The Inner Work of a Yoga Therapist

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To hold space for others, we must first learn to be present with our own suffering

By Megan DeRosa, MA, C-IAYT, RYT-500

“Start close in,” David Whyte writes.
“don’t take the second step
or the third,
start with the first
thing
close in,
the step
you don’t want to take.”

Our work as yoga therapists starts close in. 

The first step.

How did your relationship with yoga begin?

It’s been almost three decades since I took my first step onto a yoga mat, and my first step into this yoga journey. Although I signed up for the sun salutations, I stayed for the more subtle and unexpected teachings. 

Slowing down, pausing, noticing…this wasn’t easy. But I showed up. Practiced. Did the work. 

These self studies naturally led to the first of many yoga training programs. Not because I wanted to teach, but rather, I sought to go deeper in. Tools and teachings helped me unravel stories, explore layers of being, spend more time with—as fellow yoga therapist Jessica Patterson would put it—“who I am, really.” 

I grew in awareness. I grew in humility. Experiencing healing in this way planted a seed. Maybe, I thought, others would benefit from these learnings, too. And so, with much hesitation, I began to teach. 

Do parts of this story feel familiar? 

The inner work.

Persistent Pain. Grief. Anxiety. Fear. Depression. Cancer. Anger. Chronic Stress. Illness. These are some of the ways our clients may be suffering. These are some of the ways we may be suffering.

A yoga-therapy-training program not only teaches us how to work with others, it turns us inward, to face and process our own dis-ease. And, inherently, to experience healing in our own lives.

We start close in, as yoga therapists, with the inner work. Then, we reemerge prepared to support others. 

We learn to be present with our own dis-ease and suffering. Then, we are present for the dis-ease and suffering of others. 

We begin with that first step, before we consider taking the second or the third. The steps that allow us to hold space for clients and students.

The inner work of yoga therapists is the work of a lifetime. We’ll often be heard saying, “I will always be a student of yoga.” Because we must ever be the student—of ourselves, our clients, and life in general—to show up fully and authentically for others. 

“Start close in,” David Whyte advises us.
“don’t take the second step
or the third,
start with the first
thing
close in,
the step
you don’t want to take.

Start with
the ground
you know,
the pale ground
beneath your feet,
your own
way to begin
the conversation.

Start with your own
question,
give up on other
people’s questions,
don’t let them
smother something
simple.

To hear
another’s voice,
follow
your own voice,
wait until
that voice
becomes an
intimate
private ear
that can
really listen
to another.

Start right now
take a small step
you can call your own
don’t follow
someone else’s
heroics, be humble
and focused,
start close in,
don’t mistake
that other
for your own.

Start close in,
don’t take
the second step
or the third,
start with the first
thing
close in,
the step
you don’t want to take.”

Megan DeRosa, MA, C-IAYT, RYT-500 is a certified yoga therapist with a focus on stress release. Her work is informed by a master’s degree in holistic health and healing, 15 years as a therapeutic-yoga teacher, and decades of practice. As a mom and a human, her life has less stress and more sweetness with yoga. She enjoys sharing yoga and complementary modalities—through writing, private sessions, and occasional group gatherings—so we can all have a better human experience. Stay in touch through her website @ www.meganderosa.com.

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