On Becoming A Yoga Therapist

 

Well, as my fellow yoga therapy students and I press on towards the end of our (rather gruelling) 2+ year Yoga Therapy Diploma Course, I am beginning to reflect on why I first decided to become a Yoga Therapist, and how that has changed and developed over the past 18 months.

Restorative poses are prescribed for their ability to relax and heal on a deep therapeutic level.

Restorative poses are prescribed for their ability to relax and heal on a deeply therapeutic level.

My initial aim was, of course, to “help” people.  An important part of yoga philosophy is that of being of service to others (Karma Yoga) and a Yoga Therapist holds a unique position which enables him or her to combine modern Western knowledge and science with traditional Eastern yogic techniques to cultivate methods of healing. When I first applied for a place on the course, I passionately wanted to be able to ease suffering and encourage empowerment and ownership of did-ease and other disruptions to wellbeing. Of course, I still feel the same way, however, I now understand that these disruptions exist on many different levels within the person, and that, in order for true healing to take place, every level has to be addressed and healed.

A secondary aim was to continue to spread the benefits of yoga as widely as I could. Yoga is purely experiential. Any student knows that we can talk about (and understand) the many physical, psychological, emotional and spiritual benefits of yoga, however the value is in actually spending regular time on our mat experiencing yoga. When we are in that most peaceful of places: at home in our body, experiencing the breath, that is when we truly feel the power of yoga.

Now imagine harnessing all that energy and focusing it precisely where it is needed to improve a particular aspect (or aspects) of wellbeing, then, you have Yoga Therapy.

If you would like to know more about Yoga Therapy, go to my Yoga Therapy page at: Yoga Therapy, or contact me at: Contact Sarah.

 

I – Into 2014

A belated “Happy New Year” to you all! 

Whether you visited my site through an interest in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, or Yoga Relaxation and Mindfulness, you are very welcome and I hope this site serves to encourage and inspire.

So how do you view January?  As a chilly month in the depths of winter, or as the opportunity to renew, replenish and refresh?

If you are thinking about CBT, then the chances are you are not feeling your happiest and so this month may well be the former. Winter has the effect of keeping us closed in, both in terms of where we are physically, and our emotional and psychological Selves as well. It is all too easy to become enmeshed in any negative feelings. This time of year encourages us to hibernate and take stock. When we are feeling positive and mentally strong, this is good for us.  However, if we are feeling down or dejected, having too much opportunity to contemplate our woes is rarely beneficial.

If you are interested in yoga, then your interpretation of January may be entirely different.  This is because, for a yogi, every day is a new beginning, bringing with it the opportunity to grow and develop all aspects of our Self. From respecting our physical body when we eat and drink healthily, exercise regularly and relax properly, to improving mental strength and focus through mindfulness, meditation and resilience, we yogis seek to improve and develop through every day of our lives.

So how do we move from viewing January as a depressing month, to seeing it as an opportunity to move forward and develop?

It is all a matter of perspective. Firstly consider what it is that is holding you back and causing you to feel whatever negative feelings you have. Then decide if you feel strong enough to tackle these issues on your own. Can you call on support from people around you?  Do you want to tackle your issues at all?  Or is fear of the unknown holding you back?  It takes a brave person to look their life squarely in the face and admit there is a problem!

For more help and advice around these areas, you can click on the links above, read previous blogs, or just email me or give me a call.

 

SO WHY NOT WORK ON ENABLING THIS NEW YEAR

TO BE THE ONE THAT YOU WANT IT TO BE!

G – Grief

G – Grief

Grief comes to us all.  We all experience loss, whether it be the death of a loved one; the loss a family pet; a serious accident or the onset of ill-health; losing a friendship or a job that we love or suffering the breakdown of an intimate relationship.

How you deal with grief will depend very much upon:

(1)   Your life experiences so far since, ultimately our perceptions, attitudes and beliefs towards every experience in life is the result of the perceptions, attitudes and beliefs that we already hold due to the experiences we have already had! 

(2)   The value that you held for that which has been lost. 

(3)   The degree in which you have developed personal characteristics such as resilience, optimism, persistence and determination.

(4)   Your spiritual beliefs. If, for example, your belief system tells you that challenge makes you stronger, or that we learn through sadness, you will be better equipped to deal with grief in a more positive way. 

(5)   The amount of support you are offered and ask for.

Regardless of how we deal with grief, we find ourselves dealing with a pattern of human emotions and these are known as the Cycle of Grief.  Whilst the cycle is the same for most of us, we will all travel round it differently, due to the reasons given above.

Shock

When we experience an important loss, our first reaction is usually one of shock and complete disbelief. Shock affects people in different ways: everything can seem unreal; people can feel numb, withdrawn, detached; some people feel completely disorientated and don’t know what to do with themselves. For some it is a nightmare they cannot escape. Many people quickly experience complex and confused feelings – anger, guilt, despair, emptiness, helplessness and hopelessness.

Denial

When the shock begins to wear off, many people go through a stage of denial during which they cannot accept the reality of the loss. This often involves what counsellors call searching behaviour, an attempt at some level to try to deny that the loss has occurred. In the case of bereavement, people often find themselves thinking they have seen or heard the dead person and many people talk aloud to the person they have lost.

Anger And Guilt

It is common to experience anger, sometimes guilt and often both. Many people find themselves asking: “Why has this happened”? “Why me”? This is particularly so if the loss was sudden, unexpected or involved a tragic accident, Counsellors say that it is common to wish to find blame, either in ourselves, in others, or even with the person who has died, and this can lead to powerful feelings of anger and guilt.

Despair And Depression

In the first few weeks the whole situation may seem unbearable and in the months that follow, many people feel there is little purpose in life and nothing of interest in the outside world. People sometimes begin to question their own sanity and think that you are going mad.  This  is a common experience.

Acceptance

Eventually people pass through the period of depression and begin to accept the loss. This usually happens with the passage of time and, as the pain eases, we are able to think about our loss and recall the past without feelings of devastation. This can take up to a year or longer.  Eventually, however people start thinking of beginning their life again, maybe renewing old interests and taking up new pursuits. Many people take up a hobby as a therapy.   It is important to remember that the past is always a part of us and is not affected by enjoying the present, or planning for the future.

Finding Good Listeners

There is no automatic or quick answer to grief and it helps to express the feelings that well up inside us. Many people are afraid to talk to us when we experience a loss because they feel they will upset us. Most people do not realise that we want and need to talk about our loss. It is important to find good listeners. In the case of bereavement, there are organisations that can offer help and support during this vulnerable time. Please see below for links to useful organisations who provide professional help and counselling for the bereaved.

Remember, if you are grieving, whatever the reason:

(1)  Give yourself time and be kind to yourself.

(2)  Allow yourself to express your grief.

(3)  Understand that acceptance will come over time.

Useful Organisations

Cruse: http://www.crusebereavementcare.org.uk

Much Loved: http://www.muchloved.com/gateway/grief-support-organisations.htm

Winstons Wish – Have information and links specifically for children suffering from or anticipating bereavement:  http://www.winstonswish.org.uk

G – Generosity

 

Throughout our day we will experience a whole gamut of emotions and feelings:  some negative: maybe frustration, displeasure, disappointment or sadness; others positive, for example happiness, gratitude, satisfaction or laughter.  When you look back over your day, what is it that makes you smile, or feel gratitude or pleasure?  In the normal routine of our daily lives, it is usually the small things that count because it is the small things that make up our general perspective of our lives.  Yes, holidays are fantastic experiences, yes salary increases are important financially and yes, good health is of extreme value to us.  However, it is the minutae of life that are equally important because they all add up.

The genuine smile from a stranger; the kindness of the person who let you into the traffic flow when you were running late for work; the thoughtful words of a friend when you need a caring ear; the compliment from a colleague when you’re feeling low; sharing a hug with a loved one … All of these things are important to us because they demonstrate a generosity of spirit. They are all given freely and authentically, with no expectation of anything in return. 

They are given for no other reason than because we can.

Cultivating a generosity of spirit is essentially good for all of us.  Isn’t it nice to smile at a stranger and have your smile reciprocated?  Or to listen to a friend’s problems, knowing that they are equally there for you when you need them. Being considerate to others helps us to feel integrated, it encourages acceptance and usually produces consideration in return.  When we are feeling good about life, it is easy to share those feelings around.  We whistle as we go through our day, we are a little ray of sunshine and everybody gets to bathe in the warmth of our happiness.  However when we are feeling down, we may distance ourselves and it can seem very difficult to raise even the most tentative smile. It is when we are feeling low, that generosity of spirit is most important.  If we turn our thoughts to others, and take the time to extend some consideration to our family, colleagues, peers, in fact anybody, we will reap positive benefits in return and that will help to lift our spirits and find a better perspective.

Some might call it Karma, some coincidence or luck, but whatever you want to call it, try it, it really works!

 

 

D – Depression – Part Two

  

Avoiding Depression

Ok so what can we do to avoid depression?  The best approach to managing your mental health is to take a holistic view by encouraging good physical, mental and spiritual health.  Simply looking after your physical health in isolation from your mental and emotion health will not guarantee protection against depression, anxiety or stress. Having a spiritual view of life, one that gives you a purpose and a sense of meaning to life is also very important for good mental health.  Here are five top tips:

(1)  Cultivate a good support system of family and friends – who can be there for you when life gets difficult or throws a challenge your way.  We all need support from time to time and we should all trust ourselves enough to ask for support in times of difficulty.

(2)  Eat healthily – a healthy diet doesn’t just help to keep your weight manageable, it also helps to prevent against a number of diseases, including heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, osteoporosis and a number of diet-related cancers such as: colon, breast, cervix, gall bladder, ovary, thyroid, kidney, prostate and esophagus.  The added benefit of ensuring that you are eating a nutritional diet is that your body will function at its optimal best which means that you will naturally feel better too.

(3)  Exercise – encourage those feel good endorphins by being active: Brisk walking, swimming, running, cycling, playing sports, going to the gym, running around with your children – even mowing the lawn or cutting the hedge count. Research shows that exercise results in: up to a 35% lower risk of coronary heart disease and stroke; up to a 50% lower risk of type 2 diabetes; up to a 50% lower risk of colon cancer; up to a 20% lower risk of breast cancer; a 30% lower risk of early death and, a 30% lower risk of depression.

(4)  Go with the flow – people are at their happiest when they are fully engaged in a task that is interesting, challenging, and intrinsically rewarding to them. This is the experience of “losing yourself in the moment” or, as sports players say, “being in the zone.” Pitch the task correctly by choosing something that is challenging but achievable and then lose yourself in it. Immersing yourself in this way allows you to “switch off” from all your everyday concerns and experience a greater enjoyment of life.

(5)  Practice mindfulness, yoga and/or meditation – All or any of these practices will promote a deeper self-understanding which results in your being better able to appreciate and look after your Self.  When we are more self aware we are naturally better able to make choices that are good for us deep down without being so affected by external influences. Self-awareness builds trust in our own judgement and facilitates a happier level of being.

 Look after yourself and your Self will look after you!

 If you would like more information or some informal advice about depression or any other concern relating to thoughts, behaviours or feelings, please feel free to use the Contact Sarah page and I will get back to you.

D – Depression – Part One

 

Recognising Depression

It is now understood that one in four of us will suffer from depression at some stage in our lives. That is a pretty high statistic and so it can do no harm to be able to recognise some of the common symptoms of the onset of depression.  The following changes in mood or behaviour may be indications of depression.  If you are suffering from any of the following for more than a couple of weeks it is advisable to seek help and advice:

  • Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. A bleak outlook—nothing will ever get better and there’s nothing you can do to improve your situation.
  • Loss of interest in daily activities. No interest in former hobbies, pastimes, social activities, or sex. You’ve lost your ability to feel joy and pleasure.
  • Appetite or weight changes. Significant weight loss or weight gain—a change of more than 5% of body weight in a month.
  • Sleep changes. Either insomnia, especially waking in the early hours of the morning, or oversleeping (also known as hypersomnia).
  • Anger or irritability. Feeling agitated, restless, or even violent. Your tolerance level is low, your temper short, and everything and everyone gets on your nerves.
  • Loss of energy. Feeling fatigued, sluggish, and physically drained. Your whole body may feel heavy, and even small tasks are exhausting or take longer to complete.
  • Self-loathing. Strong feelings of worthlessness or guilt. You harshly criticize yourself for perceived faults and mistakes.
  • Reckless behaviour. You engage in escapist behaviour such as substance abuse, compulsive gambling, reckless driving, or dangerous sports.
  • Concentration problems. Trouble focusing, making decisions, or remembering things.
  • Unexplained aches and pains. An increase in physical complaints such as headaches, back pain, aching muscles, and stomach pain.

There is no need to feel any shame or embarrassment associated with suffering from depression.  Depression, like asthma or a broken leg, is a medical condition, and like any medical condition it responds much better to prompt diagnosis and treatment. If you suspect that either your or somebody you know may be suffering from low mood or depression, a visit to your doctor is always a good idea. 

For information about how to avoid depression please look out for my blog entitled “Avoiding Depression” on Saturday.

A – Authenticity

Are you true to yourself?  Do you ‘speak your truth’, in other words, do you say, out loud, and with conviction, the thoughts and feelings that you feel inside?  Do you act according to your beliefs and stand by those thoughts and beliefs?  If you endeavour to live your life according to these and other similar principles, then you are living your life authentically.  Living authentically means having an inner integrity and being honest and up-front with yourself, in order that you can be the same with others; being self-aware and understanding what you believe, want and feel.  Living your life authentically means that you assess a situation before involving yourself, you sometimes put yourself first, and you only say what you really, honestly, truthfully mean. 

Sounds difficult doesn’t it?  Immediately we start to think along the lines of: “What if I upset somebody?” Or “what if people don’t like me saying no?” Or “What if they think I’m a ‘bad’ person?”  Rest assured anybody who matters won’t think that way at all and the reason why is simple. People who live authentic lives are being true to themselves.  They are happier, and more complete, more comfortable under their skin.  Speaking with conviction doesn’t mean a licence to offend people. It means speaking thoughtfully from the heart and being innately honest with yourself and those around you.  It doesn’t mean you have to be selfish either, in fact it is quite the opposite.  Authenticity is a form of assertiveness where you can afford to be considerate of others because you have learned to be considerate of yourself. 

Delete the words “should”, “ought” and “need” from your vocabulary as they all set you up to fail.  Every time you use these words you are telling yourself that you are not doing something that  you feel is expected of you.  Now question any thoughts that contain those words.  What does a thought mean when you think you should do something?  Does it mean that it has to be done because it is expected of me, rather than it being something that I want to do?  Live up to your expectations, not those of somebody else.  Need carries with it a feeling of desperation and a vague sense of anxiety.  Do you really need  those feelings in your life?

It is liberating to be the person you want to be, not the person you have become expected to be.  When you live your life authentically, you become easier and less stressed to live with, happier to live with and kinder to live with.  Authentic living is a win/win situation.   So why not free all those thoughts and feelings around expectations of others and allow yourself  to develop an inner wisdom in order to live your life through your inner self in a way that feels comfortable and right for you?

A – Anxiety

Do you constantly feel out of control?  That everything seems worse than it actually is? These feelings are distressing and are common symptoms of anxiety.  Other clues to anxiety are:

  •  Feeling you are about to lose control and completely ‘lose it’;
  • Wanting to “stop the world and get off”;
  • Being continuously on edge and sensitive to everything;
  • Having a general, all-pervading fear or feeling generally apprehensive, but not knowing why;
  • Worrying constantly about everything, thoughts swirling round your head;
  • “Nervous tummy”, sweating, palpitations, shortness of breath, rapid heart beat.

From time to time we may all experience some of the above symptoms, and whilst they can be very unpleasant, for most of us they are just a temporary, less enjoyable aspect of the normal ups and downs of life.  However, if you find that these feelings won’t go away and that you don’t know how to deal with them, it could mean that you are suffering from anxiety. Anxiety is a cycle of fear and worry which is very stressful and often results in a desperate longing to run away from everything.

Take heart, anxiety can be overcome. By finding the root cause(s) and then challenging and changing the associated thoughts, beliefs and perceptions that surround the cause(s) peace of mind can be regained. 

Reducing Levels of Anxiety

  • Don’t try to push the anxiety away – it will only make it worse.  Acknowledge the feeling and look at ways of dealing with it.
  • Try to connect with what it is that is making you anxious. Give yourself the time and space to do this without any interruptions and just let the thoughts come. You will be surprised at how much you already know unconsciously.  By allowing yourself this time and space, you are allowing thoughts, feelings, concerns and beliefs to come into the conscious mind, where you can deal with them on a conscious level.
  • Talk to somebody you can trust – a friend, family member, work colleague or maybe a spiritual leader. It doesn’t matter who it is as long as you can trust them to listen and offer support. Talking helps us to consciously process things better because as we say it, we hear it and feel it on different levels.  This often shines a different light on the situation.
  • Build anti-anxiety coping methods into your life by learning yoga, mindfulness and/or breathing techniques, all of which are excellent ways of reducing and eliminating the condition.
  • If neither of the above work for you then it is recommended that you seek professional help and advice. Persistent feelings of anxiety can sometimes lead to more debilitating conditions such as depression, low self-esteem and OCD and so it is important that the thoughts feelings and beliefs that are causing the anxiety are confronted and managed as quickly as possible.

A – Affirmations

                                                                                Affirmations             

CBT is about challenging negative thoughts, seeking to change them into neutral ones and allowing positive thoughts to follow.  Affirmations are a very powerful tool that can be used to help achieve those changes with a great number of challenging issues such as: Anxiety, Depression, Low Self-Esteem, Phobias and OCD.  Affirmations are often under-valued and this is probably due to a lack of understanding about how they work and how they can be used to greatest effect.  Firstly let’s take a look at how they work.

 How Affirmations Work

Consider, for example, somebody who has a lack of self-confidence.  He will have, running around his head, all his NATs (negative automatic thoughts) relating to his low levels of self-confidence.  The sole purpose of these NATs is to constantly remind, re-affirm and reinforce the feelings surrounding his lack of confidence. This internal voice repeats negative statements to the self, such as “I am no good at talking to people”, “I’m rubbish at learning new skills”, “I can’t get anything right”, etc are all examples of NATs.  These subconscious thoughts are very good at consistently reminding the desperately under-confident individual just how useless he is in the confidence stakes, and what is really important is he believes them! 

Now let’s take a look at somebody who has successfully used affirmations to help him overcome his lack of confidence.  He has chosen several positive affirmations that he uses frequently to habitually remind himself that he can realise whatever he wants to achieve by telling himself: “I know that I can master anything I want to” and he has built up faith in himself by replacing negative statements with positive statements such as “today I am willing to fail in order to succeed tomorrow” and “I have complete trust in myself”.  Our newly Mr Confident is happy in his thoughts because he has consciously replaced his subconscious NATs with positive thoughts.  Sounds easy right? It is as long as you stick at it and have faith in it.

 Rules For Effective Affirmations

  1. Choose affirmations that resonate with you.  They must ‘ring true’ in order that you can believe them of yourself.  In other words be authentic with yourself by not trying to tell yourself something you don’t mean.  If it doesn’t ‘feel’ right, don’t use it.
  2. Repeat them when they matter.  If your affirmation relates to confidence, then remind yourself before encountering a situation that will require confidence, for example before an important meeting:  “I have all the tools I need to succeed”.
  3. Remember that affirmations are most effective when you are feeling relaxed and your ‘guard’ is down, as the more relaxed we are, the more receptive and accepting we are to new thoughts, feelings and ideas.    
  4. Try to record them and play them to yourself so that you can listen to them – a good time to listen is before sleep and while you are asleep as your subconscious will still hear them and again, be more receptive.

Affirm your belief in affirmations and start using them today! 

If you would like a free mp3 downloaded affirmation, please leave a comment and by clicking on the speech bubble above and then going to the resources page.