What Bikram Yoga Teaches Me About Coaching

Carly Anderson Bikram Yoga 1Since early 2008, I’ve been a regular participant in Bikram Yoga classes which is a series of 26 yoga postures practiced in a room heated to a minimum of 105F with 40% humidity.

Each class is 90 minutes. It’s not for everyone but I’ve grown to love it and know I’m doing my body, mind and spirit a load of good by regularly getting hot and sweaty and fully stretched! I feel I’m a better coach for practicing Bikram yoga. That’s me in the photo demonstrating Balancing Stick.

I’ve just completed my first ever 30 day challenge (30 classes in 30 days) and thought I’d share some insights about parallels between Bikram yoga and coaching.

Stretch Your Skill Set

I’ve been practicing Bikram yoga on average 3x per week for 5 and a half years. I took up the 30 day challenge thinking I might average 5 classes per week instead of my usual 3. But I actually completed 30 classes in 27 days, sometimes doing two classes per day. I amazed myself!

This was initially a stretch for me to consider, so what changed? I decided to use the focused time of the challenge to see what I could do to improve my hard-to-stretch areas with daily practice, and I did notice some improvement.

The same applies as coaches. Just because we might be very experienced doesn’t mean we can’t stretch our skills to new levels. In this vein, I’ve been participating in Evolutionary Coach, Michael Stratford’s “Masterful Questions Interactive Webinar.”

Michael has a Masterful Feedback Interactive Webinar series starting on November 5 and you’ll find a special offer further below. Feedback is the heart of the ICF core competency of Direct Communication – how you feed back observations, reflections, a pattern of thinking, etc.

The point is we can always improve and stretch ourselves to grow, no matter what level we are at.


Everyone Can Improve

Those participating in the 30 day challenge can voluntarily put their name on whiteboards and add a sticker next to their name for every class they complete. There’s one woman who is probably 4’10”, weighs no more than 100 pounds, is probably in her 50’s and she is on track to complete 60 classes in 30 days Wow! Sometimes on weekends she did 3 classes in a day.

This is a similar point to the one above. We’re never too experienced as coaches to take on the challenge to improve our skills, so we can be even better coaches for our clients.

Note: I do not intend to do 60 classes in 30 days…! Below I’m in Camel Pose…..

Carly Anderson Bikram Yoga 2


Beginners Mind Every Time

Bikram yoga is the same 26 postures every time, which might seem repetitive and boring. Yet it is fresh every time because my body and mind are different every day (and at different times of the day). Each teacher emphasizes something different. I get to refine my yoga practice whenever I approach each class with beginners mind.

The same applies to coaching our clients. When we approach our clients with beginners mind every time, we are honoring who our client is today, in this moment. Not how they were last time we spoke with them but how they are today. We see their greatness and strengths and help them connect with the qualities in them that will support them to find their way to move forward on what’s important to them.

Stay Present, Exactly with the Teacher

Bikram yoga is repetitive and once you’ve done hundreds of classes, you’d think nothing could be new! Yet I am often surprised to learn a distinction for correctly doing a posture, and how easy it is to get ahead or behind the teacher.

About 4 years into practicing, a teacher corrected my stance in a position and I was so surprised that I hadn’t heard the distinction before, even though the teachers always say it. I was bending my wrist in a posture instead of keeping it straight. I was so surprised when he told me and also grateful.

I do my best to stay present to what the teacher says, and to hear exactly what the teacher is saying, instead of thinking I know what is coming next (even though I do know what’s coming next) or that I know how to do the posture. It’s a practice in staying present, just like in coaching and also in being open to what I don’t know or what I might be missing. This is the core competency of Coaching Presence in action.

When we get ahead of our coaching clients, we are not fully present to them in this moment and our lack of being fully present communicates to our client that we are not fully listening to them. Even worse, they may feel that we don’t ‘get’ them. The ICF core competency of Coaching Presence offers us an opportunity to practice being fully present with our client, in each moment.

Practice Stillness

Bikram yoga takes place in a hot and humid room and can be incredibly physically uncomfortable. Some days feel like it’s just surviving the humidity and heat. In every class, the teacher reminds us to stay mentally present, to be physically still, and to add ‘nothing extra.’ We are to be present to our breath in between and during postures. I’ve come to realize that 99% of being present in these conditions is a practice in stillness of the mind, not what’s going on physically.

The same is true when coaching clients. We need to put anything that could distract us from being fully present with our client aside and put our attention 100% on them. Coaching is not about us; it’s always about our clients.


What are you doing to improve your Coaching Skills?

What are you doing to stretch your coaching skill set, practice stillness, be fully present, and approach each moment with your client with beginners mind? Here are some ways you might engage in Beginner’s Mind:

Michael Stratford has a Masterful Feedback Interactive Webinar series starting on November 5, 12, 19 & 26 at 3-4.30pm Pacific.  Michael has generously offered a $60 reduction if you enter Coupon Code MFW on checkout (just the 3 letters MFW). This offer ends November 3. I highly recommend it to any coach, new or experienced. The 4 week course carries 6 hours of ICF Core Competency CCE’s too.

You can join us in The Mentor Coaching Group, which meets ICF requirements for 10 hours of mentor coaching, and also carries 10.5 hours of  ICF Core Competency CCE’s for those renewing their credential. Or you might consider purchasing a Credential Review Package where you are given written and verbal feedback on 3 of your recorded coaching sessions.

Come join us at the ICF Los Angeles Chapter Meeting on November 13


Michael Stratford and I are guest speakers at the upcoming ICF-LA meeting on “Mastering the ICF Core Competencies.” If you are in the area, please do come and join us.