New Year, New Career?

A new breed of life coaches uses yoga to help others make changes.

Teresa Kennedy grew up with yoga. “My mom was always upside down,” Kennedy recalls. But Teresa eschewed the practice for a demanding career at MTV—until 1997, when Crohn’s disease struck. Yoga helped Kennedy recuperate and ultimately empowered her to open Ta Yoga House in Harlem five years later.

Life coaching was a natural next step. “Yoga taught me how important it is to go from the gross to the subtle,” Kennedy says. Now she helps people change their lives by first teaching them how to breathe better, exercise, and eat right. “I start with the physical, because it gives clients energy to make more subtle changes.”

Just as yoga teachers used to get little respect, so the job of “life coach” now raises eyebrows. But many yogis are entering the profession, using the awareness they cultivate in their own practice to help others transform their lives.

“Coaching and yoga is a beautiful marriage,” says Tracy Toon Spencer, a New York City yoga teacher and coach who
specializes in helping women face infertility. “The first principle I learned in my coaching program is, everyone is creative, resourceful, and whole. And [my yoga teacher] John Friend always says to look for the good and enhance that.”

Like yoga, life coaching also helps you get to know yourself. “As a yogi, you learn to watch things instead of react to them,” says Darshana Weil, a yoga-minded coach in San Francisco who helps women transform their relationship to food. “We teach people those same skills—how to slow down enough to get in touch with their true desires.”

On the mat and off, knowing yourself gives you the opportunity to move beyond your limits. “Coaching works your edges just like yoga,” says Julie Schwartz, a yoga teacher and life coach in Washington, D.C. “Both challenge you to work through your fears and limitations so you can bring your best self to life.”