Yoga is the 6,000 year-old science of the mind. As outlined in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, one of the oldest texts on Yoga, Yoga is the cessation of the mind-stuff (1:2) or essentially turning off our monkey minds. While Yoga in the western world is known by its physical side of poses and a way to strengthen and tone our bodies, that is really just an added bonus of what Yoga truly can offer. Yoga in practice is structured around what is known as the 8 limbs of Yoga:
- Yamas – social ethics including non-violence and non-attachment
- Niyamas – personal ethics including gratitude and surrender
- Asana – poses or physical practice
- Pranayama – breathing practices
- Pratyahara – withdrawal of the senses
- Dharana – concentration
- Dyanna – meditative mind
- Samadhi – bliss or state of being at peace
It is the full practice of Yoga both on and off the mat that help to derive it’s powerful benefits and are most impactful in a therapeutic setting to reduce stress and anxiety, to switch energy quickly (either up or down), to begin to quiet the mind and instill a state of calm and peace. A regular yoga practice will also assist in better sleep, an overall reduction in stress and to be less ruled by emotion with a generalized ability to think more clearly.
Here are a few things you can do today when working with your clients. They will take between 5-10 minutes and can work at any point in the session.
- Breathing: Yoga’s 3-part breath is simple yet creates a powerful shift in balancing energy where needed. Ask your client to place their hands on their belly and breathe through their nose. Sitting up nice and tall, start to bring the breath into the belly so that they can feel their breath in their hands. Continue to breathe in feeling the rib cage expanding and then the final part of the breath up in the chest before breathing our slowly. Repeat this 7-10 times. I’ve listed more breathing techniques you can use here: Yoga Breathing for Anxiety
- Chanting: This is a powerful practice for vagal toning, as the vibrations from the sound emitted hits our vagus nerve enervating through all major organs of the body. This brings an immediate state of calm taking us into parasympathetic nervous system. Start with the basic sound OM, pronounced AUM. With hands on the belly begin the “A” slow and steady, it doesn’t need to be loud to be effective. The “U” moves in to the chest and finally the “M” comes to the lips. Try this 3-4 times holding the sound a little longer each time. Take a moment of silence at the end to let the continued reverence of sound hold. You can find a bit more info here: The Mystical Sound: OM
- Meditation: A guided meditation through the body can be a powerful addition to calm and quiet the mind while feeling connected to the body. Yoga Nidra can move one in to a deep state of rest and/or sleep and it is said that 20 minutes of Yoga Nidra is equal to 2 hours of sleep. Very impactful for your PTSD clients or anyone suffering from insomnia. When choosing a script, look for something with a “choose your own adventure” feel or something specific to the body example: bringing attention to your legs, ankles and feet. Here’s one you can use that I’ve written for grounding: Guided Meditation: Gratitude
I hope you find these tips helpful. Let me know when you’ve tried some of them out or if you have any questions. The one book you must have on your shelf: Yoga Skills for Therapists by Amy Weintraub. An excellent book that brings together lots of Yoga Tools that are easy to understand and slip in to practice right away. Also check out Richard Miller’s iRest on YouTube for Yoga Nidra recordings specifically designed to help heal from trauma and PTSD.
In love and light