Our Work


Yoga or Scrum - It's All About Practice

By Stephanie Villinski on January 26, 2015

Hello, Stephanie Villinski here. I'm ILAO’s legal content manger for IllinoisLegalAdvocate.org and IllinoisProbono.org. I am also a certified instructor and student of yoga. You may be asking why I mention my “yoga credentials.” Well, it's because the more I serve on the ILAO development team charged with building the next generation of our products and services, the more I look to my regular yoga practice for guidance.

As this blog chronicles, ILAO has decided to tranform all four of its websites. When I first heard news of this decision, my thoughts went immediately to Gary Coleman's well-known catch phrase (“Whatchu talkin about Willis?”) I knew that it was "mission-critical" but I couldn't help but also think that it might just be impossible. To call this rebuild a bit daunting is an understatement. I experienced the same feelings of uncertainty that I have when I reach the pose Marichyasana D in my current practice of the Ashtanga yoga primary series.

“How am I going to wrap and connect my arms around my body and twist like that?”

“How are we going to rebuild our websites with everything else we are doing?”

Luckily for me, my yoga practice over the past 10 years has taught me to heed the words of one of the great yogis, Krishnamacharya, who said, “yoga is the process by which the impossible becomes possible and the possible over a long period of time becomes easy.”

Also, lucky for me, the ILAO team has decided to use Scrum to “ground” the website transformation process. The Scrum process of Agile development provides a “centering effect” similar to that of yoga practice. If you need a refresher on Scrum, Gwen gives a good overview here. To me, the Scrum practice mirrors how T.K.V. Desikachar describes the yoga practice in his book, The Heart of Yoga, “the recommendation of a regular yoga practice (insert: Scrum practice) follows the principle that through practice we can learn to stay present in every moment, and thereby achieve much that we were previously incapable of.

As my yoga teachers have reminded me over the years, I just need to keep coming back to the practice and to my intention for practicing. Similarly, every morning at 9:45am, the Development team meets for 15 minutes to conduct a daily Scrum practice summarizing what we did yesterday and setting our intention for what we will do today. In my yoga practice, some days, I want to rush through it. Other days, I skip it. However, it is not long before I am reminded that such rushing or skipping leads to injury and frustration.

The same is true for our Scrum practice. At times, I get ahead of myself and go outside of the “acceptance criteria” for the work I have taken on or lose sight of the big picture in all the details. Yet once I come back to the Scrum team at our daily practice, I am reminded of the team’s intention (a.k.a performance objective/acceptance criteria). I remember that everything does not have to be decided right now and I get back on track.

The Scrum practice exists to make a huge rebuild more manageable. If I trust that, as with yoga, the result is “practice and all is coming,” K. Pattabhi Jois.

As we progress through this transformation, I look forward to watching the impossible become possible and the possible over a long period of time become easy.