June 5, 2019

How Yoga Taught me to be a Bolder, Braver Introvert.


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I’m fairly new to yoga.

And when I say fairly new, I mean, I’ve been amazing at pretending to do yoga in my basement in streaks of two to three days in a row, every six months or so, for the past five years.

High five to me.

One of the studios in town was advertising an Ayurveda cleanse workshop, so I figured, what the hell. Let’s do it. As a part of the cleanse, they recommended adding yoga to the routine. Again, what the hell. I joined.

The first class I signed up for was hot yoga—105-degree hot yoga. (Swear to God I didn’t know I could sweat that much. And I was an athlete growing up!)

Anyway, as it turns out, it’s been a huge help as I’ve been transitioning to self-employment. I still get up every morning at 5 a.m. to go to class, which helps me stay in a routine and gets my day started early. It has really helped me stay focused on self-care (i.e., not showing up dehydrated from too much wine the night before). And, it helps me connect every morning to my heart and to the heart-centered work I want to do in this world. Gold stars all around.

Part of what this new role as an entrepreneur requires of me is to get out into the world to let people know, hey, I’m here! This is my new gig! I left the bank! I am a coach! Which I write with a smile, because it is really exciting for me, and I actually do sometimes want to scream it at the top of my lungs! But, this “getting out there” is also known as networking, which generally generates a universal groan at its mere utterance.

As an introvert, networking had never really been my jam. In addition to all the great things yoga has brought to this new path I’m on, it has taught me how to be an introvert and not hate networking at the same time. Here’s how it happened.

The first public event I attended after quitting my full-time job included dedicated time for networking after the main event was over. As the presentation started to wrap up, I knew that networking time was just around the corner. Lurking. Peeking in at me. Taunting me with its presence. I raise my fist at you, networking! Be gone with you!

I wanted nothing more than to make a mad dash to the door. I knew that introducing myself to just a few people could have given me some new connections and provided additional exposure. It probably would have taken me all of 10-15 minutes, and it would have been over.

But I left. I bolted. I screamed out of there without talking to one single person. With my head down, beelining my way to the door, I got out of there before anybody else did, and hopefully before anybody else noticed.

I got out into the fresh air, exhaled, swore, and, feeling defeated, flopped into my car. I knew what I had just done. I just blew a great opportunity, and I was scared I’d keep blowing these opportunities unless I did something about it.

As I sat there in my car, I thought of my yoga class that morning. It was different than the day before. The room was so much hotter. My body had already started to glisten with sweat before the damn class even started! Even at this point, I could feel myself searching for an exit. I had not yet taken a class from this teacher, so I was going through sequences and doing poses that I had never done before. It was pretty much all new and was very challenging—physically and emotionally. Between the heat and the challenge of all these new things, I was starting to get irritable, and I was feeling annoyingly uncomfortable. I wanted to get up and leave, more than a few times. But I didn’t. I stayed. And I pretty much nailed the class—as much as a 42-year-old, incredibly inflexible newbie can nail a yoga class.

Yoga teaches us to avoid resisting. The more we resist being in a pose, or the more we resist a certain stretch, the more difficult it becomes. In other words, the less we resist what our bodies are doing, the easier our bodies can do what we are asking them to do. Being uncomfortable in this class forced me to say hello to all of my anxious and uncomfortable energy and relax into it. I had to quit telling it to go away. I had to stop it from controlling me and being its victim. Once I did, I was able to perform as I wanted.

I realized then, pouting in my car, that I had to also stop resisting that dreaded groan-inducing networking. I had to figure out a way to use those anxious feelings to my advantage and quit running away from them. Networking events can be a great way to meet new people and make connections, which is really important when starting a business! I had to figure out a way to get comfy with networking.

So, I’ve been using what I learned to help me push through any negative feelings that arise as I’m approaching a networking event. There isn’t any real magic to it (although sometimes controlling thoughts seems like mastering astrophysics or following Ikea instructions).

Here’s what works for me, and it consists of acknowledge, capture, rename, and release:

  1. Take 5-10 minutes before the event to be alone and in quiet. Allow whatever anxiety, fear, anger, or any other emotion you are feeling to start to bubble up.
  2. Acknowledge the presence of whatever comes up and visualize it like a vapor cloud around you. Allow it to be there, without any judgment.
  3. Imagine you are pulling all of that vapor into a nice and neat little box right on your lap. Capture it.
  4. Thank your body for generating this for you and for allowing it to be placed in this box for your use, however you want to use it.
  5. Rename this energy to something else that will aid you at this event. Any word or phrase that resonates with you. The phrase I often choose is “calm and cool confidence.”
  6. Visualize this box moving right into your lower stomach, and allow the vapor to release inside you, spreading out to your torso, your head, your arms, your legs. Be the new energy.
  7. Go nail that networking event with this new energy—like the boss you are.

Any time I begin to feel uncomfortable again, I repeat the process. Acknowledge, capture, rename, release.

Being an introvert and a business owner is something that so many of us can relate to. I’d love to hear other ideas on how introverts deal with networking anxiety!

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