In my Los Angeles psychotherapy practice I focus on leveraging mental health through psychotherapy and physical movement so my clients can benefit from the power of their body and mind to generate health and happiness. I particularly love to use a combination of yoga and mindful movement for my clients working on anxiety, stress and depression and its proven to generate powerful results for them. Sometimes I use these techniques as part of a session to further the work going on ‘there and then’ during the appointment but often I’ll also create a bespoke yoga practice for an individual that they’ll do in between sessions, to prepare themselves physically and mentally for the work we do together in session, or to process our session once it ends.
Some of my clients choose to work with me because they already have a yoga or movement practice and want to use it to support them on their therapy journey, others have no idea why yoga would be useful to them in psychotherapy or have never tried yoga before in their life. The wonderful thing is, it doesn’t really matter which group you hang your hat with – yoga is beautifully democratic and works no matter who you are or what you are bringing to the table.
Here are five big reasons yoga is a kick-ass addition to psychotherapy:
1) Yoga can quickly alleviate symptoms of the two most common mental health challenges
From my experience with hundreds of client, specially selected yoga practices can provide an energy boost for people experiencing low mood or loss of energy, or offer a calming, grounding effect for the more anxious, in as little as a few minutes. Stress, depression and anxiety are the leading presenting problems in medical or psychotherapy appointments and a smart but basic yoga practice could provide some symptom relief in many of these cases.
2) Yoga helps us think more clearly
We do our best intellectual processing and decision making when we are calm, and yoga helps us get there. Simply put, the most intelligent, analytical part of our brain gets switched off when we’re experiencing strong emotion. The nervous system shuts it down and starts to funnel decision making to the brain’s more primitive parts that trigger our survival responses of fight, flight and freeze. It often doesn’t matter if that strong emotion is fear or completely ‘positive’, say happiness and joy, the nervous system experiences a peak of feeling in the same way. Given therapy taps in to all sorts of intense emotional experiences our nervous system can often benefit from a helping hand in calming back down and bringing our ‘smart’ brains back on-line.
3) Yoga heals body, like talk therapy heals mind
Our life is experienced and stored in both our body and mind, talk therapy helps clear out negative thoughts and unhelpful patterns from our mind, and yoga can be a way to do the same for our bodies. If a person has been depressed for years, you’ll often see it in their body posture perhaps manifested as slightly rounded shoulders, dropped chin or shallow, chest-based breathing. These postural expressions of depression – or any other mental health condition – can outlast the more mental aspects of the condition and they continue to send messages of depression throughout the body.
4) Yoga teaches us to listen to our bodies
The ability to listen to our body is a lost skill for many of us. This unfortunately, contributes to a whole host of physical and mental health challenges, in which we don’t listen, and then eventually can’t listen, to things our bodies are trying to tell us. For example, our body naturally tells us when we’re hungry and when we’re full, but if we don’t listen to these cues for long enough, by under or overeating, they begin to disappear (remember that time you got so hungry you stopped feeling hungry?) and our bodies’ needs become lost to us. Or we may feel a bit ‘off’ at the end of a day, and rather than ‘listen in’ to that feeling and learn its specifics – asking ourselves am I feeling anger, sadness, loneliness? and what does that feeling need me to do to truly make it feel better? - we might immediately reach for our cure-all coping tool – chocolate, wine or binge watching TV, to numb out. Part of the practice of yoga is paying attention to very subtle movements and sensations, honing the skill we all need to be able to actually hear and make use of the intelligence our body is continually trying to share with us.
5) Yoga is ‘therapy in your pocket’
Yoga tools are easy to learn and implement, they don’t need any complicated accessories (except your amazing self, of course) and can be used anywhere, anytime. Going on vacation? Away for work? Moving house, state or country? Take your yoga practice with you and use it as needed. The work we do in the room together is important, but the efforts you make every day are even more so – regular yoga exercises and meditation experiences, designed for your unique situation and goals, can keep you moving forward between sessions. You'll be feeling better in no time and can get on with your big, beautiful life.
I offer a free 15 minute phone consultation for anyone experiencing anxiety, stress, depression or chronic illness, to share how these mind and body tools can revolutionize the way you feel and get you back to the life you want to be living. Call or email me now if you'd like to chat 310 463 7640 firstname.lastname@example.org
If you're looking for a group yoga class that 'gets' the mental health element, check out these local studios, particularly their 'restorative' or 'yin' classes....
Mind, Body & Soul Yoga in Playa Vista, CA
Santa Monica Yoga in erm, Santa Monica, CA
Yoga Raj in West Los Angeles, CA
Yoga Bliss in Westchester, CA