Bikram Yoga and the Coaching Mastery Journey

This article recently appeared in the ICF Global Blog

Carly Anderson bikram poseWhen I was a newer coach, I remember thinking, “When will I be ‘there?” When will my coaching skills be integrated so that I don’t have to consciously think about what I’m doing? When will this come naturally to me?

I remember receiving my PCC credential in 2001 and then thinking, “Oh, no, I’ll never get to MCC skill level!” While I was granted my MCC credential in 2004, I know my skills have increased to significantly higher levels of mastery since then, and there is more to go!

Mastery is a function of regular practice, of being open to receiving feedback, of implementing that feedback, and of having a mindset that you want to continually learn and improve.

I want to share another passion of mine and how it parallels the coaching mastery journey.

Bikram Yoga

One of my regular physical, spiritual, emotional, mental practices is Bikram Yoga. It’s the same 26 postures every time, in a heated yoga studio, typically conducted over 90 minutes. I’ve been regularly practicing since 2008.

I recently had a breakthrough that surprised me. After 6 years of practice, I finally was able to lock out my top leg in a position called ‘standing head to knee.’

Yes, it took 6 years and 800+ classes!

Every time I practice, I do my best. I was happy for teachers to give me feedback via correcting my posture. I took that feedback and did my best to integrate it. I didn’t beat myself up for not being able to do what they suggested. I had the intellectual knowledge to lock out my leg, but it remained bent by tight muscles. So I just did what I could every single time.

I was (and am) open to different ways to improve. A few months earlier, I had started using a foam roller on my legs, as I’d heard that loosened muscles. Yet I had no idea that one day my top leg would be straight and that soon after I’d be able to start into the next part of the posture, which is pulling your arms down beside your knees. Above you can see a photo of me in that posture. It makes me smile with pride each time I see this photo!

There’s more to go for this posture to be in full expression, and I’m excited to see what happens next, while being very satisfied with what I’ve accomplished so far.

Mastery never ends

This is like the coaching mastery journey. When we commit to the learning journey, we are always simultaneously aiming to be satisfied with giving our best effort today, while doing what we can to have the possibility of growth to the next level.

This means regularly receiving feedback on your coaching skills and doing your best to implement it, rather than saying, “Oh, I’ll never get it!” Just do your best today, and the next day.

We need to also be continually developing our (coaching) presence. This is mostly personal growth that supports us to become the clearest vessel for our clients. The more comfortable we are in our own skin, handling our own issues, the more we can be of service to our client. Our presence may be an intangible but it is highly impactful in a positive or negative way on our clients.

It doesn’t matter that I’ve been coaching for 16 years. We all fall into habits that may mean we are no longer offering our coaching skills at the highest level, in service of our clients. So I ask my peers to evaluate my coaching, much as I evaluate coaching for clients I mentor and as an active ICF assessor. I provide many recorded coaching sessions to my clients of me coaching so they can evaluate my coaching, as I do theirs, against the ICF core competencies.


My invitation is not only to new coaches but to very experienced coaches. Constantly put yourself in ‘beginner’s mind.’ Allow others to listen to your coaching and give you feedback. Enroll in a group or individual mentor coaching program and become a learner again. When we do this, we model the behavior of a masterful coach, which is to constantly be in the pursuit of mastery as a learning journey, not as a destination to rest in.