If you are a professional coach, then you aren’t ordinary! Your ability to unlock the hidden potential of another individual through a deeply transformative process like coaching comes from operating at a different level of consciousness accessed by very few.
That said, are you operating at your full potential as a coach? Anyone can do transactional coaching. But transformational coaching is a whole other ballgame. Activating another’s potential requires you to tap into and develop your own potential holistically. Or at least be on the path to your full potential.
How do you make this possible?
In Indian classical music, singers who can’t reach higher notes are asked to practice the lowest notes. This automatically enables them to expand their range upwards. It’s the same with coaching.
Coaching certification & credentials, though very important, are but pit stops. Coaching is not just a journey, but a combination of both the journey & the destination/pit stops. So beyond a certain level mastery in coaching is about working on the self, or deep work.
To touch the higher potentials of coaching, you need to go deeper within.
Coaches use different reflective practices or deep work to deepen their coaching potential and coaching maturity. Yoga is the perfect tool for deep work because, like coaching, it has a multidimensional impact, is holistic, and has universal application.
Yoga can lead you to coaching mastery by helping you master the ICF coaching competencies. It can help you tap into your potential, both as a coach and a human being.
We called in the experts to enlighten us on the multidimensional benefits of yoga for coaches. Somayaji Manikantan, ICF-ACC, and Santiago Barragan Noguera, ICF-PCC, are keen yoga practitioners and practicing coaches. Mani and Santi incorporate principles and aspects of yoga in their coaching and deep work. They are experiencing its incredible benefits in their lives and coaching practices. We have shared some of them here.
What is Yoga?
First, let’s understand what yoga truly means. The word ‘Yoga’ comes from the Sanskrit root word ‘yuj,’ which means to unite.
Yoga is not confined to yogasana, the exercises taught in Yoga classes.
Yoga is a practice or system that unites us with our true potential.
Sage Patanjali outlined the Ashtanga Yoga, or the Eight-Limbed system to achieve this union. Yogasana is one of the ‘limbs’ in this system.
Sri Krishna outlined four paths to self-realization, namely, Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Jnana Yoga and Raja Yoga in the Bhagavad Gita.
Mani and Santi follow aspects of Sage Patanjali’s Ashtanga Yoga and the Gita’s four Yogas in their yoga practice.
Benefits of Yoga For Coaches
How long is your average coaching session? An hour, minimum? How long can you sit comfortably, completely in tune with your client? Something as trivial as an uncomfortable posture or aches & pains can distract you.
Santi, a Wellness Coach who teaches yoga, confirms that regular practice of yogasana can help you develop the ability to maintain a comfortable posture for longer periods and thus enable you to be there Wholly for your client.
Sustainable energy and attention
Santi also finds that yoga increases the coach’s energy and attention span, allowing one to be completely present for the client throughout the session.
Additionally, yoga improves the quality of attention to your clients and yourself. “You become more mindful of the client’s words, body language and energy,” says Santi. “At the same time, you can pay attention to what is happening within you.”
“Yoga helps you be available to yourself and your client every moment. Your availability depends on your willingness to see what presents itself before you at the moment and acknowledge it without judgment. Yoga first helps you become aware that you are not as available as you thought. Yoga can then help you recognize, acknowledge and accept what is happening in every moment, within you and the client,” shares Santi.
Cleans the mirror
You are a mirror that reflects your client’s thoughts, beliefs, and opinions. The cleaner the mirror, the lesser the chances of projection and transference. These two, projection and tranference, crop up due to thought residue, mental disturbances or lack of self-awareness, called mala, vikshepa and avarana in Yoga.
You need a constant process of inner cleaning to keep these three away. Mani finds yoga an effective cleanser. He says that yoga practice reduces mala, vikshepa and avarana over time, enabling you to develop coaching maturity.
How impactful or powerful is your session for your client? Santi shares that yoga gives one a different quality of presence altogether. One that can take your clients to a totally new level of self-awareness and understanding. This is manifesting magic!
Mani recalls a coaching engagement where the discerning client felt, after the first session itself, that what emerged in the conversation was truthful. This completely dispelled any doubts about meeting the objectives of the whole engagement. The above becomes possible when the coach’s presence is distortion-free in a coaching session.
Mani also asks coaches, ‘Given the minimal contact time between you and your client, is your presence deep enough to stay on with your client in between sessions?
He reveals that yoga can deepen the coaching presence, ensuring that coaching leaves a lasting impact on your clients and motivating them to work on their coaching goals.
“Deeper coaching or transformational coaching requires a deeper presence that can be built with yoga. This can give you the bandwidth to go as deep as your client requires,” Mani says. Clients who come with challenges typically keep going in a loop. You need depth to help clients break out of these loops, however complicated they may be.
As coaches, we are mindful of not letting the client’s emotions or issues affect us. But as human beings, it is inevitable. A yogic mindset increases the equanimity, fortitude, and detachment to remain unaffected by our client’s story or to center ourselves quickly when we do.
We use coach supervision to work out the kinks in our coaching practice or coaching mindset. Complementing this with self-supervision can be highly empowering. Mani finds that yoga enables you to supervise yourself more effectively by expanding your self-awareness multidimensionally using inner presence.
Enhances vertical development
“Most of our certifications, even ICF credentialing, hone our coaching skills and competencies, which amount to horizontal development,” points out Mani. “Yoga, on the other hand, enables vertical development. It helps us grow from within and widens our view, allowing for multiple perspectives to exist simultaneously. It increases clarity, enabling us to visualize inherent patterns and connections more astutely. All this gives us a deeper understanding of client polarities, especially in catch-22 situations.”
“The real opportunity lies in looking at competencies through the horizontal AND vertical lenses simultaneously. When clients and coaches advance vertically, how they think about and enact those competencies expands,” Mani concludes.
Santi shares that yoga revealed multiple ways of relating to direct experience that enabled him to open up rather than contract.
“I learned not to engage with the negative and the positive – attach to the positive or push away the negative. Because life does not have any personal agenda with you. Life is just being – life. I grew to have non-preferential awareness and become less attached to my ego.”
We also asked Mani and Santi how they add elements of yoga to their coaching engagements.
- As a yoga coach, Santi brings about interventions with yoga practices.
- Knowledge of the four paths of yoga helps him understand people better and aids in how he can relate to them as a coach.
- Mani creates personal yogic competencies for himself. For example, he has created a breath awareness competency* based on pranayama, which allows him to gauge whether he is centered in a coaching session.
* (Before starting a session, watch your normal breath pattern inhalation and exhalation. Mid-session: Use breath awareness to center and regain presence if distracted.)
- Other personal add-on competencies are Playfulness, Clarity and Discernment.
- So, while Mani follows the ICF competencies, he also playfully extends them for client impact.
Yoga-Based Tips for Impactful Coaching
We asked Mani and Santi to share tips on how coaches can incorporate yoga into their coaching practice.
We just discussed how yoga can benefit the coach in you. But do not limit the transmuting power of yoga to only these benefits. As you practice yoga, you will find it reflected in your coaching practice in wholly new ways. In fact, you will feel yoga’s impact on your life as a whole. Santi shares that yoga shifted every area of life for him.
That’s because yoga raises an individual to a different dimension of living and being. It improves the quality of the mind, one’s personality, living, and life itself. So consider adding yoga to your personal development strategy and see your life and coaching practice transform.
Mani goes one step further. He quotes from the Gita and exhorts all coaches to – yogastha kuru karmani – do your work established in yoga. That means,
To achieve Mastery in Coaching, Coach from the state of Yoga.
Somayaji Manikantan, or Mani, is a seasoned executive and a Leadership & Team Coach. He provides blended coaching & mentoring to funded startup founders on product & business aspects to help grow, pivot and accelerate success. He coaches expatriate executives and mid-level leaders.
Mani practices Kriya yoga and is associated with the Institute of Indic Wisdom (IIW), where he, along with his teacher, has co-authored and published a two-part paper titled “On Becoming a Yogi Coach.”
Santiago Barragan Noguera is a Wellness & Business Coach specializing in multiple areas of the wellness domain. Santi is the Director of Coaching Education at ICF Colombia. He is also a certified yoga teacher, therapeutic musician, dance instructor, non-fiction writer and multidisciplinary learner. As an artistic polymath, he uses his experience and expertise in diverse domains to enrich his coaching practice.