Wellbeing and Yoga Therapy (part 1)
IN September 2021 I began my 550 hour Yoga Therapy Training with Yoga United. I’m taking my next step towards reclaiming a yoga practice for myself and others rooted in cultivating trust, compassion and connection with ourselves and the wisdom that resides within our own body. Supporting ourselves to become more aware, responsive and grounded in a stronger sense of self. Encouraging respect and kindness towards our own (often hidden and well defended – perhaps?) fears and vulnerabilities. Helping to connect more deeply with other human beings; feeling more understood, supported and less alone! This all feels vital to authentic creative expression and my evolving yoga therapy practice.
Holding space for wondering, exploring and not knowing
I want to be brave. Acknowledging the real challenges present in the social, cultural, economic, and political context within which we live now. Whatever stage of life we are in these times are a challenge and can often leave us feeling overwhelmed and disembodied. I want to co-create trust and connection so that my yoga therapy practice can support those I work with to evolve their own resilient capacities so they may navigate the impact of modern day living on the mind, body and spirit with autonomy, courage and power.
My pull, as a yoga therapist, is towards cultivating a compassionate and attentive relationship with our bodies, and to support others on their exploratory journey to connect with wholeness. Gentle movement practices focussed around developing awareness of the body and breath to support calm, relaxation and connecting with ourself in the present moment.
Encouraging health seekers, with respect and care, to slowly and kindly connect with this awareness of themselves in their own body. Being in the moment, developing an acceptance of the here and now and yourself just as you are. Respecting how you feel, how your body feels, your thoughts and Noticing what comes up; your own reactions, feelings, and fostering a curious approach to all of this. As a yoga therapist I will be lead by you and what you need in this moment.
I want to support you to become more aware of your own needs and desires, valuing your own thoughts and feelings – connecting to your life force – your vital energy, creativity and being present in the world.
How did I get to this place?
As a teenager I remember feeling quite cut off from my body. Perhaps like others out there I invested mainly in my head – everything above the neck – my body was just the vehicle to get my thinking self from A to B. I pursued academic study and reading to try and understand the world around me and I guess to try to feel safe in it and to find my place. The journey back to connection with my body and myself in my body has been a long one. It’s an ongoing daily practice to foster a relationship of trust with my body.
From the age of about 19 there was a pull to yoga at the Brighton Buddhist Centre which was in Park Crescent Terrace at that time. Just down the road from my student house. It’s safe to say, however, despite yoga being in my life on and off for such a long time I never fell in love with it. My experience of the contemporary world of yoga in the UK context has been tricky to navigate and it has taken a long time to figure this out. Despite attending yoga classes over many years and a all manner of trainings (including Yoga Teacher Training in 2015)… You will not hear me say… I love yoga. And I know I can’t be alone in this.
Of course there have been many positive experiences in yoga classes and moments on my mat where I have felt connected in and peaceful. At times I have struggled and been overwhelmed with feelings of anger, fear, or sadness, and tears have come. I have also felt confused on the yoga mat and I can recall feelings of humiliation, of striving and failure, and of not belonging. There have been times when I wanted to leave a class – but didn’t feel brave enough to.
Over time, I have evolved a kind relationship with my emergent Reluctant Yogi self! I am curious about my ambivalence towards yoga and I can accept and even respect that I am someone who often does not find it easy or even desirable to make my way onto a mat and stay there. Not to mention the fact that my main desire these days often enough, when I find myself near a yoga mat, is to just lie down and stay there. Rest. Drop my body down. Let go.
I realise now – that I may not have felt ‘safe’ enough in some yoga classes. I struggled to find comfort, my place or a sense of belonging. Perhaps there wasn’t space or time, or even the intention, in a class to acknowledge the powerful feelings and thoughts that arose in my body and mind when engaging with somatic movements and breathing practices. I felt I was actually becoming further cut off from my body and mind and not finding the space to welcome or encourage a connection to experiences and wisdom arriving in my body in a standard yoga class.
In moving towards working with somatic practices, embodiment and yoga therapy I have found my crew! and happily been able to re connect with my body, heart, mind and spirit. 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 many practices of yoga continues to be real and strong and consistent. The learning is deep, profound and has only really just begun. Finally – I find my place and sense of belonging and a language I feel comfortable using within the therapeutic, somatic, embodied and trauma informed community of practitioners. Embracing all of who I am. Right here. Right now.
I can now explore what I want to offer as a Yoga Therapist (I have never felt comfortable calling myself a yoga teacher) and know that I can offer support to others. Especially perhaps those who like me – aren’t loving yoga! or people who find it quite challenging to connect to their body in a yoga class and would prefer to work one to one and explore and connect to their own unique experiences.
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 reservations and hesitations as well as my ongoing intrigue and fascination with yoga and yoga therapy. My learning from trauma informed approaches, yoga therapy, women’s wellbeing and embodied relational yoga. My work with teenagers living with ongoing chronic medical conditions as an art therapist and yoga teacher. All informs my approaches to working with the body and mind.
I hope to connect with anyone who is interested in working with me in Brighton and Hove.
My intention for yoga therapy sessions is that they will be one to one or small groups, where YOU will have the chance to develop your own individual felt knowledge of your body and experience of being in a body. You’ll get to know and explore ‘yoga postures’ and feel comfortable recognising your own experiences in these shapes over time (you’ll become confident to attend any yoga class with a good knowledge of what feels right for you). Your invitation is to come just as you are, to show up, participate/ or not as you feel your way into what is OK for you and empower yourself to connect with and own your own experience and make your own choices (not deferring power to a teacher).
In January 2020 I started Yoga and Somatics for Healing and Recovery course: moving beyond stress, trauma, burnout, anxiety, fatigue and post illness through embodied awareness with Charlotte Watts. Just finished this week (June 2022!). 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.
In 2021 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 skills to effectively meet the needs of the individual and to work with depth and intimacy. I’m really keen to start exploring how I might combine these approaches and developments with my yoga therapy training and with my art psychotherapy practice
My intention is to offer something nourishing and healing, to support you in finding your way back to your body. Into feeling and connecting to your body. Learning to listen in and developing compassion for self. With patience and respect. I also want to explore how art therapy and yoga therapy might work together to support you.
Over reliance on talking and thinking rationally is challenged in yoga therapy and art therapy. Both offer an opportunity to more directly connect with one’s inner thoughts and feelings (inner landscape) through using the body and art materials to explore and express; without words and getting stuck in the thinking.
Yoga Therapy and Art Therapy are complementary. They can work together to support 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 Therapy and Art Therapy can 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
- 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).
An important book right now for me is 21st C Yoga Culture, Politics and Practice. “We are not only interested in what yoga brings us as individuals, but also what it might offer our societies, as well as our increasingly interconnected global community…We are interested in possibilities of more socially engaged forms of yoga” Carol Horton.
We have been training with Michael from Maine who set up Phoenix Rising. He talks about using our body to fully experience all that is happening in any given moment – at times being with pan, insecurity and vulnerability. Learning from our body learning to accept what is present. Your body is a valuable tool in the self discovery process.
“yogasana has been co-opted and appropriated as fitness of exercise. The yoga industry in the UK alone is worth more than £900 million. Even though much of the activity that is included cannot be considered true to the wisdom tradition that is Yoga. much of it still carries the word or brand “yoga”. Given the size of that market the potential impact of this industry to transform lives as well as to cause harm becomes clear…Today more than ever, individuals have the capacity to ignite movements and effectively demand change. This book serves to nurture a community of change agents” Dr.Stacie C.C. Graham
Lunden self published her first book, “How not to Teach Yoga: Lessons on Boundaries, Accountability, and Vulnerability – Learnt the Hard Way” in February of 2021