What Yoga Can Teach You About Support

As I move towards my UserConf talk on self-care, I keep thinking about how much yoga has helped me to frame my own perspectives on life, work, and how I handle things. Increasingly, I find myself repeating yogic practices in my every day support interactions. About a quarter of my day is answering or helping answer technical questions about our API, API implementations and other integrations-related quandaries. While that's definitely not as much support as I am used to doing, the technicality and difficulty of the questions can sometimes make it feel like it's much more. 

With that in mind, I thought I would share three yogic strategies which have really helped me through some of the tougher days or interactions in support (and life!).

You are Enough

Yoga can be very challenging and difficult and, if like me, you are a Type A person, you can quickly grow frustrated with not being able to be as strong, bendy, or inverted as you would like. Something that I like to remind my yoga students and be reminded of is that they are enough. Where you are right now is exactly where you are supposed to be. If you wish you could answer more technical questions, or you feel stupid having to ask things of your coworkers, remind yourself that where you are right now is exactly where you are supposed to be. The longer you do it, the more you will learn. Everyone starts somewhere. Keep practicing those areas that are flat sides, and eventually you will be able to do them with ease. It's just like a handstand or backbend: you need to train yourself to get there.

Take a breath

In vinyasa yoga, the yoga that I teach, we link movement to our breath. With each inhale and exhale we change our pose. In combination with the heat, sometimes we can lose our breath or it can get choppy. At that point, I usually advise students to sit down on their mat in child's pose and try to reconnect with their breath to bring it back to a less-choppy pace. Sometimes in support, we can get caught up in things, feel like we have to go-go-go, and lose touch with what brought us there in the first place. If you start feeling anxious, aggressive, or maybe even just a little out of touch, take a step back, take a breath, realign with yourself and your goals. This can be anything from taking a walk, playing a game of pingpong, or literally just stepping back. The important part is that you focus on yourself, what you brought you to work, what makes you love what you do.

Leave it off your mat

As support people, we work all day with others. In fact, most of what we do is talking and interfacing with customers. Because of that, if you are feeling less-than-stellar, it can come across in your responses. In yoga, we advocate people to take whatever they were thinking about when they walked into the studio: dinner, that fight with their best friend, how stressed they are about a project at work, and leave it off of their mat. The hour that they spend in our class should be devoted to that: the class. When they leave, they can choose to pick it up those thoughts if they want them, or leave them if they don't serve them. I like the idea of physically leaving those bummer emotions, and most often don't pick them back up when I leave. When you come into work, if you're feeling particularly unhappy, try to leave it outside of the office. It will help you focus on doing your job better, and it also gives you the opportunity to be free of the burdens of those emotions. After work, choose to pick them up again, or leave them where they are at—if you survived a whole day without them, they probably aren't that important, after all.

Even if you don't do yoga every day, like I do, there are still some aspects of a yogic lifestyle that may help you in your day-to-day. Give these a try next time you're feeling pressured, anxious or bummed, and let me know how it goes for you!