Contrary to popular opinion, Yoga isn’t just a great exercise class for stress relief that may or may not including OMing. Yoga is actually a thousands-year old system for working with the mind, using the body as just one way for helping the mind to be at peace.
Yogis recognized millennia ago that humans are multi-faceted and integrated beings. What we think affects our bodies, and the state of the body affects the mind. If my muscles are constantly tight and my breathing quick and shallow, my mind begins to behave as if anxiety is my normal way of being – because tight muscles and shallow breath tell the mind that the body is anxious. If I walk around with slumped shoulders and a collapsed chest, it is very hard to feel courageous and positive, since that posture is the posture of sadness, depression or defeat.
Yoga recognizes the need for strength, flexibility and ease in the body in order for the mind to also reflect these characteristics. And the habitual ways the mind views and reacts to the world show up when we begin to do yoga exercises on the yoga mat. For example, if I have a habit of always giving up, I’m likely to give up easily when a yoga pose becomes hard. In the laboratory of the yoga mat then, I can begin to notice what happens in my mind and body when I’m ready to give up, and then try to do something different.
So yoga works in many ways: it helps the body to have strength to face the world with a posture of confidence and ease. It helps the body to be flexible so that we can be resilient rather than stuck. It helps us to see our habituated ways of doing things so we can try something new. Yoga breathing exercises help to immediately regulate the nervous system when we get anxious and the philosophy of yoga (if you’re interested in working with it) gives us guidelines for living a balanced and effective lifestyle.
Yoga can also be incorporated with other somatic therapies into an integrative plan. In therapy you may just use a few yoga techniques, or you may want a whole yoga practice that you can do at home. We may just do yoga breathing or stretching in the chair, or you may want to work mostly on the yoga mat. And this might change week to week as your needs change.
Ready to try it? Contact me.
More information about Yoga-Informed Psychotherapy.