Six things NOT to do with your intuition

Huff Post has a good list of 10 things intuitive people do... click image to check it out.
Huff Post has a good list of 10 things intuitive people do… click image to check it out.

This weekend, I was in a yoga therapy workshop led by an esteemed and lovely yogini. We were there to learn about healing with intuitive wisdom. It’s not a topic I’d usually go for, but a variety of circumstances landed me in this all-day class. I took some good stuff from the class, some things that I can incorporate as I continue to work with students, but perhaps the most valuable lessons are things that I absolutely DON’T want to do and I suggest you don’t either.

The class started with some lecture. About 2 hours in, we were asked to pair up with another woman in the class (we were all women) so we could try out some of what we were learning. One would be the therapist and one the client, and the therapist was to listen to the client without interrupting and notice if, as a yoga therapist, we had the feeling of needing to “fix” our client or their situation. The lady next to me turned my way and made that smiling, nodding gesture that means, “Should we partner up?” and I replied with a nod-smile. We moved to the back of the room and sat down on the floor and I volunteered to be therapist first. I listened as my “client” got right down to talking about something that was very difficult, complicated and painful for her. I was engaged, present and attentive but I didn’t say much, because the whole thing only lasted 10 minutes and after only 10 minutes, I didn’t know that much about her. Still there seemed to be a positive connection and experience for us both. We circled up with the rest of the group for share-back, but I didn’t comment. I didn’t feel like it.

After lunch, it was my turn to be “client” but I didn’t feel like sharing and by this point, I wasn’t sure I was on board with the workshop. I guess if I had been following my intuition, like the workshop topic suggested, I would have sat across from my therapist with my eyes closed, feeling her presence and listening to myself. But I didn’t do that. Instead I felt compelled to participate nicely in the exercise so I came up with something and started to talk.

I struggled to talk for 6 minutes or so. At about that time, I could tell my partner-therapist had something to say which was fine. I was relieved to be done with my part. She started by making a few observations about me seeming uncomfortable and preferring to be in the listener role…kind of annoying to start off with, but true, and then she went on to share some things that were useful about my situation.  If we had stopped there, it would have been fine, but then She went on to talk in this special “yoga language,” making assessments as she spouted out a whole bunch of observations about my physical, spiritual and subtle body. She said this stuff to me, which was irritating enough, but then we went back to the group and she shared that and more there. At this point l got really uncomfortable, agitated and angry.  Was she completely wrong in her observations? No, not really.  Were her observations helpful for me and my growth? Definitely not.

I find that many people who practice yoga are very perceptive and sensitive people. We can pick up on subtle cues and intuit things that may be going on for a person even if they aren’t saying it. This is real. I totally get it. We notice things. We can intuit stuff.  But what can we do and not do with that subtle communication we receive to be the most effective yoga teachers and therapists we can be? I’ve come up with some suggestions…


Six things NOT to do with your intuition:

Don’t use the information that you intuit to assess your client.

It is tempting to evaluate this transmitted information, fit it into a subtle body system you learned in a 3-hour workshop and then peg your client with a spiritual disorder diagnosis. This is not helpful.

-Don’t think you know someone just because you made an observation about their subtle body.

What you observe often says more about you than your client. Notice what you are noticing. We are often getting in our own way of clear perception. Use any intuited information to attune how you respond to your client so you can be your most effective self.

-Do not assume that because you sensed it, you are correct.

It takes a loooooong time to get to know our clients. Even if our personal practice is very effective at helping us to perceive clearly, we cannot know when our own habits and samskaras are clouding our perception. We should be very careful not to draw any conclusions about why a student has a particular struggle or how they got there. They will tell us if and when the time is right.

-Do not tell your client, “I can see you have problems in your first (second, third) chakra”.

The subtle body models (Pancha maya model, Chakra model, Vyūha model) can give us a framework for better understanding our human system as a whole. These are maps that can provide a useful perspective. But remember, these are very complex, non-western “maps” that are relatively new to most of us. If you are tempted to say that someone is having problems at the first chakra, then pause for a moment… Do you know what you are talking about? Is this a model you have discussed, at length, with your student? Is there a context for this conversation that makes that kind of statement meaningful? This isn’t something to casually throw out there. Please.

-Don’t address a laundry list of perceived subtle-body imbalances with your client.  

 Even better, don’t make the laundry list to begin with. In the spirit of not trying to fix our clients and knowing that healing comes from within, be careful that you don’t make a list (in your head or out loud) of things you think are wrong with your client. Support their strengths and growth. Look for the inner light that is shining through. Help them to see that, too.

-Your client isn’t sitting comfortably? Don’t tell them it’s because they are uncomfortable with their place in life.

It doesn’t help.

We can use our intuition to be effective in our teaching and in our lives. It’s a very useful and powerful tool. We can develop and sharpen this ability as we deepen our personal practice.  But make no mistake, this is a sense that comes through your body and your body has a whole set of experiences that influence how you intuit the world and the people around you.  You might see something in a moment, but it doesn’t reveal the whole story.  Allow for the possibility that there is more to learn.  That people don’t like their obvious quirks and especially insecurities to be pointed out and that our job is not to fix, but to make it possible and empower our clients to heal themselves.


24 thoughts on “Six things NOT to do with your intuition

  1. Couldn’t agree more. Our first goal as yoga therapists is to establish a connection with the student and start building trust, and that certainly won’t happen if we jump straight into pointing out someone’s insecurities and assuming that we have all the answers. That bit about the chakras made me laugh – I think this kind of talk is largely the reason why yoga teachers are perceived to be too “woo-woo”. I think that chakra model is a fantastic tool, but there is time and place for it. Thank you for posting this Amanda; and it was lovely to meet you at the conference! – Olga

    1. Olga, so nice to meet you! One of the main things I heard again and again from presenters at the yoga therapy conference is the idea that yoga teachers don’t have to be physical therapists, MD’s or chiropractors to work with these other healing modalities or be successful with our clients. We have a particular perspective that is valued and necessary– a perspective that listens to intuition and as Susie Armendola said, brings heart to healing. I loved hearing this message again and again… it was funny that this closing experience also inspired some cautions, too. 🙂

  2. Right on Sister! What’s more, isn’t it a misapprehension that we are all meant to be always sitting comfortably? to know your body and mind is to know that life is messy, and uncomfortable, and to accept the impermanence of that condition. That is acceptance may not always be comfortable.
    Thanks for this Amanda.

  3. I need to tape that to my forehead…this is something I tend to forget. There’s all the effort put toward avoiding discomfort. It’s such a different thing to see it as a part of life.

    I’m getting excited for our meditation workshop! woo-hoo.

  4. Yes. YES. YES!
    Especially “What you observe often says more about you than your client. Notice what you are noticing. We are often getting in our own way of clear perception.”
    Thanks, always, for sharing your experience.

    1. I had that epiphany a couple of years back… whenever I think I’m seeing something in someone (especially something annoying or problematic), I really check to see what’s going on there for me. It has been so useful (there’s almost always some of me in whatever I’m noticing) and helps me to be less judgmental.

  5. Thank you for sharing your experience and speaking your truth!! I was in the same workshop. One thing I notice in these conferences is the need to share “wisdom” and knowledge with others that is all about the speaker’s need to appear wise and knowledgable and nothing about the person they are speaking at. (bad grammar but you get the point.) When you combine that with the need that many of us — including me! — have to play nice, you get the opposite of the intention of the exercise of being heard and seen without judgment. Imagine the backlash if you had listened to your intuition and not expressed something private to a well-meaning but clumsy “therapist” and chosen to be silent. Now imagine not giving a fuck because honoring your intuition is more valuable than anything else. That’s MY special yoga language.;)

    1. Love your language and your observation, Leslie. I totally know the feeling of wanting to impress people, especially colleagues, by talking about all the smart stuff I know. Listening is where it’s at. Listening to my own hunches and needs AND listening to other people without jumping to any assessments or conclusions. Good thing we’ve got time to practice.

  6. Another great post, Amanda. I have issues with intuition, both other’s (a “woman’s intuition” about me is only right about half the time) and mine (whoa! have I been wrong). Thank god, the stars or my divorce for driving me to Yoga. I am a much better listener. So now I listen and then reflect back what I hear, rather than try to solve. And wait if they want more. I think a lot of the time people just need to be validated for what they’re feeling. And then they can begin to start understanding on their own. Metaphors help, opinions do not and practices heal.

    1. oh yes! “Metaphors help, opinions do not and practices heal.”
      You know, I was thinking today about how Chase teaches… there’s no bossing around and there’s no judging about how I’m living or all the work I need to do. The teaching centers around practices that are accessible and possible and gradual and this has made some remarkable movement for me over time.

  7. Fantastic post:-)
    I recently read this and I think it goes very well –
    ‘The biggest problem in communication is that we do not Listen to understand. We Listen to reply.’

  8. Beautifully said. I studied at a similar studio awhile back – and eventually couldn’t drink the Kool-Aid for all 6 of those reasons.

    1. Man, I hear you Beth. In some ways, it feels easy to spot someone else’s problems and then get all judgy. Changing that pattern has been some big work of mine over the years. It’s so much nicer to worry and work on myself and do my best to enjoy the other people in my life.

  9. i wrote a big long comment about how awesome this post was and then stupid wordpress deleted it. now i’m annoyed because i can’t remember exactly what i wrote (though i’m nearly certain it would have brought about world peace had it not been deleted). suffice it to say that this post is spot on and i totally agree, and also i am deeply impressed with your ability to rise above such a difficult situation and to put into words something that we all do, and yet is among the most annoying things to have done to us. yoga world or not – good listeners are golden and unsolicited, unhelpful advice is rampant. thanks for the reminder.

    1. Too bad about that first effort, but you totally came through, round 2, Ann. Listening is really the take home here. Funny how much practice and self-restraint it can take to be fully present for the job. Thanks, lady.

  10. I heard somewhere this adage about knowledge. It is made up of:

    1) the things we know we know
    2) the things we know that we don’t know
    3) the things we don’t know that we know
    4) the things we don’t know that we don’t know

    Remembering #4 might help us to retain a bit of humility when acting from “intuition.”

    Thanks for the great article, Amanda!

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