A few weeks ago Michael had asked me via email about incorporating unassisted postures in a private Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy session. I responded that I have witnessed many deep explorations in body scan and extended body scan during private sessions and to me these were examples of unassisted postures.  So why not have the person in a pose without physical assists and use dialogue alone? It seemed logical to me.

I had the opportunity the other day to try it. I have a client – a young woman, who is struggling with decision making and finding her voice. This was her 6th session. She is very flexible and is in excellent physical condition. I mention this because some of my clients have to be assisted physically in some way due to physical limitations.

During this session there were a few times when she spoke of not being able to make decisions and letting others make them for her.  I did several postures like pigeon where she had to use some of her own strength to hold the posture. In the reclining part of the posture she began to talk about the struggle between listening to her body and her mind.  At one point her breath changed and she was amazed that her mind had no say in this and her body just made the decision to breathe deeper. It was a pretty big realization for her since she relies on her mind more than her body for guidance.

As the session progressed, my witnessing of this client and my intuition led me to guide her to Warrior II – the great and powerful pose.  At that point I had remembered the conversation with Michael about unassisted postures and so I decided to try it. I had 15 minutes until integration so I went for it.

I had her stand and I stood behind her and just placed my hands on her shoulders to stay connected with her. I coached her into Warrior II using words that I use in my Turn Stress into Bliss program when guiding students in the yoga postures. When I said “rest your gaze over your right hand, she sniffled. She had opened her eyes and saw her reflection in the window and said she didn’t like to look at herself. Of course that prompted lots of dialogue and exploration. When we moved to the other side she said she felt more confident on that side. And I continued the dialogue as she went deeper. Then I told her as I would in a PRYT group yoga situation to release her arms when she decided to do so. After a few minutes her arms started shaking uncontrollably until suddenly she placed her hands over her eyes and sobbed. She talked about how she couldn’t listen to her body to make the simple decision to let her arms drop down. She said her mind kept fighting her body and telling her to keep her arms up until she had to let go. She said she wanted me to tell her when to drop arms down.  I had kept complete silence during all this time. Then I used dialogue for a quite a while in which time she explored all that happened. My hands never left her back nor did they move.

This technique was so powerful and so appropriate in this session as she struggled to listen to her own inner wisdom coming from her body while her mind fought it all during the session. Being “on her own” in the posture forced her to intensely explore her struggle with decision making in a safe place.

It may not work this well with all clients but here I felt I was meeting the client where she was at. She was in a place where her confidence was low and she relied on me to move and assist her in all the postures. The whole idea of shifting the responsibility of standing on her own two feet and moving out of the posture based on her decision released in her the deep realization that she constantly struggles with decisions because she listens to her judging mind only. Her mind she saw was not as reliable as her body. She found she needed to balance both in times when a decision had to be made.  Her action plan that day was to make a small decision but to listen not only to her mind but to her body.

Unassisted postures can be a great tool to put in our toolbox when we need it. Even though we are not holding them physically, we are holding the safe space for them just by being there and using dialogue to facilitate their exploration. They are still supported postures but unassisted physically. We never let go of the loving presence and the support of listening to them and responding with dialogue. Just as two part dialogue, standing body scan and healing journey have a place in our sessions so can letting the client explore physically on their own can be a powerful tool in our toolbox.