Tevis Trower is not someone who accepts the idea that we should work to live. This yogi, and founder of Balance Integration, has a true passion for bringing yoga and mindfulness into the workplace.
YogaCityNYC’s Allison Richard sat down with the energetic businesswoman to talk about living authentically in all areas of life, teaching skillfully and the importance of humility.
Allison Richard:What is Balance Integration?
Tevis Trower: Balance Integration is the company I started 11 years ago out of a desire to leverage corporate yoga as a "Trojan horse" for teaching transformational practices within the walls of the world's most influential corporations. It has since evolved into a leading national provider of comprehensive corporate productivity, leadership and employee engagement programming for major corporations.
AR: You have an MBA and started out working in that world. How were you introduced to yoga?
TT: My Dad was actually my first teacher. He was a Montessori schoolteacher and used to use yoga to chill us out when we were little. Then when I was in my 20’s I heard about a power yoga class and decided to go with a friend. I was sweating like crazy and the floors were varnished so I was sliding all over the place and all I remember thinking was “this is nothing like what I did with Dad!”
AR:Why do you think it is so important to bring yoga and meditation into the workplace?
TT: The rhythm of our lives is at point where we need to integrate personal stability into everything we do from day to day. The point of having a yoga practice is to gain the capacity to connect with ourselves constantly, not just when we’re on our mat. When we limit yoga - meaning we assume "true yoga" only happens in a studio or in full 90-minute classes, we limit our own potential.
I teach meditation and the first question I’m always asked is "how much do I have to do to get it to count?" Taking even one conscious breath is a gift and I find the more humble our goals are at the onset, the more auspicious the outcome. By bringing my teachings into the workplace, it is my job to figure out how I can give people new experiences of being alive.
AR:So how is teaching yoga in a corporate environment different from teaching in a studio?
TT: Corporate yoga is true outreach because we are entering into their space. And the overall audience is different than you would find in a studio. Teaching such varying groups as Google, AOL, Viacom and Disney has caused me to become inventive and creative. It's forced me to broaden my toolbox. It's pushed me to discover how I fuel and translate what inspires me into a corporate environment in a way that’s legal (religion free) and still sacred to me. I have to optimize what a yoga practice is all about and respectfully interpret that.
AR: What people inspire you and help broaden your toolbox?
TT: I take inspiration from all different types of teachers. I love Sharon Salzburg and resonate with
Sally Kempton's idea of "cut to the chase practices" and ones that grow out of organic expression. As far as yogis some of my biggest influences have been Angela Farmer, Dana Flynn and Shiva Rae. I learned a lot from them about honoring both structure and freedom.
But I'm also really influenced by people outside the yoga world-like Stanford Professor and leadership expert Michael Ray, who writes books about creativity in business.
AR:One of your passions is training teachers to bring yoga into the workplace. Tell me about it.
TT: It's a mini 4-hour intensive, basically an FAQ or 101 class of what you need to know to safely and effectively teach yoga in corporate/business environments. Many people who take the corporate training are those who are prior corporate people that want to take yoga back into that environment (which I think is great!) and we want teachers to be aware of issues that can come up- that you wouldn't necessarily have to consider in a studio or gym setting.
AR:What are some of these issues?
TT: The Darwinian truth is that our nervous systems are programmed for survival and predicated around fear. In the modern concrete jungle that fear can be for social survival. Students might be thinking, “What if my boss is in class? Will I look dumb?” As teachers, we need to hold these fears and questions in our awareness. That means adapting how you teach. For example, it may not be appropriate to ask people to disclose their physical limitations before class. What if it’s something they aren’t comfortable with their coworkers knowing about? And when it comes to sequencing, child's pose can make people feel very vulnerable, so some people may not be comfortable going into it. And if you're a teacher that likes to do hands on adjustments, you might look carefully at the adjustments you choose to do, the hand placements and how intimate the adjustments might feel.
While we like to hope that if we are coming from a good place, everything will work out, sometimes that's just not the case. I once knew of a yoga teacher who got fired for quoting from the Bhagavad Gita at the beginning of class. We want to help teachers move forward skillfully and thoughtfully because it only takes one noisy mistake to cast a shadow on yoga in the workplace.
AR: Do you have any other educational opportunities for teachers/interested yogis?
TT: Right now on the schedule we have several dates for Zen'tinis in NYC, Miami, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Zen’tinis are free hour-long authentic conversational forums on important themes in modern culture. They have been a huge hit, with people across the professional spectrum (from yogis to laughter experts to chief marketing officers all turning up to have a great, real conversation. In NYC they are held the 1st Monday of every month from 6-7pm. For a schedule and list of upcoming topics check the site at zentinis.eventbrite.com.
AR:Do you teach any classes outside of Balance Integration?
TT: A year ago I gave up all of my outside classes to write a book about how we fully engage in life, dismantle the belief that work and life are separate and integrate who we are into everything we do.
I’d been teaching a similar process in the corporate world for 8 years and had all these notes that I thought would be great to put into a book. I’m still in the process of getting it published, so stay tuned!