Wellbeing and Yoga (part 1)
It’s safe to say, that I’m not mad about yoga.
Despite attending yoga classes on and off over the years from around the age of 18 and a sustained commitment to learning and attending inspiring and intense courses, including completing my Yoga Teacher Training in 2015… You will not hear me say… I love yoga. And I wonder if I’m alone in this?
This month I have just started my 550 hour Yoga Therapy Training with Yoga United. It’s a mammoth 18 month journey and I’m excited and inspired and a little overwhelmed to be thinking how to take my work in this direction.
There have been many positive experiences in a yoga class, and some moments when I have felt good on my mat. At other times I have struggled and become overwhelmed with different feelings; anger, fear, sadness, and tears have come. I have been totally confused on the yoga mat and I can recall feeling a sense of humiliation, of striving and feeling a failure, 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 an understanding of my emerging Reluctant Yogi self! I have become at one with my ambivalence about yoga and I been able to 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 and maybe even sleep.
I am becoming clearer about why I feel like this and honestly… it’s a relief. The reasons are complex and I am keen to explore them fully. For now, though it feels important to say that I realise that I have not often felt safe enough in a yoga class. I have struggled to find comfort, my place or a sense of belonging. There isn’t always enough space or time, or even the intention, in many ‘yoga’ classes to acknowledge the sometimes powerful feelings and thoughts that can arise in your body and mind when you engage with powerful somatic movements and breathing practices. I found I was actually becoming further cut off from my body and mind by not welcoming or encouraging a connection to experiences and wisdom arriving in my body in a yoga class.
I have and do 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 therapeutic, somatic, embodied and trauma informed community of practitioners. Embracing all of who I am.
I’m starting to explore now what I want to offer as a Yoga Therapist (I have never felt comfortable calling myself a yoga teacher) and know that I 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)! You are my tribe.
I can only share or teach from what I know and have experienced – it’s the only truthful way to move forward.
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’m exploring new opportunities to share genuinely with my community and I hope to connect with anyone who is interested in working with me one to one or in small groups in Brighton and Hove.
My intention for yoga sessions is that 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 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 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. 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 yoga and art therapy which offers 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 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).