Upside down, I watch a group of young guys in navy blue t-shirt and shorts charge towards me with guns.
An older man in tweed has been standing across from me far too long. He’s watching me. He turns and shouts, “Bear”, and a beast ambushes me.
I see three women enter through a gate on my right. They’re wearing neon yellows, oranges and pinks and all clanking along with a sword in each hand.
My butt is high and facing Paris in a downward-facing dog. I’m doing yoga outside on the beautiful 2.4km long 17th-century terrace of Le Nôtre in Saint-Germain-en-Laye.
I’m practising with some other students and wearing yoga pants, but the group and breathable material don’t help make me feel any less naked or less vulnerable.
That’s the scenario some deep instinctual part of my brain painted when my yoga teacher, Rebecca suggested we meet in the park for yoga because we’re expecting warm weather.
I’m terrified by her idea. How could I watch for danger with my leg around my shoulder or my head tucked between my knees. I’d be an easy target.
Thankfully, for today, we’re in our usual studio for her yoga class.
“Rise into Cobra, make sure to keep your elbows in… and… down and back to downward-facing dog… stay here for five breaths,” Rebecca says.
Rebecca is warming us up with several Sun Salutations. I’m certainly getting warm, but there’s no need because the room is well heated. There’s even some extra insulation from the Elephant Buddha drape hanging on the back wall and candles. There are no windows, but natural light finds its way through glass holes on the floor above. It’s a private and quiet space. I feel safe. And I’m comfortable practising yoga here. There are no men with guns, beasts or sword-wielding women.
I believe the vulnerability I feel doing yoga in a public space is natural, healthy and valuable. I appreciate that I’m aware of my surroundings and have an innate sense of when I feel exposed. And it’s not because I’m embarrassed or shy to practice yoga in the park.
I’ve also done some Tai Chi in the park. With Tai Chi, I didn’t feel vulnerable. On the contrary, I felt strong and empowered. And that’s because with Tai Chi I can see if danger approaches and I’m always ready to kick ass.
But there are other public spaces where I feel uncomfortable performing in.
The idea of recording a Facebook live and sharing it with my audience also terrifies me. But everywhere I look and listen, marketers are saying that we should be appearing live and on video across our social media channels.
I’m comfortable talking on video in small private spaces where I either know the people or we’re there for the same reason or cause. At University, I talked in rooms full of students and lecturers. But that’s because we were all there to learn about monkeys.
In the park, everyone is there for a different reason. Young army cadets in navy blue are out for their morning run in the park. An older man in tweed is walking his Irish Wolfhound that’s charging around off-lead. Three ladies are powering across the terrace Nordic-style with their hiking poles. And some people are there doing yoga with their head down and butt up.
I don’t think we need to push ourselves beyond what feels unnatural or creates stress. There are many different ways to build relationships with people who can become future customers or clients, e.g. story-based nurture emails, social media public pages, private groups, 1:1 and small group Zoom meetings, blog posts, physical and online networking events.
Choose what feels right to you. Don’t let people force you to share more than you’re comfortable sharing or do more than you can.
Yes, there’s some advantage to exploring beyond your comfort zone, but if it still doesn’t feel right the third and fourth time you’re thinking about it or you’re dwelling on it for days or weeks, regretting it, then maybe it’s not the way for you.
There is always another way.
Would you be comfortable doing a downward-facing dog outside in a public space?