Practicing and studying yoga, especially within community, has helped me hone a skill we all need: Discernment in relationships.
Power differentials abound in all kind of relationships - intimate partnerships, workplace, teacher-student relationships and more.
A good leader or partner knows how precious relationships are and respects the sacredness of their bonds with others.
And yet, far too often, power differentials lead to power abuse.
This can happen in a variety of ways, such as taking advantage of another, gaining access to someone's confidential information and distributing it, or simply manipulating someone with some kind of punishment if they don't comply.
Yoga can help you spot power abuse in two ways:
- The practice increases self-esteem, and as such you will have a higher regard for yourself and be less likely to get entangled in an abusive relationship.
- It hones your sensitivity and intuition. This will help you to be able to read the signs of a power dynamic gone bad.
Still, it's can be helpful to spell it out.
Here's how you know if someone's use of power is abusive:
- What they say to you or others creates separation and division.
- When they tell you what you need, instead of asking you what you want or need.
- When they no longer appreciate other people’s experiences just because their experience is different.
- When they say something like, “That has nothing to do with me” instead of owning their part.
How do you know if someone’s use of power demonstrates good leadership? The difference is clear:
- What they say to you or others connects people rather than divides them.
- They care about your needs and wants.
- They own and take responsibility for their failings and mistakes.
- They never take their power for granted and seek counsel from their peers.
- They know that just because they are in a role of leadership does not grant them "a pass" do unethical or unlawful things.
If yoga has taught me anything it's taught be to befriend, follow, and vote for leaders who are conscious and awake in how they use their power.
It's time to let your yoga help get your intuition muscle in shape! No one needs to tolerate bullies or those who would abuse their power. Life is too short to let them have that power!
Trust that the more time you invest on your mat, becoming intimate with your breath and deeply embodied from the practice, your innermost knowing and ability to discern will come to the surface when you're off your mat.
We can surround ourselves (and this world) with great leaders by setting boundaries with bullies, and welcoming the company of those who know how to harness power well.