The Coach in Your Corner

By Jeremy McCarthy / September 10, 2011

I try to maintain a daily yoga practice. I figure if I try to get to a yoga class every day, I will succeed at least a few times a week. Sometimes, if I can’t make it to a class, I will try and do my own yoga workout, without the aid of an instructor. It should be pretty easy for me to fly solo. I’ve been doing yoga for years, I know how to do the postures, and I even know how to flow from one posture to another, connecting them together into a complete workout. Unfortunately, the sad reality is that my private, individual yoga sessions are pretty pathetic. I don’t get into the poses as deeply, I don’t hold them for as long, and I usually give up after about 20 minutes (compared to a typical class session of at least an hour.)

When I do go to class, I push myself much harder. I stretch into every pose as deeply as possible (wanting to show the instructor—and everyone else for that matter—that I know what I’m doing.) I also hold each pose longer (not necessarily willingly, but because the instructor will sometimes blab on endlessly not realizing that the blood is rushing to my head and my shoulders are quaking under the weight of my under-conditioned body.) These instructor-led classes are not just a little more intense than my individual sessions, they are a lot more. Maybe 300 to 400 percent more.

My individual sessions are much more enjoyable. If I feel uncomfortable in a posture, I stop doing it. If I am tired, I rest. And if I am bored, I just end the session. I don’t ever have to suffer through the strain of holding a painful posture for several minutes while my yoga instructor carelessly muses about the importance of “ugaia breathing.”

But the true value of a yoga session is not necessarily how I feel in the moment, but how I feel for the rest of the day. How did the session change me? In what direction am I going (in terms of technique, physical strength, flexibility, and mental clarity)? After an individual session, I feel nothing. No benefit, no growth, no sense of accomplishment. But after a particularly cruel yoga instructor kicks my ass for an hour and a half, when I am surrounded by pools of sweat and my muscles are screaming that they aren’t supposed to go like that, and I know I will be sore for the next two days…I feel amazing.

Walking out of a session like that, I feel stronger, leaner, and more focused. Flashes of insight pop into my head—a solution to a problem, an idea for the future, a sense of clarity. For the next two days, my sore muscles remind me of my accomplishment, and I can feel my body lengthening and rebuilding, preparing me for the next workout. I feel high.

We can all benefit from having an “instructor” who can give us a little nudge and push us to do the work that we might not want to do, but we know needs to be done. Not just in yoga, but in any area of life. We need somebody who is knowledgeable, a little tough, and who is removed enough from our own pain, fears or self-limiting beliefs to provide some fresh perspective. Here are some things to think about when considering how to get some extra help to push you over life’s little (or large) humps:

1. Find a coach. A coach is someone who pushes you outside of your comfort zone. They may be telling you things you already know, but they also hold you accountable when you don’t listen.

2. Build your team. The only thing better than one coach is several. Rather than paying a professional or taking a class, you could join (or form) a community. Find a group of like-minded people committed to helping each other reach their goals.

3. Evaluate all areas of your life: In what areas do you already have help and where do you need more? Maybe you have a personal trainer but not a financial adviser. Maybe you see a therapist but not a career coach. Where could you most use some help from someone with a different perspective? What areas are most important to you?

Sometimes it’s hard to ask for help. We want to go it alone, to be able to claim full responsibility for our successes. But there is always somebody out there who knows more than we do, who can see what we can’t, or who can hold us accountable to do the things that we already know we should do. There is always somebody you could reach out to. The question is do you know who it is? And why haven’t you asked them for help yet?

Jeremy McCarthy

Jeremy McCarthy

Group Director of Spa at Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group
Jeremy McCarthy is the Group Director of Spa for Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group leading their internationally acclaimed luxury spa division featuring 44 world-class spa projects open or under development worldwide. He has over 20 years of experience operating luxury spas in resort and hotel properties worldwide and is the author of The Psychology of Spas & Wellbeing. You can find more of his writing on his blog at
Jeremy McCarthy

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