Yoga for Emotional Health and Healing
What is it?
Yoga for emotional health and healing is a somatic based therapy helpful for managing symptoms and processing through past traumas. This type of therapy uses different breathwork and movements as a tool to process memories and cope with uncomfortable emotions.
Using yoga in therapy can help empower the individual through movements with a deep awareness and integrated understanding of the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual body. Yoga techniques and practices are adapted to the client’s specific needs in order to understand, manage, and treat conditions experienced by the individual, promoting optimal health and well-being.
What is it used for?
Yoga for emotional health and healing can help alleviate symptoms of anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder. “Trauma,” Bessel van der Kolk explains, “is not just an event that took place sometime in the past; it is also the imprint left by that experience on mind, brain, and body.” For more information on trauma and the body, check out “The Body Keeps the Score” by Bessel van der Kolk.
One concept of yoga for emotional health and healing is creating balance day-to-day by cultivating the opposite energy. For example, depression can sometimes feel like heaviness or downward energy and using somatic approaches and movement, you and your therapist will try and cultivate upward and releasing energy. Yoga for emotional health and healing is used to invite balance into one’s life and learn how to connect mind and body as one.
What does a typical session look like?
Yoga interventions carry a broad variety of exercises and movements. A lot of yoga interventions include mindfulness based approaches and breathwork. Sessions may start with a guided visualization mindfulness exercise, guided breathing, or simply taking time to mentally arrive in the therapy room. If the client chooses to include movement as a part of their individualized therapy plan, the therapist may guide the client into different stretching or yoga poses throughout the session.
How does it work?
An aspect of somatic therapies such as yoga for emotional health and healing is regulating the sympathetic nervous system. Our minds and bodies are constantly taking in information from the environment. One reason for this is to make sure we are safe and no threats are around the corner. When a threat is perceived, the sympathetic nervous system or ‘fight or flight’ is activated. From Stephen Porges polyvagal theory, one way the nervous system takes in information from the environment is from the nerve running through the body called the vagus nerve. Vagus literally means “to wander” and this nerve wanders from in the head, down through the chest, and lower into the gut. The vagus nerve activates the fight or flight response in dangerous situations. As important as this nerve is, it can remember trauma and warn the body if a situation is similar to the previous trauma- also known as a trigger. In therapy, we can identify how your body remembers trauma and how it responds to triggers. This can be a slow process as you learn sensations of safety and empowerment. The goal of healing the vagus nerve is to invite long term change and cultivate safety back into the body. Using tools from yoga for emotional health and healing can help teach specific skills to create this balance and regulate the vagus nerve and nervous system.
Who could benefit
Adults and children with goals including increasing coping skills to manage depression or anxiety, processing trauma, or cultivating calmness day-to-day can benefit from Yoga for Emotional Health and Healing. No yoga experience is necessary to participate in this type of therapy. Your therapist will ask about any past injuries or concerns prior to guiding movements or yoga poses. Many of the poses can be done while sitting in a chair and do not require any extra equipment.