To be able to better handle what life throws at us. To bounce back. To come back to a grounded center when life’s challenges arise.
These are some of the reasons I sought out the skills, the tools and lifestyle practices of Yoga. I’ve said it before…Yoga is not something you do, it is something you become. Yoga is connection. Becoming Yoga is reconnecting to yourself. It is a dawning readiness to take responsibility for this precious life. It is a willingness to look at our stuff, our conditioning, thoughts, beliefs and to see that the way we have unconsciously reacted to life has created what is happening in our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual bodies as well as in our relationships. This self-responsibility and self-awareness opens the door to realizing we have choice. And choice equals freedom.
As I’ve been transitioning to this new chapter of life in Australia, meeting new people, I frequently get asked, “What do you do?”. My response is usually along the lines of, “I’m an integrative health therapist or a yoga therapist”. If you were to ask my friends or family what I do, most would probably say I teach yoga. So what is the difference? What goes on in the 60-90 minutes of one of my online or in person yoga therapy sessions? What are some reasons people choose to work with me?
If you were ever a student in my early days of teaching yoga classes, you would have experienced a therapeutic yoga class. The Hatha style of somatic yoga I taught was very much based on who showed up in the room versus leading a routine having students mimic what I was doing. One of my students would joke that, “she doesn’t do anything at the front of the class, she just invites us to explore”. Now, as much as then, I consider myself more of an internal landscape guide than a teacher. Where a therapeutic yoga class might have focused on a body part or area like tight shoulders, or low back pain, the goal of a therapy session is to work together to create a personally tailored routine that supports your pain resolution/wellness/resilience goals. A routine that addresses the way your body carries tension.
Reasons why people might seek out a Yoga Therapist
Physical: Tension or pain, whether chronic or acute. Longstanding or injury related
Mental: Awareness of thoughts, beliefs, and conditioning. Busy or racy mind, insomnia, anxiety, depression or PTSD
Emotional: Awareness of Comfort Zone/Go-to emotions under stress/conflict
Relational: Awareness of how we react or respond impacts our relationships
What kinds of practices would we do in a session?
Self-Regulation Education: Awareness of the Nervous System and how it regulates the Survival, (engage or withdraw), Trauma and Thriving/Connection Responses in the body
Mindfulness: Learning to be present with what comes up in the moment without needing to change it. Experience needs to be felt to be processed and integrated.
Breathwork: Tools to regulate the nervous system and physiology including heart-rate, blood pressure and stress response.
Movement: Practices that highlight how your body carries tension and finding a routine to take off the auto-pilot of those unconscious holding patterns.
Relaxation: Learning to turn off the Survival Response and flip the switch daily into Rest/Sleep/Relax, Digest and Heal mode.
Typically people have reached out when they have run out of alternatives. When they are sick and tired of being sick and tired, or aren’t ready for or don’t want a drug or surgical intervention to chronic pain or illness. Another common reason people call is to recover post-injury. Where physiotherapy traditionally addresses regaining strength and flexibility through resistance and stretching, yoga therapy works to undo the protection patterns that arise in surrounding and supporting muscles while the body part heals, as well as regaining the freedom of mobility, stability and strength.
Most often I suggest that a client book 3 sessions, 1-90min, followed by 2-60min sessions, 1-2 weeks apart. In this time we work together to create a 10-15 minute routine that supports a daily “switch-flip” out of the fight/flight response of the day to day survival mode. The idea is to use this intentional time to come back into the parasympathetic state that supports rest, recovery, sleep, digestion and immune function.
While the majority of people seek out therapy to deal with pain, others who have already spent time working towards a healthy body and mind choose to dig a little deeper. Another aspect of Yoga is the philosophy. Exploring what it looks like for you. Finding answers to some of the bigger questions in Life. Questions like, “Why am I here? What is my purpose? How can I give back? What brings me joy? What is the bigger picture? What connects us to each other? What happens when we die?”. Living well means having a life philosophy that feels true to where you are now. To make sense of the meaning of life as well being prepared to live it and leave it well. To live and die without fear. That is the greatest freedom Yoga has given me. This stuff is what lights me up. This work is what gets me excited. What fills my cup. I love getting to work with others. To have these conversations. I don’t necessarily have the answers, perhaps more so the questions and invitations to experiment and explore your own experience with awake and conscious awareness. The difference in this mindset is a readiness to captain your own ship, to choose to be responsible for what happens, for the life you want to create versus being at the mercy of where external circumstance takes you when you aren’t paying attention. To work-in, work-on, study yourself instead of wanting someone else to do it. Nobody can fix, save, rescue or do this work for you. But I guarantee once you get a taste of self-created freedom, there’s no turning back.
You get to choose it. Only you can.