How Yoga Aids Coaching, Healing, and Growth

Yoga is my lifeline. It serves my body through asana, keeps me mentally sane and quiets my heart. If I want to hold others as a coach, supervisor and mentor—which is what I love doing—I must know how to hold myself, staying safe, centered and grounded, so I can be completely available to the one in front of me.

For me, yoga is truly integral because it sustains me as a whole being. When I roll out my mat, I’m stepping into a different space where things slow down, the gaze goes inward, and the thinking subsides.

Stilling the mind

In my yoga tradition we use the distinction of the mind being a drunk monkey stung by a scorpion. Unconscious and erratic, it jumps from branch to branch—one moment here, next moment there, with no idea how that happened. But the little guy has the potential to sober up, to become deliberate and focused, and be the helpful servant that he’s meant to be.

In many yoga styles, such as Ashtanga, Vinyasa, Iyengar and Kundalini, the breath is the branch for the monkey to grab and not let go of. The fact is, the mind cannot be suspended in space. We cannot simply stop thinking. Monkeys cannot fly. Monkey mind needs to attach to something, or it will revert back to haphazard thought patterns. The sensing into what’s physically possible and what’s not directs our focus to the here and now. It’s impossible to hold another thought when the mind honed in on the visceral sensation of asana. Gone are the emails, meetings, and conversations that previously sent the monkey mind frantically jumping around.

Letting go of the outcome

In the mythology of ancient India, Hanuman, the monkey god, helped prince Rama to save his beloved Sita from a faraway island. The Hanuman yoga posture is what we commonly call “splits.” With one leg forward and the other straight back, it represents the monkey jumping from the shore to the island – a giant leap into the unknown. It’s a very difficult asana that’s impossible for most of us (not just the mountain bikers with the tight ham strings).

When I first “did” Hanuman asana, I pulled a muscle badly and couldn’t even try for another six months. So the lesson was to park my agenda, which was some Olympic gymnast ideal, and instead to be with the process of exploring my comfort zone and stretching just a little beyond. Then it was about just hanging out in this new place, not pushing it. Breathing in and breathing out. Patience, surrender, acceptance of what’s possible. Then flexibility becomes real, while strength increases.

Yes, we co-create goals and measures in coaching, but we also must come back again and again to the present and from there take a small step, and then the next and the next. Yoga embodies this approach. It’s not about doing it right immediately, but getting where your individual body allows you to go, slowly, gently.

Surrender and healing

The possibility of change in the body comes with softening and opening up in general. If this realization becomes “felt” reality, as it so often does in yoga, we are on the road to freedom from suffering. Then the body becomes the most amazing teacher. Then healing happens. At all levels. Just like that.

Dr. Antje Berlin graduated from the Professional Coaching Course in 2013. She works as an Integral coach, supervisor and mentor in Cape Town, South Africa. She is also a certified yoga instructor. More at her website

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