Yoga in Iceland: 3 ways to connect across language boundaries.

Yoga in Iceland
“Lokaðu augunum. Slakaðu á öxlum. Taktu djúpt andann…”

Listening to Asta Maria’s voice, I partly know, partly guess, and partly ignore the meaning of her words and follow her through the sequence at Yoga Shala, Reykjavik. I don’t speak any Icelandic beyond hello, thank you, goodbye, and arugula salad, but somehow the communication works and I’m having an awesome practice.

The experience made me think about how in a way we all speak different languages, even when we’re drawing from the same dictionary. How you grew up, where you feel you belong, and who you want to be all influence the way words resonate with you – or don’t. And then there are more obvious boundaries: vocabulary that is specific to a niche or a profession, legalese, slang, and jargon.

If you want to connect with your people, sometimes you’ll have to jump over those boundaries. Here are three possibilities Asta Maria taught me:

Show, don’t tell.

Or do both. Asta Maria emphasized small movements and gave visual clues to help me follow her lead. How can you show people what you have to offer rather than just talk about it?

Leave space for interpretation.

During the practice, I missed some clues and so my sequence ended up looking a little different from Asta Maria’s – but that was OK. Maybe your people won’t use your guidance exactly the way you imagined. Can you accept or even encourage that?

Seek common ground.

In our case, it was sanskrit. I only know a fraction of the sanskrit names for the asanas and other aspects of the practice, but even this little bit helped me understand Asta Maria’s instructions. What are your clients already familiar with, and how can you build on that to connect with them?

p.s.: Yes, that’s me at Jökulsárlón, a glacial lagoon in the photo. If you know anyone who’s still in denial about global warming, send them to Iceland.

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