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Yoga as Therapy training

Good morning and happy and healthy 2016 to everyone!

I've finally settled in back at work after a couple weeks off. My husband and I traveled down to North Carolina to spend Christmas with family, and then had a week off together back home here in Boston. We're are finally getting back on track and I'm adjusting back to my old exercise routine (I was getting used to sleeping in until 10:30am!). 

I have been super busy, but I have some amazing news: I've been taking a training on how to incorporate yoga as therapy! The last weekend, January 8-10, focused on working with individuals with anxiety and depression. It's an amazing opportunity because it is consistent with my career, aaaaand it's YOGA! Cue squeals of delight. I read a very interesting book for the training, Buddha's Brain by Rick Hanson, PhD; it talks about neuroscience and mindfulness, and it really breaks everything down into, well, a language I can understand! It’s seriously fascinating how our mind works. 

This upcoming weekend is focused on trauma, which I'm eager to learn more about. The required reading is The Body Keeps the Score by Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, MD, and it too is really interesting. I appreciate that although he discusses the intricacies of the brain it's easy to understand.

I've started working on some sequences for anxiety and depression to teach to people as a group or individually. I'll give you a snapshot: for depression, the idea is starting someone on the mat and slowly working their way up to standing, or even just sitting up. The sequence that I created starts the person in child's pose, hands wrapped around the body holding onto the heels. For a sequence for anxiety, I started the person standing, although I forget exactly which pose - but you could have someone start in mountain pose or, as we did in our training, have them stand but do a gentle pat down with their hands on their whole body, starting at the feet and working their way up to the head, then working their way down to the mat to go more inward. The idea behind the two different sequences is that someone who is depressed is turned inward, feeling low, closed off, withdrawn; someone who is anxious may have a lot of nervous energy and be very "up", thus starting in a standing pose with someone who is anxious versus someone with depression starting low on the mat. 

Certainly each person is different and sequences are not one size fits all. It's important to gauge what the client/student needs, and meet them where they are at that day. Even if they are only able to make it through two poses, that is still a success. Moving the body and connecting with the body, the breath, calming that monkey mind, all of these factors contribute to mitigating symptoms. If anything, it provides a moment to reconnect with the body and process the feelings that arise within a safe space, with a therapist. 

So you're probably thinking, "how can this girl teach yoga when she's not a certified yoga teacher?" Ok, truth. I am still a therapist, first and foremost, so for me, including yoga as therapy within group or individual sessions is just a complementary tool, just like a meditation would be if I utilized it in a session. With this type of yoga as therapy, no touching is required, and there won't be crazy inversions or arm balances that require months and years of yoga training. This training has also really emphasized that we participants know our limits, and therefore I recognize that I do not have the sufficient training to actually teach a full on yoga class; with using yoga as a tool within the constructs of therapy, it will allow me to safely assist the client/student in connecting with their body and exploring emotions that poses can bring up and allow one to access. I recognize it certainly isn't for every client/student, but for those who are open to it and willing to be a participant it's been proven to be so effective. 

- S