Living the life of a wellness professional and supporting people’s quests for wellbeing is an ever-evolving skill set. As I’ve discovered, there are very specific techniques that make a big difference in a client’s happiness and progress… and also unconscious ways you might delay it!
The Difference Between Prescription and Empowerment Teaching
In my earlier days as a personal trainer and yoga instructor, I would start my client relationships with assessing client goals and movement patterns. I would then devise an exercise program, teach my clients how to do the prescribed movements, and send them on their way with exercise homework until we met the following week.
The next time we met would often begin with an exchange such as this:
Me: “So, how was last week? Did you manage to get through the program on your own?”
Client: (with a shameful look) “No. I was going to but then… (insert reasons here).”
Me: “That’s ok. Today is a new day and we can try again.”
In this way, I often felt stuck in my ability to truly help my clients. My client and I would get caught up in this conundrum:
- Me believing if I just gave them the “right” set of instructions, they would feel better/get what they needed/change; and
- The client believing I had all the answers and relying on me to deliver the solution to their problem in the process.
Sound familiar? It was a heavy burden to carry. At some point I recognized that I would eventually burn out and quit if I continued on teaching this way. Here’s why…
Prescriptions Don’t Work as Well as Empowerment Does
Soon into my health and wellness career I discovered the Health At Every Size® (HAES) framework, which was the missing piece to the work I was doing.
HAES is a paradigm that rejects diet culture and emphasizes intuitive eating and joyful movement, as well as advocating for respectful health care for all bodies. While I have always been a champion of the anti-diet and body positive movements, finding these principles was a game changer for me personally and professionally.
In that phase of self-discovery, I recognized my approach thus far was prescriptive. Even though I was not promoting diets I was still positioning myself as an expert and provider of solutions to the x-y-z challenges clients faced.
What is prescriptive coaching? Prescriptions show up in more than just doctors’ offices and typically look like this:
- They take a unilateral approach (i.e.: just the body)
- Outsiders decide what the body needs in order to be “fixed”
- They are based on fear of death, illness, judgment
- They are time-bound (i.e.: 40-day programs)
- Typically they’re productivity-based which creates yet another item to check off the to-do list
- They involve a sense of morality, as in “I’m a good person if I follow what I’ve been given” or “I’m a bad person for not doing what the professional told me I should be doing”
When I no longer worked from an emphasis of assigning solutions and giving prescriptive exercise, I had to adjust how I guided and coached others. I had to shift my approach from one of prescribing to empowering those that I served.
When You Want to Change, You Will Change
How can I help you want to move better in your body? How do I help you take control of your own movement patterns, chronic pain, well-being? From an empowerment perspective, the simple answer is–I don’t; I don’t “get” you to do anything. My goal is not to correct, fix, or change something.
Instead, I am collaborating with and supporting you with these empowerment teaching elements:
- Encouraging you to see yourself as embodied and integrated by seeing the whole person you are–body, mind, spirit, etc.
- Helping you realize yourself as a self-governing expert of your own life and issues
- Inviting you into exploratory, curious practices
- Encouraging you to discover a sense of personal mastery
- Creating an environment where there’s no judgment and no morality assigned. In other words, “you’re good regardless of how/whether you move today”
- Accessing a baseline of personal joy and well-being
When I guide movement via empowerment teaching I am providing a space for you, the client, to grow organically. I help you explore your internal landscape, then take what you discover and integrate it into your everyday living in a way that feels right for you.
My Favorite Technique for Client Empowerment: The Check In/ReCheck
The most profound demonstration of empowerment teaching in Yoga Tune Up® is the cornerstone of any YTU session–the Check In/ReCheck.
This is where you get to practice firsthand your ability to tune in and explore the personal effects of a therapy ball rolling sequence on a variety of levels–pain, range of motion, breath or stress. It is a practice in embodiment which is also empowering!
The reason the Check In/ReCheck works so well is that it doesn’t assume you are going to have a certain result from different techniques (and thereby assume that you did it wrong if the result isn’t ideal). It puts the power in your body to decide what each technique has done, and whether it serves you or not.
Empowerment teaching enriches a client’s experience and sense of ownership over their wellness. In contrast to prescriptive teaching, it sets people up for a lifetime of movement exploration, rather than needing to rely on someone else to fix you. It is not necessarily the easier path, but it certainly is the most rewarding.
Check out the following self-massage video for the feet as they relate to squatting. Here you will see the Check In/ReCheck style of teaching in action with Jill Miller.
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