Rubber Ducks and Blue Elephants -Staying Open to New Ideas


This month I re- discovered the importance of staying open to new ideas and embracing different ways of doing things. It came about through an unusual combination of serendipity, rubber ducks and blue elephants.

And it all started when I went to plan my monthly “Saturday Special” yoga class on Zoom.

My session was focusing on back health and I decided I wanted to teach a somatic yoga flow called “quadratus lumborum (QL) release” which is a sequence designed to help relieve lower back pain by easing tension in the muscle that connects the pelvis to the rib cage – the QL. “QL release” like lots of somatic practices starts life as a series of individual steps that stack up into a single “flow” and because of that the process can seem complicated and difficult to teach.

While I was mulling that over and simultaneously surfing the internet (as you do ) I had the good fortune – serendipitous you might say – to discover a video by Dan Pink, an American author and publicist, on a process called “Rubber Duck Debugging”

Now I’d never heard of this before but it turns out that “Rubber duck debugging” is a method computer programmers use to check out complex instructions or codes to see if they work. What do they do? Well they get themselves a rubber duck, the kind you take in the bath (is there any other kind?). They sit it on the desk and they read their directions to it.

Just this simple act of putting a process into words tends to highlight anomalies and difficulties as they go! (Sadly the duck doesn’t do anything else. It does just sit there –  no quacking when you make a mistake , no impatient tapping of the beak when you‘ve gone on too long. But hey – you can’t have everything!)

Anyway I began to think about how useful this could be for lesson planning in general and teaching “QL release” in particular so I decided to give it a try. Now I don’t actually own a rubber duck but I do still have a selection of toys from when my son was small. So before I taught “QL release” live in my Saturday class I tried teaching it first to a small blue elephant! And it worked! It helped me break the practice down into manageable chunks and it highlighted the important things that I needed to remember to include.

I really enjoyed working with the idea – it was fun and novel and it certainly made me consider the way in which I present my directions in class. It also reminded me of how important it is not to get stuck in my own “World of Yoga”. There are so many great techniques and ideas out there from other disciplines that can improve my teaching providing I’m willing to take them on board and be a bit creative .After all who’d have thought that a random video about computer programming involving a rubber duck could influence how I taught yoga to a blue elephant!

Welcome to 2021 – 5 Ways to Keep Your (Yoga) New Year Plans on Track

It’s the New Year and what a strange one it’s shaping up to be!

Face masks in shops, hand sanitiser everywhere, social distancing measures in place.

So how do you possibly achieve your New Year dreams in such an unusual environment?Here are my top 5 tips for making sure your resolutions don’t end up discarded along with the last of the Christmas wrapping paper.
While  this blog is written from a Yoga practice perspective remember these tips are transferable to any of your plans for 2021!

1)Focus on what you can do not what you can’t

It’s still possible to have a  regular Yoga practice even with all of the restrictions in place. You may not be able to go to a face to face class but you could clear a space at home and spend 10 minutes easing out at the start or end of your day.  Or you could remember that Yoga doesn’t just happen on a mat and wrap up warm to take a brisk walk in the winter sunshine. Added bonus – both of them are free!

2) Set up specific, realistic and achievable expectations (see my blog on SMART objectives for more detail)  Basically if you set the bar too high you’re doomed to failure. Getting out of bed at 6am on the 1st January for a few rounds of sun salutations may seem like a great way to get fit or lose weight but I’ll bet my bottom dollar you won’t still be doing it by the time February rolls around. So cut  yourself some slack – it’s still the middle of winter – and plan your practice or any other exercise routine within sensible and attainable parameters.

3) Plan ahead. If your aim is to have a regular practice then make an appointment with yourself. Put a time and date on your calendar either for your own session or for a scheduled  Zoom class (mine is on a Wednesday 7pm until 8pm).Then stick to it. After all you’d respect an appointment to catch up with a friend or attend a work meeting so why treat yourself as if you’re less important? 

4) Make time for yourself. Christmas is such a frantic time even with restrictions in place that often when New Year comes along you can find yourself feeling frazzled and exhausted rather than full of vim and gusto. So don’t forget to schedule in some “me time”. Even if it’s half an hour to soak in a hot bath or time to hide away with a good book.Instead of an intense physical workout why not  try a gentle breathing practice or a guided relaxation instead? There are lots of options on YouTube and if you’re a member of  my “Jacqui Gunnion Yoga on line” Facebook group there are mini practices all labelled up ready for you to use.

5) Limit your time on social media platforms. I know I bang on about this all of the time but I do think it’s a hugely influential factor in people’s lives. We are constantly bombarded with images from Instagram, Facebook and the like depicting people with apparently perfect lives. So how do we live up to that and how does it make us feel? Well the answer is we don’t and we generally start to feel pretty bad about ourselves! Remember most people  – me included-  generally only share the “good stuff” – not the bad hair days or the days when we are feeling fed up or a bit down or lonely. Breaking  the habit of checking social media every time there’s a gap in your schedule leaves that time and space open to appreciate and enjoy your own life rather comparing it to someone else’s.

And there we are! My top tips for getting the most from your Yoga resolutions in 2021!

Have a Happy and a Healthy New Year.