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"Can Yoga Be a Beneficial Tool for Mental Health Therapists?"

I am praciticing yoga student, and I'm currently in the beginning stages of teaching the practice of yoga to those in my community. As a mental health therapist, I have felt inspired by the experiential approach of emotionally focused therapy and attachment theory in my practice with clients. Using these two approaches, I believe that therapists can help individuals better form healthy regulating skills to create a deeper connection to self. This revolves around the concept of attunement, which I share more about in the following post.

When I think of yoga as a "tool," I come back to the idea of what yoga means to me.

Much like the practice of healing our emotional wounds, yoga centers around the concept of attunement – attunement to self and to the greater whole. In the practice of yoga, we find solitude in the present moment. It is not about the embodiment of the poses, which are only one piece to the puzzle, but about how the practice creates the walkway to the journey inward. Attunement centers on the idea that we are present with where we are in the moment, and this sense of presence allows us to connect to the comfort we need at any given moment in time. With yoga, the practice is a catalyst for transformation. If we are open to the process, we can lean into the story our body holds and the awareness of where we can find stillness and acceptance of what is. This process leads us to a place where we can navigate discomfort by creating a space for comfort.  

For many individuals like myself, yoga blossoms into a healthy pathway to awareness. Being human, we aren’t always aware of where every moment of tension comes from (physically, emotionally, mentally), or what we can do to create a safer place within ourselves. Hence, it’s important to find resources that allow us to attune to ourselves, creating a healthy place for regulation. Yoga, as conveyed throughout history as “being in the now,” is also about creating the space to be aware of what keeps us from being present with ourselves. To move from that flow of thought and everyday life, into “being here right now,” means stepping into the discomfort, acknowledging what is there, and finding the centeredness: “Where can I find the best sense of comfort here, right now?” It doesn’t mean that we choose to disconnect from what is holding us back; yoga provides a steppingstone into self-compassion, loving ourselves where we’re at. When we step into what can often lead us into dysregulation, yoga can leave us feeling internally strong – empowered, motivated, in tune with self.

In addition to awareness, yoga prepares us for acceptance. Despite the stories we have held onto, and the impacts of moments in our lives, we are given the opportunity to feel deeply connected to what is happening around us. When you’re in that yoga class, and you’ve been able to embody that sense of awareness, you begin to let go of whatever else is happening in your life, and what has happened before that moment, and you live in the energy of what is around you. Samadhi, the idea of being completely absorbed in the moment (I like to think of myself being completely in tune with the flow of my job; sometimes I’m beautifully entranced in the client’s present process), is available to us when we are free of the metaphorical weights that hold us down. We are no longer focused on the story, what is heavy within ourselves; instead, we are able to accept that this is the journey. In turn, yoga follows us into our everyday lives, like in my job, in moments where we feel the heat of passion (relationships, career, adventure).

In retrospect, yoga is centered on attuning to oneself without the experience of disembodiment – disembodiment because of the multitude of experiences we carry in our lives. When we are not centered, grounded, or regulated enough to be present, we will struggle to live the sacredness that is yoga. I am deeply passionate about the message that yoga has provided me: “you are strong because you’re here.” We are resilient because we are willing to sit in any moment, “any pose,” and choose to honor and love ourselves through the movement of life, whether that is a yoga studio or life outside of it.

Now, imagine what a therapist can do creating space to help individuals find the embodiment practice that is yoga. With this "tool," we help individuals be present, and acknowledge the truth that is held within our sense of self. Sometimes, even in the wake of our own present issues in life, we need these steppingstones that guide us into a place of regulation, to a felt sense of safety within ourselves.

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