Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Interview: Jenny Clevidence on Yoga & Leadership

When an email from Future Women Leaders alerted me to the work yoga teacher Jenny Clevidence does combining principles of the practice with business leadership, I was intrigued. Jenny, who is an integral coach as well as yoga instructor at The Yoga Loft and Sun Room studios in San Francisco, answered some questions about her work.
Q How were you introduced to Yoga?

I was living in Charlotte, NC working in Talent Management for a large retail organization, stressed out, and looking for something more than a gym workout. A friend took me to Yoga One for a Baptiste Power Yoga class, and I fell in love with the practice. At first it was a physical practice for me, and has over the years grown into my spiritual and life practice. Yoga found me at a point in my life when I felt the desire to connect back to my body, my truth, and to the world around me. It has been an exploration for me ever since that first class.

Q Why did you decide to leave your previous career?
JC: Once I started to really tune in to my body, a sense of peace, and greater awareness, I found that I no longer felt that my life was in alignment with my career. I felt compelled to do something different, and ultimately it ended up feeling like I had no choice. I had found my path as a Integral Life Coach and Yoga Instructor, and there was no turning back. I had to honor and recognize that this was now the way I was to serve those around me. I gave up my position in Talent Management and Change Management Consulting, and pursued what felt unknown, scary, and at the same time right.

Q What's a typical exercise or prompt you might use in an asana class to connect concepts of leadership with yoga practice?
JC: If we strip a way the typical language that we use to describe leadership, and we get to the naturalness of what it is to be a leader, we can begin to connect the practice of yoga to leadership. In the Baptiste tradition of yoga, we often use the word equanimity to describe calmness of mind in difficult situations. In leadership, we often talk about the need to be calm under pressure, in other words, equanimity. During an asana class, we can observe our tendencies in difficult situations by creating one on the mat. An example of this would be to hold a pose for an extended period of time, and to observe how we tend to show up. Some normal tendencies are to distract ourselves, fight, or flee the situation. None of these reactions will benefit us as leaders at work or in our lives. The alternative is to engage in a practice of equanimity, to have calmness of mind, and the ability to be with what is happening while it is happening, no matter how difficult. From equanimity, we can take appropriate actions, instead of engaging in our reactions. Often times we don't have the luxury of observing ourselves in difficult situations while facing them at work or in our lives, so the physical practice of yoga, becomes our way to explore, observe, and cultivate change. This exploration is grounded in the philosophy that we are who we are, everywhere we are. It doesn't matter if we observe ourselves on our yoga mats or in the board room, our tendencies or the way we show up, will be the same.

Q: What can attendees expect at the Future Women Leaders workshop
: Attendees can expect to engage in the physical practice of yoga to explore leadership, observe their own tendencies, and to cultivate a new way of leading with greater presence for clearer actions, a sense of vitality for balanced and sustainable effort, equanimity for appropriate action under pressure, and an understanding of restoration to balance taking care of self and others. All of these principles of yoga, support leading at work and in life with greater ease and effectiveness.
To find out more about Jenny's classes, please go to Her workshop Yoga and Leadership takes place March 24 in San Francisco. Please contact Future Women Leaders for more information.

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