Recently I joined a yoga studio for more exercise and a peaceful place to settle my busy brain. For anyone considering yoga, I highly recommend it. Not only is it a challenging whole-body workout – it encourages focus and presence in the moment. Something I’m striving for.

What I didn’t expect from yoga was getting jazzed about giving and receiving feedback.

If you’ve never tried yoga, here are the basics. Each class begins in a quiet room – generally the lights are off and everyone lies down on a mat or sits still – there is no talking. In this calm atmosphere minds are cleared of the events of the day and “intentions” are set for the class. This means simply deciding what to achieve in this hour.

Once class begins, with lights on, the instructor guides the class through a series of poses. Each class is a little different but the basic process is the same. You follow a series of poses. They are performed in accordance with instructions verbalized by the teacher. It’s up to the individuals to listen and execute the pose. The instructor provides clear expectations such as lower the shoulders, tuck the tail bone, or lengthen an arm stretch. If you don’t listen or lose attention even for a few seconds, you might miss an important instruction and therefore not achieve full potential of that pose.

At the same time, the instructor is walking around the room. In a lower voice, she may speak directly to individuals providing one-on-one coaching addressing a certain need for that person.

The room has mirrors on three sides which also give you a chance to see yourself. In a glance, you can see if you are meeting the expectations of the pose or need to make an adjustment.

At first, this constant feedback was off putting, but after several sessions I noticed my balance was improving, the poses came more easily and I was increasing my focus. All because I was applying the feedback.

While many of us might feel “stretched” at work and home, I have learned a lot from my new adventure, and I’d like to share a few tips from my yoga experience on giving and receiving feedback.

  1. Open yourself to feedback – Give yourself feedback first. Feedback is there if you observe and listen for it. Ask yourself: What am I doing well? What could I do better? Ask someone else to be your mirror to help you find your blind spots.
  2. Set your intention – When you give feedback think how you can offer insight to someone with your feedback. What do you want to do? Provide instruction? Point out a thing well done? Correct an unproductive or harmful behavior? Get someone back on track? There are many purposes for feedback and knowing what you’re aiming for helps meet the goal.
  3. Give feedback in the moment – When you notice something that needs to be addressed, do it. Don’t wait too long or you’ll forget about it or lose the urgency which leads me to my next point.
  4. Don’t overthink it – Feedback doesn’t have to be perfect. If someone is doing a rockstar job tell them. If you see a place where something needs to change or improve, ask a question, suggest a slight correction, tell a short story to help create the picture of success. The more often you give feedback, the easier it gets, and the more frequently you will provide it and seek it for yourself.
  5. Be caring in your feedback – Feedback can be offered from a place of caring – without anger or emotion – this increases the chance it will be heard and implemented.
  6. No feedback can be disappointing – If I don’t get personal feedback during class, I feel that I’ve missed something. I want someone to care enough about me to tell me what I can do better. You may start with, “Can I give you some feedback?” Not only do you get permission, but it also alerts someone that you are sharing information that can be helpful and important.
  7. Keep listening – So often feedback is right there for us, but we don’t hear or notice it. Keep your ears and eyes open, and you may be surprised how you can grow and stretch.

As you make your new year’s commitments, consider the regular practice of giving and asking for feedback; it’s a cornerstone of everyone’s personal and professional improvement.