As part of Yoga Mountain, Inc.’s 500 teacher training program, students learn the art of YMI’s
unique approach to Holistic Healing. In many ways it is an art not a science: YMI’s three-tiered
program offers a framework to bridge breath work, asana, and meditation that is adaptable to
clients of all ages and a very wide-range of physical and emotional challenges.
The program’s most interesting feature is its focus on self-exploration. Based on the ancient
model for recovery found in the Yoga Sutra of Pantanjali, YMI’s focus is not merely on
wellness. It is a “holistic” approach, to coin a phrase: an approach designed to help achieve a
sense of “wholeness”--not merely agent for healing but for transformation.
All Holistic Healing students are required to attend regular meetings as they work their way through
3 case studies of 12 sessions each. Information about clients is kept confidential but progress
reports are shared by the therapists and recommendations are made by YMI’s senior instructors
and yoga therapists. In one my first meetings after having an initial session with my first client, I
was highly confounded! I had believed that the approach was to teach our way through the
protocol—demonstrating how to do a posture correctly, how to do breath work, how to relax. I
am by nature a person who likes to plan, to neatly map things out—I very much enjoy the
creative freedom of designing my classes, and taking students where I like them to go. Not so,
with YMI’s yoga therapy: the crux of the program is to step back, observe, listen, explore. In so
doing, the relationship changes from a teacher-student model, to a therapist-client one. With this
understanding, my sessions took on a very different character. I began to step back a bit more, to
observe without doing so noticeably. I worried less about following the protocol to the letter and
more about allowing the client to release deeper in the postures—less about the music or the
environment and more about the depth of the client’s breathing. I allowed the client take us
wherever it was they needed to go, to create their own asana, and I began to feel more
comfortable with the idea of not having a plan. Oftentimes, the places we “traveled” to were a
complete surprise! I learned that as a yoga therapist one must play many roles, wear many “hats”
and that makes the process both challenging and rewarding.
What was most surprising was witnessing the changes not only in my clients but also in myself
as both a teacher and a yoga therapist. As I continued to work with my clients, I discovered how
much they were teaching me. I was, in fact, learning how not to teach: how to allow the process
to unfold, how to step back, how not lead. In the words of one of my fellow teachers, I learned
how to find the “magic” between the postures, how to “play the pauses.” My sessions took on a
playful character. It is the revival of this “one-on-one” explorative approach to yoga, that is the
cornerstone of YMI’s yoga therapy model.
It is truly a unique gift when a transformative process can have an impact on both client and
therapist. In the words of T.K.V. Desikachar “in yoga, the purpose is to bring some change, and
the teacher is the reference point..Yoga is intimate. There is no yoga between one and a million:
yoga is between two—the teacher and the student.”
Many thanks to all my wonderful teachers in helping me learn this process, and much gratitude
to my clients who taught me so much and took me on such interesting journeys!