Things to Keep in Mind when Starting Yoga or Counseling (1 of 3)


Once you have made the decision to start counseling or yoga, I encourage you to find ways to commit to the process. One element of commitment is frequency. It has been my experience that weekly therapy, with other resources during the week, is often more beneficial to my clients than trying to cram more work into biweekly (or less frequent) counseling appointments, particularly during the early stages of therapy. In yoga, people notice cumulative benefits, and many resources recommend practicing yoga more days than not out of the week or practicing daily for a period of time. I see the benefits of the established rhythm that people get from regular resourcing instead of struggling to fit it in.

Another element of commitment is presence. Coming to your mat or visiting a counselor aren’t items to be checked off a to-do list. This is your time for yourself. It is both nurturing and challenging, and you will get more out of it if you stay present to the process, even when your mind wants to go elsewhere or race through the hour. Neither counseling nor yoga are passive processes; both reap rewards for participants who are willing to invest themselves in the journey. 


The Sanskrit word for self-study is “svadhyaya.” There are numerous translations of, and commentaries about, this concept, and I gravitate toward the idea of self-study as being aware of and exploring one’s self without harsh judgment. This can mean noticing where the breath is, or observing a pattern that we tend to go to when we are under stress. The ability to stop and take notice is a unique element of yoga and counseling--here we are encouraged to pause and observe as opposed to rushing onto the next pose or topic.

I used the word “harsh” above intentionally. We do enough criticizing and beating ourselves up--I like to encourage more observation about what is before deciding whether or not we want to make a change about something we do. For example, in my yoga teaching, I commonly encourage bending the knees during forward bends because it is good to offer modifications…but honestly, I myself have tightness in my hamstrings and have gotten quite comfortable with bending my knees to the point that I lose the stretch in the back of the legs. Without self-study during my practice, I might either injure myself by forcing my legs straight or I would overly bend them and not notice the differences in my hamstrings over time. In counseling, a client may notice a tendency to be cautious in new situations, a value for traveling, or that they work best when they collaborate with others. The practice of self-study about their patterns allows them greater understanding of themselves and may reveal an area where they want to change. With self-study, we can feel, observe, and notice. Then, we can find our edges.