I’ve written a few times about my experiences with Bikram Yoga. Recently I noticed a phenomenon in the class amongst those who are new to the practice or those who are still struggling to get acclimated to 90 minutes in a 105 degree 40% humidity room. The class structure is set up so that the teacher verbally tells the class how to position themselves for the poses and the students follow the instructions. Put your foot here, your hands here etc.
Occasionally the teacher makes a verbal adjustment to a student whose pose is a little out of whack. When doing so for a student new to the practice or those still struggling to get acclimated, I have noticed that very often the student is unable to follow basic directions that they certainly would otherwise be easily able to follow outside of the conditions in the Yoga room.
Here’s an example interaction, that I can assure you is not exaggerated to the best of my memory:
Teacher: Turn your toes in
Student: (Turns toes out)
Teacher: No, turn your toes *in*
Student: (Turns toes further out)
Teacher: You turned your toes out. Turn them in.
Student: (Looks helplessly at the teacher)
Teacher: Turn your toes in.
Student: (Picks up entire leg and sets it down two feet off the line)
Teacher: (moves on with the class)
This is not an exaggeration and I am not trying to poke fun at beginners. I admit to experiencing the phenomenon myself as a beginner to the practice, and it occurs because you are so hot and uncomfortable that your brain starts to misfire. The best way I can describe the state that an otherwise intelligent, thinking human capable of following basic directions as it relates to the positioning of their own extremities enters when exposed to the extremeness of the Bikram Yoga class is what the online community Reddit refers to as ‘derp’:
I think what this shows is that in sufficiently extreme states of pressure, otherwise thinking humans enter a ‘derp’ state. I think this is why military training exposes trainees to repeated extreme pressure, so as to squeeze the ‘derp’ out of them and render them sufficiently able to function in a war environment.
Thinking about the application for us, I think it’s reasonable to say that ‘a little bit of derp’ can happen to us even when put under pressure not as extreme as the examples described above. As a result, it pays to look out for when approaching situations we know we have ‘derped’ before and attempt to bring ourselves back to our footing when we do in fact ‘derp’.
And, if we manage people and recognize that those who work for us have entered a state of ‘derp’, in my opinion, the intelligent approach so as to maximize productivity and engender loyalty in our workers is to figure out what is causing the ‘derp’ and attempt to remove it (to the extent possible). For example, “Hey man, do the best you can on this project and then lets sync up when you have an outline together”. This does not preclude a future conversation that encourages the worker to work on staying present in the face of pressure, but a state of ‘derp’ assures that the project will be managed in a state of ‘no-thought’.
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- About the Author
Nathan Safran is a former Analyst at Forrester Research where he covered the Digital Home. While at Forrester, Nathan authored research studies on trends, attitudes and behaviors of consumers toward technology adoption and use.
Nathan has been quoted as a subject matter expert in publications such as the Wall Street Journal, USA Today and Fortune magazine. Currently, Nathan heads the Research Department at Conductor, Inc an SEO Technology Platform firm.
Nathan writes at exceljockey.com about the intersection of Business, Technology and Psychology. See the About page for more info. Follow Nathan on Twitter: @Nathan_Safran