Power of an Introverted Yogi

I recently listened to a podcast titled “Embrace your quiet side” by Andrea Ferreti on Yogaland. I recommend this podcast to everyone :) In that episode Andrea interviewed Susan Cain, who you might know from her famous TED talk called “Power of Introverts”. It has had more than 16 million views. She also wrote a book called “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” which was on The New York Times Best Seller List. This episode had a powerful effect on me because I see myself as an introvert, thus it was great to listen to how I can become a better yoga teacher, even as an introvert.

Almost everyone falls somewhere along the continuum between the extremes of introvert and extrovert. I think I fall more on the introvert side of the spectrum, but I have been learning to bring out my extrovert side depending on the situation.

These are the factors that I believe have contributed towards my introverted-ness:

  •     Growing up in Japan as a half Japanese girl
  •     In Japan we are taught to blend in rather than to stand out
  •     Being a women
  •     My intrinsic personality
  •     Moving to United States at age 12, and learning to speak English as my second language

After graduating from college I have had several jobs where I had to demonstrate leadership. So I have been slowly learning how to become a better guide and mentor. I have been on a journey to discover my leadership style. I learned quite early on that I had to be true to myself, thus my leadership style is quieter than most. I naturally don't have a very loud presence, or an overbearing personality. I don’t stand out in a crowd. At first I tried to be someone who I was not. It was hard and did not feel natural. During this process I learned to accept who I am, and tried to embrace what I have, rather than try to fake who I am not. I learned that I could still be a great leader by being myself.  After several years of working for NGOs leading field trips in South and Central America, plus leading adventure bicycle treks, I decided to become a yoga teacher. It wasn’t hard translating my years of experience to my new career as a yoga teacher.

Here are three tips for all introverted yoga teachers or any other introverts out there:

1.     Be yourself

Don't try to be someone who you are not. You can turn on your extrovert side, but still be who you are. Never lose your authenticity or your true self. I think this is extremely important. It’s all about being confident in who you really are, and that is also one of the major concepts in yoga. Know yourself, and don't pretend to be someone else. Find your own leadership or teaching style.

2.     Your passion

Even if you are an extreme introvert, if it is for a greater cause or for something you are deeply passionate about, you can become an extrovert. It becomes easier to switch to your extroverted self if you have the proper motivation. For example--Yoga. If you are passionate about yoga, it will be easier for you to teach to your students.  You may not feel shy talking or teaching in front of group because you care about the topic. Or if it is for a greater cause, you feel the magnitude of the project is more important than remaining inside your comfort zone.

3.     Timing

Just because you are a teacher, or have a leadership role, it does not mean you have to be extroverted ALL THE TIME. You can switch it on and off depending on the context. For example, if you are a fitness instructor you may have to switch on the extroverted side of your personality when you are teaching, but that does not mean you have to be an extrovert before and after the class when you are talking to your students. Or when you are outside of that setting.

4.     Relationships

In the podcast, Susan Cain mentions research that shows introverted leaders often produce better outcomes than extroverted leaders. The reasoning behind it is because introverted leaders tend to be better listeners; they accept other people’s opinions, are less dominant in conversations, and are very passionate about the subject. So introverted leaders tend to excel in very specific settings because they are passionate rather than because they want to be “The Leader”, which is what extroverted leaders tend to be. 

So, as an introverted teacher, I am better at connecting with individuals, better at building relationships, and better at being compassionate and empathetic. Let’s be honest, can you think of any past teachers or other people who have left a lasting impression in your life? Did that person relate to you and have an interaction that helped build a relationship? As an introvert we tend to naturally be good at listening, understanding, and being empathetic towards others. What a great trait that is for a yoga teacher.

So, in conclusion, embrace who you are! Don't try to be someone else! Use your strengths and believe in yourself as a great teacher or leader J


P.S. This blog post is not intended to be an attack on extroverts or to insult them in any way. As we all know, extroverts have great personality traits and that is more often seen to be the norm. So this post is intended to give voice to those of us who do not fit the norm. Also, as I have mentioned above, we all fall somewhere along the very wide spectrum between introvert and extrovert. Thus most of us possess both traits in varying