I spent the early days of my coaching practice hiding under the illusion that my devotion to yoga was an entirely separate holiness from that of serving my clients. Sure, I claimed my yogic habits proudly on my “About” page, but isn’t everyone a yoga teacher these days? It felt so trendy, and besides- I didn’t want to brag. I wanted to be accessible to everyone, even those who don’t particularly care to touch their toes.
I wasn’t entirely foolish enough to believe the hours spent in Lotus had no effect on my coaching practice. I knew that my yoga made me a strong, grounded presence for my clients. But it was only recently that I realized: we can powerfully and directly apply the simple tools of a yogic practice- something we may think is only for our personal benefit or reserved for our time off- to our work with clients, both in person and long distance.
4 ways to take your asana off the mat and into your practice.
1.) Drop in. We all know the importance of taking time to sit and arrive on the mat before diving into asana, and it’s just as important for our practice with clients. They probably just rushed to make our call or appointment on time (or maybe we did!), leaving them still spinning and ungrounded from their day and barely able to pull their thoughts together. I start by asking my clients to close their eyes, take a few deep belly breaths, and scan their body to notice what is immediately present. On your end of the phone or in your office, create a sacred space to hold the energy. Light a candle or some incense, create a small altar, or whatever resonates to allow you to drop in and become centered. Your clients will feel the difference in you and will appreciate the opportunity to center themselves before diving in.
2.) Teach your clients to breathe. On the whole, we’ve completely forgotten how to breathe. We inhale only a tiny percent of our 6 liters of capacity and rarely exhale fully enough to release the stagnant air. This has serious effects on the nervous system and detoxification process, leaving our clients with decreased capacity to deal with stress and anxiety and seriously decreased energy- two of the primary complaints out there! I assign a simple breath practice to almost every client: 10 conscious breaths, either first thing in the morning or just before bed. Have your client put one hand on her belly so she can feel herself breathe fully into her diaphragm, then count to four as she inhales slowly through her nose. Have her pause for one to two moments, then exhale fully. Simple. Powerful.
3.) Bring awareness back into the body. Quite a few of our clients will come to us with experience in traditional “talk therapy”, which invites them to share purely from a mental space of thinking about their struggles. But this disconnects them from their body and the felt experience of the desire or challenge they’re currently processing. So when a client shares a fear, for example, ask her to put her feet firmly on the floor, close her eyes and feel where that fear is living. What qualities does it have? Does it travel at all? Bringing her attention back into her body will calm and center her, and with that presence she will be able to gain insight into the deeper levels of experience and emotion.
4.) Savasana. My favorite pose, and the most important! Close the session by allowing a few moments of integration- not lying on the floor necessarily, but invoke a similar vibe. Take a few slow breaths together to see if any last thoughts or insights percolate to the surface to be shared. Let the juice of the session sink in and allow the depth and power to reverberate! You’ve done good work, stretched the edges, and helped your client learn from her body. Honor her presence and commitment, and thank her.
Heather Day is a Transformational Coach, yoga teacher, and a guide for those who seek to live a Heart Centered Life. She helps people who have fallen out of balance to return to center with intuitive and practical tools for body, soul, and lifestyle. You’ll find her eating papaya, teaching yoga and coaching from her home in Costa Rica. Get her free meditation series to overcome fear and find your own Heart Center, and connect with her on Twitter and Facebook.