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Hello and welcome. Thank you so much for joining me today on this very special podcast episode. We’re addressing a question I get asked all the time, not just by yoga teachers, but by regular people, and that question is, “Sara, do business and yoga really go together? Are they like oil and water? Do they repel each other? How can you make them combined in a harmonious way? Is that even possible?”

Now, I can’t speak for everyone on this planet, but in my life, I find that yes, you can combine them and they actually go together incredibly well. Here’s what I found to be true:

For starters, if you are a practitioner of yoga for any period of time over a few months, you’ve probably heard about the eight limbs of yoga as set forth in the ancient texts of the yoga sutra. And specifically, the first limb of yoga is the limb of Yama, practicing moral and ethical observances in your interactions with others. Ideally, these are practices which embody every single part of our day- from our behavior to our dietary choices and beyond. And the first two Yama are that of Ahimsa, nonviolence, and Satya- truthfulness. And at first glance, they sound very straightforward. Nonviolence, meaning don’t hurt others, right? Got It. Truthfulness meaning, don’t lie to people. Right? Got It. It seems pretty obvious. 

However, these are practices which we want to develop in more subtle ways over time. They are practices which take place, not just in your behavior and your actions, but also in your speech and in your thoughts. So thoughts, speech, and action are all ideally embodying these principles. Just because you’re not saying something hurtful out loud doesn’t mean you’re not thinking it. So we’re always, if we’re true practitioners first, and ideally, if you’re yoga teacher you are a student first, we’re always practicing these principles. Every moment of the day, and of course every moment of the day includes running your business. It includes practicing these things while you’re at work. 

So how does this happen?

How can we really make this ancient principle of governing oneself merge into our everyday life? Well, I always start with the phrase from Brene Brown, “Clear is kind, unclear is unkind.” You have to be clear and upfront. In your business, this shows up in having contracts and policies with your students. Whenever someone signs on to work with me in any capacity, they sign a program agreement. Whether they’re taking an online course, whether they’re participating in a retreat or working with me one on one, the program agreement or contract is there, not just to protect me, but protect them.

Give them information so they can see what they’re really getting, make a clear decision before they assign the contract, read the policies so they know what’s expected of them. Right up front, they know how we’re both coming to the table for this agreement. And I can’t tell you how many things go wrong in people’s businesses, including the breakdown of relationships with previously amazing clients when people are not clear and upfront in this communication. Being clear is kind.

You’re showing that you care and you’re investing the time in the other person. How many times have people led retreats, and not had a cancellation policy, and then, of course, someone calls up the week before saying they have to cancel. And then things get really ugly. They want their money back. The business owner can’t give them their money back because they’ve already paid their venue and you can see how what was a great client relationship can very quickly spiral into one of animosity, stress for both parties, and sometimes, unfortunately, severing that relationship. I’m happy to say that I’ve never had an issue like that with someone who I know well. I have had to uphold my policies. I have had to show people, I’m so sorry that you’re unable to make this event last minute, but here you signed a contract, so if you’ve got travel insurance for this retreat, go contact your company and have them rectify the situation with you. If not, you know where you stand. 

Clear is kind.

Discuss these policies upfront with people and you don’t have to get all nervous and tie your panties in a bunch to do that. Just say, “Hey, I really care about you and I’m really invested in our work together, so please take a moment today to look over these policies and let me know if you have questions.” Plain and simple. Think about it. If you make a spa appointment, for example, to book a massage, you have to put your credit card in the upfront. Usually, when you do that, before you click and buy, you have to check a little box that says, “I agree that I have read the terms and conditions of this booking,” aka cancellation policies. 

If you no show, you’re not going to get your money back. And you book it anyway. It doesn’t have to become a big emotional struggle. It doesn’t have to feel weird or unkind. Clear is kind. By being honest and truthful, instead of evasive because you’re scared, people know that you care about them. They know that you run a professional operation because you’ve taken the time to put yourself in your client’s shoes and know what they need, and predict the obstacles they may run into along the way. You’re telling them how to avoid those obstacles and how to avoid a hard situation. That’s a high level of service. It’s also being honest and upfront and kind you because you care. Of course, setting policies and boundaries and communicating them is very different from having to uphold them- and you will have to uphold your boundaries at some point. 

When I noticed that even though I was having retreat students sign cancellation policies well in advance of an event and still they were pushing back even after being reminded of their commitment, which they signed off on, I decided to take things to another level and to make it easier on me and on them. I started adding multiple clauses in my retreat agreements saying, “you have to choose whether or not you’re going to purchase insurance for this experience.” And I flat out ask them, “are you?” and they had to initial “yes or no” and sign their name. They were being held accountable for every step of the way for their decision. And it allowed much more clarity, and a lot less headache from me on the flip side, because they were not just rushing through the agreement signing off and going on with their day. They really had to make a mindful decision. And someone might read your contract and get turned off. If that’s the case, send them on their way with love. 

Your work isn’t for everyone, but you can be clear and kind and upfront about who you are and how you work from the beginning.

And if that person walks away from your work, let them go with love. Know there will be other people who are ready to commit and this person exiting your sphere is just making space for them. 

So yes, you will have to uphold your boundaries and stay true to them. Here’s why that’s important- you will show people how they are allowed to treat you, not just by your words that you say, but by your behavior. If you tell people you have a 24 hour cancellation policy and then you don’t uphold it, guess what? People will continue to cancel and they will probably just cancel more and more simply because they know they can. If you’ve been okay with upholding your boundaries and then recently took a little dip, consider this episode your permission slip to go and revisit your boundaries and uphold them in a stronger way, and don’t be afraid to ask for support if you need help upholding them. 

I fully acknowledge that I am terrible with my calendar boundaries. I love my clients so much and I want to make them happy. So because I noticed I would overbook myself and not allow myself to receive the time and space that I needed, I asked my assistant to hold me accountable. I said, “Listen, we’re both in the calendar booking people in. If you see me going beyond this time of day, if you see me taking on this many clients in a day when you know I shouldn’t be, I need you to call me on it and say, Sarah, stop it.” 

I asked for support. It’s okay to need support as you’re learning and growing and setting boundaries in a different way. It’s also okay to ask for support in learning how to be clear and kind and upfront, but don’t be scared. Find me on Instagram, ask me for help, comment on something. Let me know what you’re struggling with so I can support you too.

And for sure we’ve only just focused on the first two Yama today. We could spend, I feel, a whole college semester diving into how yoga and business are related. And there will be many more episodes about this, but today we’re staying focused in the first two- being nonviolent or kind in your interactions of all kinds, written verbal in person, on video, and also being truthful and upfront. 

And I want you to, for homework, think of a time in your past, in any part of your life, business or otherwise, where you were not clear, upfront and it came around to bite you in the ass.

Because I know that’s happened to me. And when I have had those experiences, I’ve thought to myself, this would have been so much easier if I had just been clear from the get-go and upfront with this person about what I really need. I could have removed the resentment. I could’ve removed the anxiety and stress for everybody just by being clear. So that is your takeaway for today.

If this podcast episode touches a nerve with you, it means we’re onto something worth exploring in a deeper way. And I want you to know I’m here to help you with this. So I have a few action steps for you:

One, come follow me on Instagram. I’m all about building relationships and using social media to have real conversations.

Two, share this podcast. If you’re receiving information and support from it, please share it with others that you know could benefit. 

And lastly, I would be so thankful if you could leave me a podcast review. Reviews are podcast currency, and I totally appreciate you taking the time to leave one for me. 

Thank you so much for joining me today and remember helping others and being successful are not mutually exclusive. You can have both. Have a great day. Namaste.