Testing thoughts from the back of a Yoga class

The closest I could find to a picture of me doing Yoga

I do yoga, as an enthusiastic amateur.  The main weekly class that I go to can best be described as “the basics, really well”.  Think of it as the equivalent of a concert pianist practicing their scales – basic stuff for them but the foundation of a good technique. Just doing scales and arpeggios isn’t going to make you a concert pianist, but in order to be one, you’d better be prepared to understand and be really good at your scales and arpeggios.  So the yoga class is an open class with a mix of newbies and people who are very very good, but with a focus on doing the basics right.  The teacher, Nadia Narain, is excellent, especially for a geek like me; for the asana practice (the physical poses part of yoga) she puts a lot of effort into explaining exactly what’s going on with your body in each pose and what the core point of a pose is, rather than just telling the class what position to put their arms and legs in (effectively talking about the requirements behind the pose, not the specification).

It took me a couple of years to realise that a lot of the adjustments that Nadia and her assistants are actually doing on the good people in the class are actually pulling people out of deep poses – to stop them from enthusiastically (almost competitively) doing what they think the pose is about, not what it’s actually about.

A simple example – Janusirsasana (Head to Knee Pose) is a twist and stretch pose, tightening various core muscles, aligning and tilting your pelvis, stretching your hamstring and creating space in your back. If you’ve been doing a lot of yoga, for a long time, you might end up with your head in the vicinity of your knee – hence the name.  Or once you’ve done a bit of flexibility work, you can curl around like a letter “d”on it’s side and whack your head on your knee, stretching your hamstring, but missing the core points of the pose and stretching and wrecking your upper back into the bargain, while performing a literal head-to-knee pose.

And the thing I eventually realised here is that these aren’t people who are bad at yoga, or have bad teachers – these are good students (most of them far above where I’ll ever be) who are trying to do good work.  Instead, it’s a weekly reminder of some everyday truisms that apply all over, that we often forget, and that are especially important to remember when testing:

  • What everyone sees and talks about isn’t necessarily the interesting thing that’s going on.
  • What appears to be the obvious point or rationale of something isn’t necessarily what’s going on.
  • Everyone (customers, users, developers, testers, whoever) will all enthusiastically do what they think they’re meant to be doing without asking.

So next time you’re deep into some testing, don’t forget to occasionally back out of the pose a little and ask yourself what you’re actually trying to achieve.





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