“You are richer than you think.” This is the current slogan being used by Scotiabank. When I hear this slogan, I think of the clients who are participating in the various DBT groups here at Alongside You. DBT is the short form of Dialectical Behavioural Therapy, created by Dr. Marsha Linehan, who is a psychologist working at the University of Washington in Seattle. This treatment is the gold standard for clients struggling with unstable identity, risky behaviours, chaotic relationships and an inability to regulate emotions and urges. The DBT skills taught in our groups focus on Distress Tolerance and Crisis Management, Interpersonal Effectiveness, Emotion Regulation and Mindfulness. There has been much research supporting this form of therapy that it is now also designated as the gold standard for Borderline Personality Disorder. The skills are also very helpful for clients trying to manage depression, anxiety and substance misuse.
In addition to skill building, learning and participating in a group format has many other benefits. I have facilitated groups of various kinds for 40 years and have been witness to so much growth in so many clients that I can say with confidence that a group experience is a very rich one. Dr. Irwin Yalom describes in his book, The Theory and Practice of Group Psychotherapy that the following factors occur when participating in group therapy:
Instillation of Hope
Imparting of Information
Corrective recapitulation of the primary family group.
As the late famous American poet Maya Angelou says, “we are more alike than we are different.” Why then do we sometimes we feel that we are left behind while others live their life without strife? This is certainly how it may appear on the various social media sites. More and more I see young clients who spend hours daily checking up on friends on the various social media platforms on the internet. It seems to me that it would be much more healthy to call a friend and plan to do an activity together. If we parallel play as young adults we are not growing psychologically. Attending a group is a good start to get back in the game of communicating both verbally and nonverbally with other people. People need people as we are social beings by nature. A group is a microcosm of society in general. When clients feel supported in a genuine way they are likely to experience some or all of the healing factors mentioned above.
Another factor involved in a group setting is the undercurrent explained by the psychoanalyst, Wilfred Bion, in his book Experiences in Groups. Bion says that there are three basic assumptions working alongside any working group. These are mostly unconscious but are helpful for facilitators to consider if a group they are running is starting to struggle. The first basic assumption is the dependency and this happens when leaders are dialectically idealized and devalued. The second basic assumption is pairing in which two group members bond in an attempt to overthrow the leader. The third basic assumption is fight or flight, which happens when the group has a common enemy. It can be a taxing job to be teaching skills as well as observing the group process and the underlying basic assumptions all at the same time. Extra training on group skills is highly recommended when moving from individual therapist role to a group therapist role. I believe that this is one of the reasons our groups are so effective here at Alongside You. We work diligently to create the best atmosphere for people to learn and to grow.
Groups are a dynamic force and when change happens to the individual group members this impacts and creates a vibration which results in changes to the whole group. Systems theory suggests that groups over time tend to develop a self-organizing nature which works to maintain stability and minimize threats. Through this, clients can experience a safe space to explore their challenges and their successes, and learn from, and encourage each other.
My goal when I co-facilitate our Dialectical Behavioural Therapy group is to have clients leave after 24 weeks being even richer than they think they are, as they carry their new tools to help them achieve a “Life Worth Living.” Feel free to contact us to learn more about Dialectical Behavioural Therapy.
What is a chronic pain? This term is tossed around so freely nowadays. I don’t think there is one person who isn’t either affected themselves or knows someone who uses this term regularly in describing themselves or their situation. It seems like the pain is all around us!
According to Neil Pearson, who teaches at UBC, lectures worldwide, and has been working exclusively with patients who suffer from chronic pain for over 20 years, “Scientists explain aspects of chronic pain through explanations of neuro-immune plasticity. They are able to show that when pain persists there are relatively permanent changes in neural and immune systems and cells. The problem is that attempting to change these back takes effort, practice, and patience. Our efforts are required, to rewrite this story and to create lasting ‘positive’ neuro-immune changes…and most include disruptions of breathing and muscle tension. For many of us when the story has continued to play for some time, it includes changes in our feelings of competence, difficulties in letting go of tension, being out of balance in life, being disconnected from our life’s purpose, and as such, if we direct our yoga practices (or any contemplative movement practice) towards these, we can rewrite the story.” Persistent, chronic pain requires a different approach for healing than acute pain which usually goes away eventually on its own.
What Yoga Therapy provides is an individualized practice specifically aimed at your needs.This is why it’s important to view yoga therapy as a physical and/or rehabilitation process, not a studio style practice, and also includes integration of practices for mind and breath. We teach students to experience their practice from the inside out. It’s not about how it looks on the outside, it’s about how it feels on the inside.
Viniyoga™ methodology specialist Gary Kraftsow is part of the lineage that I am practicing under. There are several principles that separate this method from others and create its effectiveness in the healing process, and these include:
Somatic Experience – practicing and feeling from the inside out, not focusing on what you look like on the outside, and befriending your body
Moving with your breath – allowing your body and breath to move in unison, learning to follow your breath
Repetition and Stay – the choice to move in and out of a shape or pose, or hold it for several breaths depending on your comfort level
Individual Sequencing – a collaborative approach where you and your teacher create a practice that is unique to your needs and makes appropriate changes as you progress.
The physical part, called asana, a portion of your practice uses a technique to empower you to check in with your body before and during a posture. First, by going to the edge of pain, that is your baseline, or where you start from. This prevents the sympathetic nervous system [SNS] from firing up, thinking you are going to a place of pain or danger and tightening up even more. You will find yourself forming new habits such as asking yourself, “Is this safe, am I going to increase pain, is this working for me, am I ok here?” By always starting from a place of comfort, listening to your body rather than to generalized cues, and by working through a complete practice in this way, you will begin to change your perceptions of your pain, and notice as it decreases. You will learn breathing practices to integrate relaxation and create the space for your body to move into. Your movement will eventually follow your breath and you will practice breath awareness, noticing the quality of your breath. Your thoughts are reflected in the quality of your breath and your breath is a reflection of the quality of your thoughts.
You will also learn positive mindfulness techniques to change how you perceive your pain and start to work from a place of comfort. This allows you to move away from the painful story toward a place of feeling comfortable in your body again and reconnecting with your true self. This part of the learning may also involve surrounding yourself with positive minded friends and supportive people, or be joining a group of others who also want to play a meaningful role in their personal healing.
Restorative Yoga poses are vital to bringing the body into the Relaxation Response,where the parasympathetic nervous system [PNS] replaces the fight, flight or freeze state of the SNS, taking you to a place of deeper relaxation where healing of the body and mind can take place.
There are many studies that are ongoing in support of evidence-based knowledge regarding Therapeutic Yoga. In the International Journal of Yoga Therapy [IJYT], No.26, 2016, Mindful Yoga Pilot Study Shows Modulation of Abnormal Pain Processing in FibromyalgiaPatients, J.W. Carson et al. report that their, “program showed significantlygreater improvements on standardized measures of fibromyalgia symptoms and functioning, including pain, fatigue, stiffness, poor sleep, depression anxiety as well as improvements in measure of relaxation, acceptance, and vigor.”
In my teaching of therapeutic yoga, I have witnessed the physical and lifestyle benefits for my clients. I am currently midway through my Certification of 1000 hours as a Yoga Therapist, (CYT) with Maggie Reagh, founder of Yoga Therapy International, and look forward to many years of service to those who are searching for a path to healing. With loving self-awareness and compassion for yourself, learning to listen to your body’s whispers so that it won’t need to scream, and letting your body know it’s OK to let go and breathe, you will come to know that you are not your pain! Listen to your body more than you listen to your pain.
I’ll be away in India for further training through January and February but I look forward to reconnecting with clients in March. We have brought on another colleague to provide therapeutic yoga in my place while I’m away, Janet Richardson, and I’m excited for you to meet her! Please look for the announcement on our website and social media soon! Until March, may peace be with you and your families through the holiday season, and I’ll be sending warm thoughts from the warmth of India!
“The greatest gift a mother gives her family is a commitment to her own self-care” Cheryl Richardson.com
“The moment a child is born, the mother is also born. She never existed before. The woman existed, but the mother, never. A mother is something absolutely new,” and so in you the child your mother lives on and through your family continues to live… so at this time look after yourself and your family as you would your mother for through you all she will truly never die.”― Osho Shree Rajneish
Caught your interest? Tell me more you might be asking!
Pre-natal Yoga can provide the tools to access and connect with all the resources you have to birth your baby. You, as a mother can unite with your breath, body, inner knowing, and the new life you are carrying inside.
Coming to a Pre-natal Yoga class can help you check in with how you are feeling. Pregnancy can be an isolating experience, so our classes are also a great opportunity to make new mom friends! Aside from the relaxing and the physical experience, your “Mom Tribe” can come together, discuss feelings, fears, release emotions that may be building, and share resources. Pre-natal Yoga is also about building strong, capable, and competent mothers who are preparing to face some of the major changes ahead. The changes may be in relationships, like with the father of your child who may have been enjoying an exclusive relationship with you prior to the 1st born, and now is going to be sharing you with another family member.
What other ways can Pre-natal Yoga help me?
Pre-natal Yoga can provide benefits on every possible level: physical, mental, and spiritual bonding with the baby, balancing hormones, learning pain coping techniques, learning self-regulation through stress reduction and the using your nervous system, and conscious relaxation (relaxation on purpose)!
Practical application of Pre-natal Yoga knowledge
Pre-natal Yoga can help you have a powerful birth experience and help you to feel inspired and empowered, by overcoming fears about the birthing process. You will learn about contraindicated poses, (whether to avoid or do in a gentler manner) or to avoid altogether. You will learn breathing techniques that can provide pain relief, control energy, teach you to find a focal point, and work synchronistically with the challenges of labor and childbirth, connecting the body and the mind.
But I’ve never done yoga before?
You can safely begin a Pre-natal yoga practice at any point through your pregnancy as long as you have clearance from your care provider. You will be free to modify your poses with whatever props you want, and your teacher will give you lots of safe options, right up to delivery.
You are not done yet, and you are not alone!
This is just the beginning of your yoga journey. Once your body has had a chance to recover from delivery, you can progress to your Post-partum Yoga. You might be thinking, “But I have already been through everything, what else is there?”
Delivery of that lovely baby is just the beginning of the journey. You are now responsible for this new little life. You may feel a desire to reintegrate with your Post-natal Tribe. You have all gone through a unique experience, and now have a series of new experiences to come, in common. You share in a spiritual companionship with other women. You might build a community of moms, sharing new resources, building confidence in yourselves as moms. You may be feeling blue, or even mildly depressed, often simply due to lack of sleep, which is not at all uncommon. Not to mention the physical rebuilding of pelvic core strength, regaining core strength and stability. Repairing your posture, and maybe losing a few pounds. There are other physical issues you may need to deal with, slight urinary incontinence, diastasis recti abdominus (DRA) which often presents as “Mummy Tummy.” Post-natal Yoga and Pelvic Rehabilitation can continue what you started in Pre-natal Yoga class to help you recover, and be your best in your new life as a Mom!
What better place to unwind, revitalize and “let go” and find that sense of belonging, than in the safe environment of your Post-natal Yoga class, with your fellow moms, your Yoga Tribe.
Stay tuned for information on Post-natal Yoga classes coming soon!
We’re celebrating the opening of our new yoga studio by offering Pre-Natal Yoga classes as a 6 week Progressive Series! Pregnancy is a time to keep your workouts fun and safe! Experience with yoga is not necessary. These classes are fun and educational and are open to all stages of pregnancy.
Ongoing studies are being carried out in the field of women’s health, which is exciting. I am hopeful that the psychological community will continue to become more open and curious about this “new 2000 year old revolution,” as a positive addition to the traditional treatment for the broad spectrum of traumatic stress injuries. Many practitioners in the field of psychology are embracing Trauma Sensitive Yoga because they are witnessing its positive effect in the treatment of trauma. They see their clients re-connect their physical body to their mind and witness their patients’ previously blocked channels opening up due to Trauma Sensitive Yoga. Clients who were previously unable to articulate their traumatic experience can now do so, allowing the whole treatment process to move forward.
I am inspired and optimistic about the federal government’s involvement through its funding on research regarding the efficacy of Trauma Sensitive Yoga. One of the big obstacles in this process is the stigma around the word ‘Yoga’. In truth, Trauma Sensitive Yoga is the opposite of traditional yoga. The facilitator’s role is to guide the client. The client is in control, free to make his/her own choices every step of the way. It is not about when, but how. Over time through a process that combines yoga interaction, communication, and collaboration, the yoga facilitator and therapist lead the client to a place of inner strength. This all results from the individual’s work that she/he does on him/herself. This is not from what we do for them, but what they do for themselves. Our clients who have survived trauma learn that their body is not the enemy nor is their body at fault. First, they rediscover the body they may have become numb to. Then they befriend their body by learning how to self-regulate. At the end of it, clients rediscover their true self and their inner wisdom.
The priorities for Trauma Sensitive Yoga facilitators include putting the client first, providing a safe environment, facilitating appropriate types of exercises (not poses), NOT assisting, teaching qualities, supportive language, and the client’s ability and freedom to make choices.
Yoga facilitator training focuses on working on oneself first – practicing the techniques on yourself, before trying to guide someone else. Empathy is when we come from a place of our own inner power and we can use that to focus on serving others. Yoga facilitators are known for doing this. By bringing into focus our own biases and stigmas, we arrive at a place where we have true empathy for the other person. Being around others that have been through a similar situation can be a life changing experience for trauma survivors. Human beings are complex creatures who find incredible comfort in not being alone. By connecting all the pieces, working as a team, and embracing the inner strength within each of us, we can pull through it. We invite our clients to play a key role in their own healing as this is the whole concept behind holistic healing.
Everywhere I look, Trauma Sensitive Yoga is the hot topic currently in the spotlight. Why the sudden interest in this topic you may ask? The federal government is contributing 1.2 million dollars to a research pilot-project in British Columbia for women in transition, and people are wondering if the costs are going towards a viable solution. The feds are headed in the right direction. After decades of relatively stagnant structure and programs, the federal government is finally realizing there has been a vital missing link in past approaches to ‘holistic’ healing in western society. We have been ignoring an essential part of the healing process, the physical body.
Treating trauma involves treating the whole person. Specifically in the treatment of trauma, Registered Yoga Therapist (RYT) David Emerson and Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, renowned researcher in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), have collaborated since 2003. They have been developing the Trauma Sensitive Yoga program in the Trauma Centre at Justice Resource Centre, Brooklyn, MA.
A Solution for Many Traumatic Conditions
Trauma Sensitive Yoga is designed to help heal women who’ve been through domestic violence as explained in the recent articlefrom CBC, Wednesday June 22, 2016. However, Trauma Sensitive Yoga has been known to help a broader audience. Those who benefit from Trauma Sensitive Yoga include: survivors of rape, childhood abuse, neglect, mental abuse, war vets, and at risk youth just to name a few. This process is even able to help people in other areas we might not usually think of as trauma, such as women with fertility problems.No trauma is more important than another. All traumas are alike where we feel disconnected from our true self. People with trauma feel a sense of powerlessness and lack of control over their outcomes
Although we may not like to admit it, we are all victims of circumstances in life. Our misfortune could be caused by certain events such as trauma, the ‘Frustration Cycle’, or our inner wisdom being clouded by buried false beliefs about ourselves that are negative and self-destructive. According to the International Journal of Yoga Therapy, No. 19 (2009):
Traditional trauma therapy is talk-based and focuses on the mind, the story, tending to neglect the physical visceral and body-based dimension of trauma. An essential aspect of recovering from trauma is learning ways to calm down, or self-regulate. For thousands of years, Yoga has been offered as a practise that helps one calm the mind and body. More recently, research has shown that yoga practices, including meditation, relaxation and physical postures, can reduce autonomic sympathetic activation, muscle tension, and blood pressure, improve neuroendocrine and hormonal activity, decrease physical symptoms and emotional distress, and increase quality of life. For these reasons, yoga is a promising treatment or adjunctive therapy for addressing the cognitive, emotional and physiological symptoms associated with PTSD specifically.
In a pilot studydone at the Justice Resource Centre on the effectiveness of yoga on PTSD symptoms, there were findings that state some of the findings state that,“After eight weeks, the yoga participants showed improvements in all dimensions of PTSD, an increase in positive affect and decrease in negative affect, and an increase in their physical vitality and body attunement.”
According to Dr. Jeff Morley, a registered psychologist for the Canadian centre for Police and Emergency Resilience, PTSD is no longer being classified as a mental ‘disorder’ but will be recognized as an involuntary injury. This gives rise to a more expansive umbrella for the injury. New more inclusive terms such as Post Traumatic Stress Resilience (PTSR) and Post Traumatic Stress Injuries (PTSI) are more accurate at describing what people are going through.
Curious about Therapeutic Yoga and whether it’s for you?
Come and join in this informational workshop that will explain how Therapeutic Yoga supports your individual needs. You will have the opportunity to ask questions, and experience some examples of what it involves as you are guided through some of the techniques used in specific circumstances.
We believe that this workshop will be eye opening as you discover this profoundly useful tool in restoring harmony and balance into your life.
Partners are welcome to attend. Private sessions available upon request to provide ongoing guidance for physical and emotional support.
** Please bring your own yoga mat **
Have questions? Please call Brenna at (604) 283-7827 ext. 8 or email email@example.com