When you find that you keep colliding with the same message over and over, it’s a good sign that it’s time to pay attention.
Lately, I have been colliding with the message to stay within my scope of practice as a yoga teacher. Various articles as well as conversations with family and colleagues keep turning up the same intelligence: stick with what you know.
Moving beyond my scope of practice is of absolutely no benefit to myself or my students and can, at times, even be harmful. This is not specific to yoga teachers, but to anyone with a responsibility to clients, students, patients, etc.
In exploring this juicy topic, I asked myself, “Why would someone want to move beyond their scope of practice?”
Though there are probably many reasons, I will focus on two: 1) Lack of self-worth and 2) Lack of clarity.
If you’re worried that who you are and what you do are not enough, of course you will try to be something more, because the desire to feel worthy and loved is so powerful, you might even be willing to step into territory where you have no business being.
When someone comes up to you after class asking for advice about their shoulder injury, you will try to help them (even if you have no clue what their problem is) because you think if you don’t, what good are you?
As you can imagine, lack of self-worth can cause us to do some pretty crazy things. Let me say this to you: what you have to offer as a yoga teacher (or whatever you do) is enough.
They don’t need bad advice or made-up answers even if it is well-intentioned. Here are a couple of things I say to people when they come up to me looking for answers:
1. If I have a pretty good idea of what is going on, I will say, “Though I am not a doctor or physical therapist and therefore cannot offer a diagnosis or prescribe exercises, I can give you a couple of things to experiment with. These have been helpful to me when struggling with a similar issue, but you have to try them for yourself and see what works for you.”
2. If I have no idea what is going on, I will say, “I do not have the knowledge or experience to offer a good answer. Why don’t you try talking to (offer a referral, preferably someone you know) who has expertise in this area.
When we try to take on the role of other professionals, it is saying to ourselves, “You’re not good enough. You have to be a massage therapist or a doctor to be worthy.” By accepting your skill set as it is (and always seeking to learn more), you are saying to yourself, “I have something important to offer and I will do the very best with this skill set.”
You will actually end up being more effective as a yoga teacher (or whatever you do) when you focus on what you know and go deep into that knowledge.
If you’re too distracted by trying to be something else, you won’t have time to deepen the knowledge and refine the skills you already have!
Last Fall, I took a workshop with Ross Rayburn and he reminded us of the power of the basics. Even moving through really basic yoga poses can be powerful, if done correctly and with the support and guidance of a teacher well-versed in the basics.
Here’s what I took from this: trust yourself, you don’t need a lot of fancy stuff to be effective.
Moving on to lack of clarity, another big reason folks step out of bounds. Are you crystal clear on what your mission is in your business? Are you clear about who you are serving and how you are serving them or are you trying to be all things to all people? There are so many professionals out there with oodles of specialized knowledge and experience just waiting to serve people.
You don’t have to be them, but you can connect with them to have a support network for your students, clients and patients.
When I actually sat down and took the time to think about and write out my mission, I found a lot more clarity and direction. Projects and classes that did not fit this vision were booted and I had more time to work on and improve the things that did fit.
I thought about what I wanted to give to my students and what I actually had to offer them and that is what I focus on when teaching.
I’m not trying to be the perfect, all-knowing yoga teacher and even though I have a Masters Degree in Social Work and can work as a counselor, I am clear about the fact that I am not operating as a therapist or a counselor in my yoga business—I just don’t go there.
Know that you are good enough, focus on the skills you have, get clear in your mission and you will never need to move beyond your scope of practice. It’s better for everyone!
Shedding the heaviness, darkness and withdrawal of the past and becoming a more authentic and vibrant version of herself has been Erin’s yogic journey and it is her passion to facilitate this journey for others. Erin teaches and practices yoga in Seattle. Check out her website for further information.
Like elephant journal on Facebook.
Ed: Bryonie Wise