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.