Flowing Through Insights with Yoga as Your Guide

Published On: July 18, 2019By

Molly, Shira and Sonya are all not only strategists, moderators and analysts here at KNow but are also all certified yoga teachers.  Molly recently told me that yoga has made her “a better consultant, researcher and analyst because curiosity, flow, focus, restoration and human connection are key ingredients in both yoga and in successful qualitative research.”  This comment made me curious about the other connections between teaching yoga and being an insights professional. 

Also check out Leann’s yoga-inspired corporate cure-all HERE.

Why do three such empathetic, intelligent and intuitive women all have a dual interest in insights and yoga?

Our conversation about the connections between these two callings resulted in the following 6 consistent themes:

  1. Curiosity:  A foundational trait in successful qual researchers, as well as our yoginis, is curiosity.  As researchers, it’s important to keep an open mind to keep from rushing to judgement. Curiosity is the antidote to judgement and powers a desire to learn, grow and discover.  As a yoga teacher, it’s also important to guide students to celebrate the unique expression of their practice and discover the benefits that they need in each moment. That means being prepared to offer variations, adjustments and encouragement that meets students where they are, without judgement and without stereotypes. It’s our job as researchers to foster this spirit of curiosity, open-mindedness and exploration in ourselves, our clients and our participants throughout research engagements.
  2. Plan. then be Present: Teaching (and moderating) can sometimes be about being put on the spot! As both a teacher and a moderator preparation is key, but once the group/interview/class starts the emphasis shifts to focusing on being in the moment. As Sonya says, “I have my plan as a back-up, but then I read the room and teach to what’s going on in there. If I stick to my plan without any regard to what’s happening, then I’m not being there for my students. Similarly, I draft a discussion guide so I know what I need to cover during an interview, but once the conversation starts, I need to both guide and listen to the participant and sometimes go where they go.Remember: Some of the most interesting nuggets that happen when we go “off script”!
  3. Set the Tone and Flow: Teachers and researchers need to make their students and participants feel comfortable so that they can practice yoga or express their thoughts. It’s up the interviewer to set an appropriate tone for the participant to follow so the conversation can flow. Molly, Shira and Sonya are all Vinyasa yoginis (a practice that links breath to movement with fluidity) and are masters of setting tone for the flow, on or off the mat. They are trained to skillfully navigate distractions and get “in the zone” to connect the dots and conduct thorough, impactful analysis. They have learned through experience when to go deeper in asking a question or when to move on and take the discussion in a different direction. Molly says yoga has helped her “better connect to an ‘in the zone’ flow state as a storyteller and analyst, so that I can tell impactful, full-bodied, big picture stories.”
  4. Stay Flexible: Behind every data point, sound bite, and consumer insight is a unique, complex, multifaceted, human being. The best market researchers recognize and honor that our work is not “one size fits all.”  Neither is a yoga practice.  In both cases, the teacher/researcher works to gain a person’s trust and help them to open up. Students practice yoga in a variety of bodies and life circumstances, and for a multitude of reasons. Molly says her job as a yoga teacher is to “guide students to celebrate the unique expression of their practice and discover the benefits that they need from their practice in that moment.” That means being prepared to offer variations, adjustments and encouragement that meets students where they are, without judgement and without stereotypes. Great researchers are also prepared with multiple techniques, exercises and approaches to build relationships with each and every participant.  Shira uses “different techniques and methods for structuring a class/guide to create a certain flow and feel, and with an underlying objective or intention in mind.”
  5. Listen: Moderators and teachers can feel pressure to continually fill the space. Silence can be uncomfortable and we rush to fill the space with words or noise! However, silence is essential in both yoga and in research.  The yoginis recommend using simple guidance and cues in classes as well as using silence as a probing technique during research.  Leaving pauses makes people feel compelled to fill the silence, and participants will continue their thoughts to fill the space.   As Jackie’s recent blog post attests: “Each interview should feel like a natural conversation where the participant is the center of the stage. A good rule of thumb is the moderator should talk 20% of the time and participants 80% of the time. Keep in mind, the less you talk, the more they talk!” Pauses also allow teachers/moderators to stay attuned to crucial body language and visual cues through the screening and moderating process!
  6. Restoration:  To be at our best and keep the mind sharp, we all need rest, relaxation, and decompression time to slow down. In insights work, if we are always in a rush to jump to a fast conclusion or to pack a super tight research schedule, then we’re likely to miss out on critical connections. That’s why it’s important in research to occasionally practice a pause; take time to properly debrief, learn from one another, and to reassess and recalibrate before moving forward.  Remember to let insights simmer and enjoy your Shavasana!

I was also reminded through our conversation that it takes guts to get up in front of a group and teach or moderate, knowing that all eyes and ears are on you and that you are responsible for guiding the group through an experience.

As Shira says, “this realization can be initially terrifying but also empowering, and the confidence it takes  to do and joy it brings only grows with time and practice!” So check out our tips on shaking off your stage fright HERE.