The Focus On You

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Yoga, Mental Health and Healing: An Interview With A Yoga Instructor

Sometimes the things that look so simple, bring the most benefits to our lives. If you have been curious about yoga and wonder why people get hooked on it, this article can definitely help!

When we’re looking at restructuring our overall wellness, there are many healing activities that can incorporate your mind and body. I sat with a fellow mental health therapist, blogger, Podcaster and registered yoga teacher, Davia Roberts, and asked her to help us understand how yoga can change lives.

Davia was first introduced to yoga in her teens and she practiced it on and off throughout college. Fast forward a few years and in 2017 she decided to take the leap and become a registered yoga teacher. She spent three weeks in Costa Rica in September 2017 and acquired 200 hours of hatha yoga training.

Here are some highlights of our discussion:

“What surprises did you learn about yourself after the training program and what changes have you made since then?

Davia states that she learned how much of an introvert she really is. She realized how sensitive she is to people’s energy. As a therapist she listens to, and sometimes carries, other people’s wounds. It can be easy to get overwhelmed with this baggage. A fellow student in her training was impressed at how Davia was able to separate herself from uncomfortable energy. Davia realized how confident she really is because of this.

In yoga practice, there isn’t a focus on poses. The focus is on the feeling. Pinpointing where in your body you feel tension and discomfort. Davia can now pinpoint where she holds certain feelings and is more conscious about what she does with that energy. She is now changing how she handles stress, is open to asking for help from her “team” and prioritizing more quiet time to help her recharge. She emphasized that she is now more “proactive” instead of “reactive.”

Sidenote: If you’re a beginner to yoga but are serious about reducing your trauma or mental health symptoms, you don’t have to become an instructor to enjoy these benefits. Personally, I use yoga to help with fibromyalgia and as a stress reliever. Despite my aches and pains, I walk away from an hour-long session feeling like I got a massage. It loosens my tight, anxious and under used muscles and gives me one hour where I’m not thinking about anything but breathing and keeping my balance.

“Therapeutically, what benefits does yoga provide?”

Although yoga isn’t a cure-all for everything, it can provide relief from symptoms of anxiety. She added that anxiety can be wrapped up in many other diagnoses or ailments and having healthy anxiety reduction skills is crucial. Yoga can help you slow down and be present, regulate your breathing, slow your heart rate and quiet racing thoughts. Becoming more aware of your body can help you before your next anxiety attack. You understand how to ask yourself, “How can I slow down so I don’t have an attack.”

In addition, research now shows that certain yoga poses can help with depression. It helps reduce inflammation in the body, which can contribute to chronic pain issues. She also mentioned that for trauma sufferers, it is important to tell your yoga instructor that you don’t like to be touched. I have personally been in classes where an instructor may come by and assist you with stretches or correct your form. This isn’t always the case, but it’s worth noting.

Davia says she will soon begin yoga classes in collaboration with a mindfulness teacher in the women’s correctional system. Yoga stretches and breathing exercises are low maintenance and easily accessible tools for healing trauma and managing stress.

  “How does healing the body relate to healing the mind?”

Davia shared that therapy is now treating trauma as a physiological issue, and not just a mental health issue. Research is now showing how trauma gets “stuck” in our bodies and many people don’t know how to let go of it. Certain yoga poses have been shown to help with depression and stimulate parts of the body that may have trapped energy.

She emphasized that someone with trauma and/or mental health issues shouldn’t get forced into thinking their only solution is psychotropic medications or talk therapy. Therapists are moving away from traditional treatments and can now use free tools like yoga and mindfulness to help people manage their symptoms.

For further resources on mental health and wellness, check out Davia’s website, Redefine Enough. She hosts a biweekly podcast called Affirm (you can find me chatting on Episode 18 about Domestic Violence and Relationships) and will be hosting a webinar on February 15th called, Mental Health Maintenance For Creatives. Register here

How are you incorporating overall wellness into your routine this year? How could yoga help you or a loved one?

How To Maintain Your New Year Energy

The end of 2017 was flooded with messages of renewed energy and healthy intentions for a better year. I admit it was a welcomed surprise, especially when social media can be so whiny and depressing. But I know I’m not alone in thinking that this motivation can’t last forever. When I work with therapy clients, as we celebrate any uptick in motivation, I always invite them to examine their recipes for success.

If our successes are so few, or only occur with “New Year” motivation, let’s look at how to spread this healthy energy throughout the year.

Assess Your Confidence

Do you realize how you confident you are? Yes you!

A person is unlikely to set goals or state their desires without having at least bite size confidence. If you got off the struggle bus in December and are left with bite size confidence, even the smallest resolution or goal involves confidence. Being willing to make a change in your life means you believe in your worth. Click To Tweet You believe you deserve better and can DO better.

That confidence translates into energy. All this social media energy about intentions, better boundaries, healthier eating, etc, comes from your self-worth.

Tip: At the end of every month, do a self-check on your confidence levels. Are your self-esteem and energy at the same level? What did you do at the end of December that could help you now?

Read: Are You A Confidence Buster?

Assess Your Barriers

In recovery circles, we caution people about the concept of insanity. “Insanity means doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results.” If your yearly goals fall apart at the same time each year, it’s time to check out your patterns.

If weight loss motivation is strong in the winter and gets weak in the summer, find the barrier.

If you only get motivated in your side hustle when your funds are low, find the barrier.

If your personal boundary wall is only strong when you’re feeling cocky or rude, remember that the wall won’t stay up forever. What’s your barrier?

In 2017 I slipped on a lot of my goals and lost motivation due to multiple distractions. I’ll admit that social media scrolling and stressing (thanks to this government) had me distracted. I didn’t have the awareness to pull away and I lost motivation to finish personal and professional tasks. I realized this mid-year and made better efforts to stop being so opinionated.

In the blogging world, we aim to engage online with others, which helps build our brand. Having opinions doesn’t fatten my pocket. I now have to find the healthy line between being informed and just wasting time.

Assess Your Why

When clients mention trying something different I always ask them, “Why?” Sometimes it sounds like I’m being a jerk but it’s a healthy way of challenging their thinking. Where did they get this idea? Who is encouraging them to do it? Is it in line with their values?

If we don’t know our WHY, then we’re likely to stumble.

If you are feeling energized about your goals, vision board, business planning, write down WHY. Re-visit this WHY when you’re feeling discouraged or you get off track.

As a college graduate, I feel that one of my biggest lessons was patience. Now, this doesn’t mean I’m patient in traffic or waiting in line (that’s a whole other blog post). College students highlight those articles, chug coffee, stay up late and type up endless pages of reports because they’re patient. They know that every hurdle leads to a degree.  For me, my degree meant a higher ceiling. I knew that my degree would open more doors and lead to my desired career.

Every tedious task led to my WHY.

When I started my blog exactly 3 years ago, I took my time in writing posts and monetizing. My long-term goal with blogging is to improve my writing and eventually write books. All the tedious work that comes along with blogging is part of my WHY.

As a new year begins, celebrate your confidence, remind yourself of what you truly value and expect a few bumps in the road. With struggle comes growth. After breakdowns, come breakthroughs. Click To Tweet.

Goals aren’t set in stone. Pivot and adjust as changes occur. Go easy on yourself and remember that being too task-oriented can be draining. Align your WHY with WHO you want to be and you’ll be on the right track! I’m cheering you on!

 

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