoting, making new connections, going out for dinner with yoga friends, having a yoga party, inviting you over, always socializing and making new friends. I love these teachers, their vibrant energy fascinates and inspires me, and their interest to connect with so many people I find admirable. I get excited when I am around them.

So it is no surprise that I pushed myself to follow in their footsteps. I thought to myself, “This is what successful Yoga teachers do and so this is what I have to do.” I admired them, and so I thought I had to become more like them.

I am not a natural extrovert. Conversation (unless deep and interesting or hilarious) usually exhausts me. I find meeting new people tiring and the whole idea of socializing and networking is overwhelming to me. I am (for the most part) an introvert.

I like my couch, my books, daydreaming, creating in solitude, being by myself and I like keeping to myself. I prefer being soft-spoken in large crowds (except when I am with life-long friends). I love listening. I sometimes have difficulty articulating, and pronouncing words. I generally get nervous addressing large crowds, and my face is not naturally expressive (people used to always say, “Duncan, is something wrong? You look so serious.”).

And as some of you read this, you will probably think “Wow, this is not the yoga teacher or the friend I know.”

This is because since the age of twelve, I have forced myself to develop a more extroverted appearance in society (it all started when Mr. Speedy gave me a ‘C’ on my superbly well researched and written presentation because I was a ‘poor presenter and did not engage the audience’). Being a professional dancer, yoga teacher, President Scholar, working in retail—all required me to develop a more extroverted appearance, just to survive. An appearance similar to that of a grandiose businessman: firm handshake, eye contact, smile, smile, smile, comfortable talking, strong and passionate voice, excellent articulation and a friendly manner.

And so with this push and favoritism towards extroversion, I began to believe that being a social recluse was bad, and that if I wanted to be a good and successful Yoga Teacher, I would have to be more extroverted, social and amicable.

And then I read Susan Cain’s book and it reminded me of the importance of being introverted in our society. It reminded me that it was actually good for my many natural introverted tendencies to be a part of my teaching. I have many introverted tendencies, such as:

I will usually turn down lunch and dinner invitations to be by myself, not because I do not like you, but because that is how I recharge my energy.

I will sometimes appear aloof and serious, not because I am, but because I spend a lot of time in my head contemplating ideas and my plan of action. I may get nervous when I address forty five people in my yoga class to talk about philosophy, but I am hoping to share something of value with you.

I do not like talking a lot, but I will listen and ask questions. I may not be the most articulate and enthralling speaker, but trust that I have been contemplating what I say for the last few hours, if not days. I may stumble over my words more than a few times, but I will keep cuing the class no matter how tongue-tied I get. And just like Buddha, Gandhi, the Dalai Lama, Einstein and Julia Roberts, I enjoy being by myself for insight, creation and learning.

For all the other fellow introverts out there (approximately 33% of the population), I wanted to share with you a list of the following five biggest strengths of being an introverted yoga teacher:

1. You inspire other introverts to become teachers or leaders in their community.

2.  You create more space for your students to release and reflect. Rather than excessive talking, introverted yoga teachers are more prone to being quiet, soft-spoken and giving well considered cues, allowing their students more space for inward reflection and connection to their body.

3. You are a great listener. Introverts are great at listening and asking questions—often trying to understand the whole story before making any decision.

4. You show greater empathy. Seventy percent of people, who claim they are sensitive, are introverts. They have a strong ability to empathize with others. As Brene Brown says, “Empathy is the antidote to shame, it has the power to uplift and heal.”

5. You are highly innovative and creative. Steven Spielberg, Einstein, Sir Isaac Newton, George Orwell, Marcel Proust, JK Rowling, Gwyneth Paltrow, Tom Hanks, Barbara Walters… are/were all introverts.

So if you are an introvert, love it, and use your introversion to inspire, build, heal and create.

And for all those extroverts out there, I love you (I mean, I am marrying one) and you will definitely catch me at one of your classes!


Prepared by Soumyajeet Chattaraj/Edited by Tanya L. Markul

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