When I meet with clients, I often remark that of the 168 hours in their week, I get 1 if I’m lucky. That’s assuming that I get to see them once per week, which is not necessarily the case. Most often I see clients every other week, or even further between sessions. In this case, the hours I don’t get to be with them becomes multiples of the 168. I highlight this because I want to encourage clients that as important as the work we do in-session is, it is truly what they do between sessions that promotes lasting change. It’s not that I discount the importance of what I do, I simply recognize the importance of what my client does day in and day out between our times together.
One thing that I love about Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) is the emphasis on skill development. In our DBT groups, we focus on both skills and process, but the homework in between groups is heavily focused on skill development. Whether it’s Mindfulness, Distress Tolerance, Emotion Regulation, or Interpersonal Effectiveness they’re working on, there are concrete activities and worksheets clients can follow in between sessions to work on these areas. Clients get all of these resources in a book as a part of the group and the clients who really work at this, come back each week with a well-worn book! It’s wonderful to see clients invested in their process.
One of the questions I am asked a lot is, “Why do you have so many different things at your clinic?” The answer to this is because we believe in a holistic approach to recovery. I’d like to highlight three things you can access in our clinic between counselling sessions that will promote your wellbeing and recovery in those in-between times. The great thing is that all of these also promote things you can do on your own at home that don’t cost more money!
Open Studio Sessions
One of the things people are most curious about in our clinic is our art studio. People regularly wonder why we have an art studio, but the answer is very simple: because it helps people recover. We do this both through 1:1 sessions, and our Open Studio Sessions. There is a large body of evidence showing the power of creativity and art to help people recover from mental health, chronic conditions, chronic pain, and more; it also helps people connect inter-generationally and with family members and friends. All of these are great things! In our studio, you can learn Mindfulness-Based Art Therapy (MBAT) techniques that you can use at home, and we can even help you figure out what materials you’ll need and give advice on where to source supplies for reasonable prices. Many of our clients come to the studio sessions to learn new techniques and then go home and use them in their daily life. You can come to connect or learn new things, and then work on them on your own at home!
Trauma Sensitive Yoga and Yoga Therapy
The second most surprising thing to people about our clinic is that we have a yoga studio. We have a yoga studio because we saw a need that people had that wasn’t being filled. As you might imagine, not everyone is comfortable with large studio yoga, particularly if they’re struggling with trauma, anxiety, depression, or other difficulties. Further, as wonderful as larger studio yoga is, it’s not specifically designed for people struggling with trauma and mental health, or physical health challenges. Our Trauma Sensitive Yoga (TSY) programs and Yoga Therapy programs are specifically geared toward helping people recover from these things. The techniques are evidence-based and the programs are designed specifically to each client’s unique needs. Once again, the goal is to help you recover and work on your own, in-between sessions. Our certified yoga therapist will work with you individually in our safe, trauma-informed space to design a program specifically for you that once you learn, can be done safely at home on your own. When you want to learn more or brush up on techniques, you can come back in for some sessions. It’s flexible, safe, and geared specifically to you and your unique needs.
Mindfulness has become something of a buzz-word in pop psychology, but that is not a bad thing! Mindfulness is the practice of focusing on the present, allowing your brain and body to calm and be in the here and now. We’ve written previously about it on our blog, and you can look forward to more articles on this in future. It’s a vital practice that supports holistic health in body, mind, and soul. We can approach mindfulness training in a number of ways here: individual sessions with our DBT therapists and the curriculum from the dialectical behaviour therapy programs, one on one sessions in the art studio with Meg Neufeld to learn Mindfulness-Based Art Therapy techniques, or with our yoga instructors using breathwork and yoga techniques. Once again, all of these are skills you can learn and take home with you and practice on your own!
At Alongside You, our goal is to support you both in-session as we provide counselling, and outside of sessions to help you cope, grow, and thrive using holistic methods. This not only increases the effectiveness of your counselling, it also promotes autonomy, choice, and increases the chances of your recovery. Our belief is that all of our clients possess unique strengths and gifts that can be used to journey toward wholeness and resilience, and our job is to help identify these, support them, and encourage you. I hope this article gives you some ideas on how you can support yourself along the journey! If you are interested, feel free to contact us!
Reality is that life is not peaceful. Trauma can arise from any number of daily things, seemingly small to one person, yet overwhelming to another. Having experienced trauma, whether recently or in the past, one can feel like something is broken within us, wrong with us, or we feel damaged. This is not so but is a part of the healing process and a normal response to internalizing a traumatic experience. Trauma Sensitive Yoga Therapy is not about fixing or changing anyone. It’s about learning how to find healing and support within, by empowering yourself to feel safe in your own body and mind and seeing the potential in yourself. By separating yourself from the traumatic event, you are able to witness and self-observe. Through witnessing awareness, you begin to look at it objectively and come to realize that you are not the trauma, it is something that happened to you.
Through your yoga practice, you can return to wholeness by seeing the experience from a place of comfort and safety within your own body, and in time, finding meaning in it. This will arise when the time is right for you. Post-Traumatic Growth will evolve, remembering that people don’t become great in spite of their challenges, but because of them. Eventually, your yoga practice will take you to that inner place where you can be the witness, and know that you can return to that place anytime during your practice or in your daily life. The change will come from that untouched true nature when you are operating not from brokenness, but from wholeness.
Trauma activates our Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) for survival but leaves us frequently stuck in the fight or flight response. Yoga practices that can help us get back into the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS) include Therapeutic Yoga, along with talk and physical therapy, and meditation. In The Relaxation Response: Yoga Therapy Meets Physiology published in Yoga Therapy Today, Summer, 2017, Maggie Reagh, Yoga Therapy International renowned founder and teacher, lists restorative procedures under topics of Relaxing through Positioning the Body; Relaxing through Lengthening the Breath; Relaxing through Stilling the Mind and Balancing the Nervous System.
Utilizing guided meditation of Yoga Nidra allows healing to begin by building resilience to challenging circumstances that arise in our daily lives. In the International Journal of Therapy, No.19 (2009) p.123, David Emerson et al. state in Trauma-Sensitive Yoga: Principles, Practice, and Research, “Trauma exposure is ubiquitous in our society. Over half the general population report having had exposure to at least one traumatic event over their lifetime…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 cognitive, emotional, and physiological symptoms associated with trauma, and PTSD specifically.”
When we get stuck in the SNS, the brain is affected, the amygdala grows, making us more reactive, the hippocampus shrinks and we may lose perspective on time, the frontal cortex goes off-line, making it harder to make decisions or think things through. Trauma often makes us feel detached from our body, and sometimes feeling unsafe in our body. Dr. Herbert Benson of the Benson Henry Institute has found in Harvard University’s research that spending 20 minutes a day in the relaxation response can lower or turn off our stress genes. Through comforting Therapeutic Trauma Sensitive Yoga we experience the relaxation response of coming back to our body and mind. Yoga and guided meditation also help one to understand the significance of the breath. Controlled, yet easily learned, breathing is a powerful trigger to engage the relaxation response. Yoga Nidra supports organization of thoughts and flow of memories and puts us in touch with our physical self.
I hope this article helps explain some of the benefits of a yoga practice, particularly when we’re hoping to recovery from trauma in our lives. You may not think that yoga is for you – and you know what, I don’t blame you. For many, it’s an entirely new concept and outside of the box in terms of thinking of treatment. The research is showing that Yoga Therapy and Trauma Sensitive Yoga can be effective in helping reduce symptoms of trauma and change the physiology of our brain.
At Alongside You, we work as a team and I’m pleased to be able to work alongside the other staff in helping clients, many whom have benefitted from yoga therapy as an adjunct in their recovery. If you’re curious, please give me a call at (604) 283-7827 ext. 709 or contact me through the website here and I’d love to speak with you about how I might be of help.
Gentle Vehicles for Healing
Case Studies in Metro Vancouver, bases on real life experiences
Case Study #1: Ten year old Motor Vehicle Accident (MVA) resulting in the following chronic symptoms:
- Soft tissue injury in upper back and neck, exacerbated by a fall onto the left elbow.
Results after one month, using Physical Yoga Therapy and Techniques:
- Easing of pain in shoulder, which has resulted in improved sleep at night
- Greater mobility in movement of shoulders and arms
- Greater mobility and range of motion in neck
- Improved posture
- Improved mobility in hips
- Arthritis in facet joints, brought on by MVA:
Results after one month, using Gentle Yoga Therapy and Techniques:
- Nurture and maintenance of spine flexibility
These improvements have resulted in our client having more energy, and mental clarity, being free from the exhausting pain. The client also now knows and has the ability to self-regulate and correct as necessary. The client will move forward with back strengthening techniques, but for now is just enjoying being relatively pain free.
Case Study #2: Lung surgery in adolescence – Resulting in severe Apnea until present age of early sixties, including misaligned left shoulder and hip due to compensating for breathing imbalance.
Results after two and a half months, using a combination of Physical Yoga Therapy and Trauma Sensitive Yoga Therapy Techniques:
- no longer anticipating the next breath
- improved posture, increased lung capacity for the breath
- shoulder position greatly corrected with posture
- increased left hip mobility with a greater range of motion
- client demonstrates greater confidence and a lighter, happier state of being
Case Study #3: Previous student of yoga for many years. No longer able to practice due to fibromyalgia, depression, anxiety, resulting in tension in jaw & neck.
An example of how what happens in the mind is reflected in the body.
Results after 3 months, using a combination of Physical Yoga Therapy and Trauma Sensitive Yoga Therapy Techniques:
- Noticeable decrease in anxiety. The client demonstrates a lighter presence where there used to be heaviness
- Release techniques have greatly reduced the jaw and neck tension
- Gentle therapeutic program, designed for the client’s particular needs, has allowed for a return to home-based practice and resulting in becoming comfortable in one’s body, and eventually returning to group sessions
- Trauma Sensitive Yoga Therapy breathing techniques and guided meditation to rest the body and mind, enables the client to stabilize and stay grounded
- Gain key ability to tune in and listen to one’s body in order to be able to self-regulate at first sign of tension, anxiety and stress
- Letting go of anxiety and tension using gentle therapeutic yoga practice, the aches from the fibromyalgia have decreased due to improved circulation, and the release of uptight muscles and joints
Our yoga focuses on addressing the root of the issue before deciding, alongside you, what the goal of your yoga practice is and how to address this through therapeutic yoga. Your planning with our professionals will look at your overall physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing and how therapeutic yoga can help you address these areas.
Have questions? Call Brenna at (604) 283-7827 ext. 709 or email email@example.com.
With 2017 underway, this is a good time to consider different solutions to manage many of life’s problems and opportunities. Did you know that Yoga can be utilized for treating various conditions? Built on thousands of years of knowledge, Yoga is not just a physical exercise or something to relax your body and mind over the weekend. Yoga Therapy is a type of therapy that can reduce pain and suffering for people with different physical conditions, whereas Trauma Sensitive Yoga is a type of clinical treatment for treating trauma.
The power of Yoga Therapy to change lives is what has drawn me to it as a teacher. Starting by working on myself, it allowed me to regain control of my life and improve the quality of life, physically through Yoga Therapy and psychologically through Trauma Sensitive Yoga.
Yoga Therapy teaches people how to allow healing to occur. In teaching Yoga Therapy, I become the facilitator of healing. By getting to the causes and conditions required for healing, healing will naturally arise once everything is in place.
What Does a Yoga Therapist Do?
There are spaces in the medical community where Yoga Therapy fits. Part of the job of educating people is to properly distinguish Yoga Therapy from Studio Yoga. Well, the good news is, people are becoming very curious about it!
The IAYT (International Association of Yoga Therapists) has been in place for the last 7 years, and holds an annual conference, at which amazing presenters bring forward new concepts in Yoga Therapy and bring the therapist community together.
For example, Dr. Baxter Bell, who is an M.D., became a Yoga Therapist as it allows him to treat the entire family. Yoga Therapy supports healthy ageing, and can be applied to young and old, middle-aged citizens as well as seniors.
What is Yoga Therapy?
It’s not Studio Yoga. It is an amazing tool that can be taught to a student and be used on their own at home after a few sessions, with success. Any situation that has taken you to a chiropractor, physiotherapist, or a myriad of other physical therapy modalities, can also be treated with Yoga Therapy.
You do not need to have experience in any form of Yoga. Yoga Therapy comes from a thorough education of the human anatomy. It is biomechanical and the integration of all systems –the key is the mind – body connection. With many physical conditions, there is a corresponding psychological component, whether it is a result of a motor vehicle accident, Post-Partum Depression, infertility or urinary incontinence, just to name a few.
What is Trauma Sensitive Yoga?
Life is traumatic, it just depends on the degree! Yoga, particularly Trauma Sensitive Yoga (TSY) can help us to reconnect to our body and feel at home in our own shell. It can help us learn to blend our experiences into our daily lives. Through exploring yoga and mindfulness, we will be able to better thrive emotionally. In turn, we can contribute to our own wellbeing, and beyond into our communities. Students learn simple, body-based self-regulation techniques that will help to build resilience in their bodies. They will be able to better equip themselves to manage stress, trauma, depression, anxiety and rediscover the true self and feel comfortable in their own skin.
Through this gentle yoga practice the internal experience is emphasized, you will be free to make choices in a safe, supportive place of embodied empathy and attunement. Trauma Sensitive Yoga is an ideal adjunct to psychotherapy.
Trauma survivors are often referred for Trauma Sensitive Yoga by their healthcare providers to cultivate, “the simple body awareness that makes it possible to gauge, slow down, and halt traumatic hyper-arousal, and to separate the past from present (Rothschild, 2000)”
I hope this helps explain some of the intricacies of Yoga Therapy and Trauma Sensitive Yoga for you, and if you have any questions I’d love to answer them! We truly believe in the power of yoga in physical, mental, and emotional well-being here at Alongside You and would love to see you experience it firsthand!
If you’d like some help to manage your emotions and anxieties, we’d love to help. Please give us a call at 604-283-7827, send us an email through our website, or book an appointment online and one of our counsellors would love to help you out!