Approaching Arts, Health and Wellbeing (part 1)
It’s safe to say, and those that know me well will heartily agree… that I’m not mad about the physical practice of yoga. There are many times that I have had a really positive experience in a yoga class, and some moments when I liked being on my mat, and yet at other times I have struggled to like it much at all. There are times when I have felt, angry, scared, sad, tearful and totally confused on the yoga mat or in a class. I can recall feelings of humiliation and of striving and feeling a failure, of not belonging and very much wanting to leave a class.
You could say, over time, I have evolved into a Reluctant Yogi! I’m certainly ambivalent about it and I am not someone who finds it at all easy or always desirable to find my way onto a mat. My strong desire these days when I find myself near a yoga mat is to just lie down and stay there. Yet I have attended classes on and off for over 30 years! and I even trained as a yoga teacher in 2016 and I have consistently committed to learning and attending inspiring and intense courses, both short and long… Next year I’m going to begin my Yoga Therapy Training which will take a couple of years! There’s some pull here and yet I have never evolved into that person who is able to say I love yoga! Am I alone in this?
I am slowly becoming more clear about why I feel like this and honestly… it’s a relief. The reasons are complex and I am keen to explore them more fully. For now, it feels important to say that I have often not felt safe enough in a yoga class and I have struggled to find comfort, my place or a sense of belonging. In part, this I think is because there isn’t space or time in most ‘yoga’ classes to acknowledge the sometimes powerful feelings and thoughts that can arise in your body and mind when you engage with yoga practice and breathing practices. My experience is that I was becoming further cut off from my body and mind by not being welcomed or encouraged to make space for these experiences alongside others.
That is not to say – BTW – that I do not experience positive benefits from physical yoga practices. Yoga has an impact on my body, heart, mind and spirit ongoingly. Yoga philosophy helps me make sense of how I want to move through life and connect with others and the planet. The pull to the practices of yoga is real and strong and consistent over a long period of time. The learning is deep, profound and has only just begun (I’ll reflect more in another post on my experience of ‘yoga’, what it feels like to me, what I get from it and why I’m so committed to learning and sharing). I have started to find my place and sense of belonging over the last 5 years or so within the somatic, embodied and trauma informed community of practitioners. Embracing all of who I am.
I’m convinced now that what I want to offer as a Yoga Facilitator (I’m not comfortable calling myself a yoga teacher one day I hope I will be able to describe myself as a Yoga Therapist) can make a difference to others who like me – aren’t loving yoga! Those of you who would perhaps like to try it but don’t think you’ll be able to do it or that it’s just not for you! Or maybe you have tried yoga but didn’t like it that much (for whatever reasons – and these are valid and important to understand)!
I can only share or teach from what I know and have experienced – it’s the only truthful way to move forward.
I am happy to explore and share my learning and my reservations and hesitations about yoga. I’ll share what I have learnt in particular from trauma informed approaches, yoga therapy, women’s wellbeing and embodied relational yoga which I thoroughly respect and I’m genuinely excited about. Also, my work with teenagers living with ongoing chronic medical conditions and how that informs my approach to working with the body. I’ll tell you more about why I am (despite not loving it) actively committed to finding different ways to make yoga part of my everyday life.
I’d love the chance to share genuinely with you and I hope you’ll find everything you need here to make your mind up as to whether you’d like to work with me one to one or as part of a small group of 4/5 others.
My intention for yoga sessions is that all participants have the chance to develop their own individual felt knowledge of their body and experience of being in a body. You’ll get to know and explore the ‘yoga postures’ and feel comfortable recognising your own experiences in these shapes over time. You will become confident to attend any yoga class with a good knowledge of what feels right for you. You can participate/ or not and feel empowered to own your own experience and make your own choices (not deferring power to a teacher).
In January 2020 I took Yoga and Somatics for Healing and Recovery course: moving beyond stress, trauma, burnout, anxiety, fatigue and post illness through embodied awareness with Charlotte Watts. This was an explorative journey to delve into how a compassionate and subtly attentive relationship with our bodies, practice and teaching can help address these common dis-ease states. I’m looking forward to being able to share this with people I work with.
Last year I completed a second year of Art of Teaching One to One training with Kate Ellis. Drawing on insights and theories within yoga, body psychotherapy and developmental movement, we explored how embodiment impacts our capacity for relationship whilst becoming aware of the innate and profound intelligence of the body. This training deepened my teaching skills to effectively meet the needs of the individual and to work with depth and intimacy. I’m really excited to start exploring how I might combine these approaches and developments in my learning to yoga with art psychotherapy in sessions with clients.
My intention is to offer something nourishing and healing, to support you in finding your way back to your body. Back into feeling and connecting in to the body. Learning to listen in and developing compassion for self. With patience and respect. I also want to explore how art therapy and yoga can be used together to support you to connect with yourself and others.
Over reliance on talking and thinking rationally is challenged in art therapy which offers an opportunity to more directly connect with one’s inner thoughts and feelings (inner landscape) through using art materials to explore and express; without words and getting stuck in the thinking.
Yoga and Art Therapy are complementary. They can work together in supporting us to develop a stronger sense of ourselves; identity, self awareness, acceptance and compassion for self and others. In yoga and in art therapy we get the chance to become present in our bodies and to notice what comes up (without judgement and criticism).
Yoga and art therapy can both support us to become more aware, responsive and grounded in a stronger sense of our own selves. Becoming also more respectful and kind towards our own (often hidden and well defended) fears and vulnerabilities. This helps us to connect more deeply with other human beings; feeling more understood, supported and less alone!
Key ideas informing my approach (summarised here)
Being – Not performing ourselves. Or our bodies
Free to be with what is – right now
Standing fully in our lives with all our experiences, knowing and wisdom
Respecting and honouring our own experiences and insights
Noticing, Curious and Compassionate
Following our attention, our eye, holding ourselves close, being a friend.
Allowing ourselves to be fully present
Understanding the context (social, cultural political, economic) the bigger picture, and the dominant narratives of our lives (keep busy, strive for more, strain, achieve, reaching, be good, be kind, proving to self and others and more…).
Space to confront and undo programming – rewire
This is all underpinned and rooted in my ongoing interest and developing knowledge of movement and alignment principles, fascia (and the relationship between bone, muscles, fascia, nerves etc. understanding different tissue types and how they affect our sense of embodiment), polyvagal theory and the nervous system, trauma informed approaches and embodied relational therapy principles (contact, information gathering, amplification, integration and how they can be applied to a yoga therapy session).