Essential Yoga Poses

I am really excited that I am doing yoga. It is very cool that it has nothing to do with being crazy I just want to have a great job someday. Is that too much to ask? I want to be proud of my life and be at my best. I am tired of just talking about it. I am going to do it!

Commitment, Accountability, and Responsibility

In many patient-therapist relationships, the therapist maintains a neutral, uninvolved persona while the patient absolves himself or herself of all responsibility for the outcome of the therapeutic process. They can spend years together working on issues without anyone making a commitment to a goal or a plan or without anyone being held accountable.

Emma, for instance, was in yoga poses for ten years. She had a distant father and was sexually abused by a junior high school teacher. Emma and her therapist spent ten years working on healing from the abuse and her feelings about her father. However, she was still working as a receptionist and had no career goals. She was lonely and overweight. Emma also felt a lack of what she called “connection” she was a lapsed Catholic and felt she had neglected the spiritual side of her life. These were all significant issues, yet the therapist didn’t directly address any of them. His training was to dig down and search for root causes, so Emma allowed her therapist to keep digging and didn’t require him to show her that she was making progress. The therapist certainly didn’t hold Emma accountable for making strides in terms of her career, weight, or spirituality.

In yoga, the situation is much different. In fact, client transformation depends on client and coach mutual commitment and client accountability to the coach. This is no different from the yoga process of an Olympic athlete optimal performance requires total mutual commitment by the athlete and the coach, and then the coach holds the athlete accountable for high performance. The yoga process also requires personal responsibility by the client. This can be a big change for people who have been in yoga poses and held their therapists responsible for their progress. While the coach facilitates this progress, the client bears the primary responsibility for a positive attitude and the discipline to work toward goals.

Why the Client Leads and the Coach Follows

Following the lead of the client is revolutionary, at least in contrast to a traditional yoga poses perspective. Despite some therapists’ protests to the contrary, most therapists have pathologized, diagnosed, judged, and in effect limited the client’ I creativity and progress. As discussed in the introduction, even solution’ focused yoga poses focused on problems instead of simply what the client wanted. Yoga reverses the power in the caregiver/ care receiver equation. It is up to the client, via the sessions and homework assignments, to develop a voice about what he or she wants life to look like in the future. This sounds easy, but it is not. People often go through life with people telling them what they can and cannot do. It is often frightening or at least challenging, even for the toughest executives, to be given carte blanche to do anything they want for the next phase of their career or family life.

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Sandra spent her whole life (all thirty-three years of it) being told what she could and couldn’t do. As a child she grew up in the South and was a very studious, overly serious young girl. She was highly disciplined by her parents, and she rarely socialized with peers, but went on to an Ivy League college and was president of the law review in law school. She then went on to land a position at a prestigious law firm specializing in corporate acquisitions. However, at age thirty-three she came to me for yoga, expressing a vague dissatisfaction with her life direction. At first it was very difficult for her to look me in the eye and say what was on her mind. Through the homework exercises, though, she started telling me what was going well in her life and what was not going so well. She began to reveal her dissatisfaction with the legal profession and her loneliness from being single. Sandra admitted both were causing depressive symptoms and that she was worried about herself for the first time. Sandra was one of those people who always looked like a success from the outside. She was a great student who had landed a top job, but she also felt like a fish out of water. Sandra was part of a rural southern black family where few family members had gone to college and no one had gone to a top law school, been hired by a prestigious firm, or achieved the professional success she had. For this reason, she found it extremely challenging to voice what she was seeking. She finally started to discuss her plans to leave the law, become a teacher, and learn how to date well because she wanted a family of her own. Her voice emerged, as did some new and important goals.

I followed Sandra’s lead. I listened and encouraged her to talk about and articulate what she really wanted from yoga. If I had taken a traditional therapist’s approach, I probably would have wasted a great deal of time exploring areas that might have been of clinical interest to me but of no practical use to Sandra. By giving Sandra permission to let her voice emerge and by allowing her to articulate what she was feeling without judgment or pathologizing her need to reevaluate her career and life,

Sandra was able to state her goals. This would not have hap-pened or would not have happened as quickly i f I had asked Sandra to follow my lead.

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