Thursday, July 29, 2010

Where Do You Live?

Recently I had an interaction in a social work group with a couple of little boys. The boys were working on feelings charts and were asked to identify where they "felt" particular feelings in their bodies. While one little boy was able to identify feeling sad in his heart, anger in his belly and excitement "everywhere"; another identified each and every feeling by pointing straight to his forehead.
So my question to you is: where do you live? Are you completely in your head? Do you keep your feelings confined there in order to maintain a certain level of safety and security? Are you unable to let go and feel things elsewhere? Do you live in your gut? Do you feel things in the depths of your belly? Do you get the butterflies of excitement or the burn of fear and the nausea of sadness?
Take a moment to close your eyes. Imagine winning the lottery. It's enough to allow you and your loved ones to do whatever they have dreamed of for the rest of their lives. Bring it into your imagination and make it as vivid as possible. Where do you feel it? Has a smile managed to creep across your face? Have you felt the tingle of the excitement begin to seep "everywhere"? Do you feel it in your fingers and your toes? Do you feel a lightness in your heart? Where does the happiness resonate?
Now imagine for a moment the last time you experienced great sadness. Did your heart feel heavy? Did your brain ache? Did you get an empty pit in your stomach? Where did the sadness infiltrate?
When we have feelings our bodies know it. Our health is impacted by prolonged stress and negativity- anger and sadness. These are normal emotions and when they are felt fully and in balance with joy, love and happiness they make our lives and our selves full.
In yoga the first part of the process for new yogis is to connect with the body- to move out of our heads and into our chests (or hearts), our bellies, our hips and or hamstrings. Sooner or later in the journey our bodies and our feelings connect. What do we hold in the tightness of our hips? Why are those hamstrings just not ready to release? What are we protecting within the tightness of our chest and shoulders?
Through the process of movement, meditation, and conscious breathing we begin to identify, to witness, to release the judgement and the fear. We work through the feelings we hold deep in the spaces of our bodies.
Talk therapy can be a scarey and emotionally difficult process but it's one which hopefully, in the end allows for personal growth and development. Yet, there are some that go throuh the motions and for whatever reason the process bears no fruits. The journey of Yoga is for many an avenue that takes us to places which traditional therapy is hard pressed to access- deep in the depths of the body. A place where sometimes the deepest, darkest feelings have gone to hide and where the most joyful ecstasies are found.
The therapeutic union that is yoga unites the mind, the body, and the soul. Have you considered it as more than just stretching? Have you ever imagined it as a place where you can lose yourself and find your self in the matter of 60 minutes time?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Where Does Depression Hurt?

You watch TV, you've seen the commercial. The truth is that depression does hurt.
it was not my intention to choose depression as my first blog topic. It was simply too easy and too cliche. Nevertheless, I was lucky enough to attend a workshop with Amy Weintraub-the ultimate Yoga for Depression Guru. So, it is what it is.

Anyone who has battled depression can tell you that, as hokey as the commercials are; it's true- depression does hurt and the pain is not just emotional. It is a pain that transcends sadness. Maybe you have gone through a period of depression or you have suffer long-term clinical depression. Either way you understand the utter despair or total numbness that flips your world inside out and upside down. Yet, the pain is physical as well- body aches, migraines, stomach distress are all just the tip of the iceberg.

So you find your way to some sort of help. You begin to take the Paxil or the Prozac or the pill du jour. You are referred to a therapist and you begin to go through the motions of treatment. But imagine the impact of getting out of your head and into your body- this is the start of what yoga can give you. Initially, you create an opening with yoga. Perhaps the muscle aches and the joint pain begin to lessen. And then, slowly, with an open mind and a bit of consistency yoga begins to do it's work on the depressed mind and the wounded soul. The tools of yoga are numerous. Learning yogic breath control (pranayama) reduces anxiety. It works as an escape button for panic attacks. The first breath in the present moment is a baby step to releasing the pain of the past and being free from the worries of the future.

In yoga there is a belief that depression is the result of 2 circumstances. The first is that we forget how interconnected we are and the second is that there is not enough energy (prana or lifeforce as we yogis like to call it) moving through us. Anyone who has fought the fight against the dark demon of depression knows the latter is true. Depression is an energy vampire of Twilight proportions. Yoga creates a place where energy can flow again.

Yoga is not a substitute for medical treatment. Depression is a serious illness with a long road to recovery. But, along with the support of a well equipped counselor and the right medical provider, it can be a bright light during dark days and a way to maintain wellness.

Want to learn more? Check out Yoga For Depression by Amy Weintraub.

One Post Does Not a Blogger Make...

In the words of my very wise baby cousin, One post does not a blogger make. Perhaps my struggle in beginning a regular blog is knowing just where to start. The reality is that the mind-body connection and it's implications on yoga and social work are incredibly vast. Perhaps the most rational way to go about it is to break things down into smaller, bite-sized pieces. By addressing one subject per week, it is this new blogger's hope to present you with information in a way that is practical, sensible and not overwhelming.

Cutting through all the clinical mumbo-jumbo and bringing some of yoga's spiritual tenents down to earth will make this blog Average-Joe friendly. Social work is not just for bleeding heart liberals looking to save the world and Yoga is not just for crazy-bendy enlightened beings...this blog is for you...the everyman.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Making the Connection

Take a moment to think back to a time when you were so full of grief that it consumed you, consumed you so fully that it brought you actual, physical pain. Consider a time when you faced an illness or injury; what impact did it have on your emotions? Did you become depressed? Angry? Enraged? Think of a time when you faced a fear so terrifying that your heart raced, your palms sweat, the pit in your stomach turned. ...Now try to deny the mind-body connection. It is nearly impossible. The connection is incredible.
Yet, what is even more incredible is the concept of using that connection as a tool for overall wellness. Harnessing the breath to clear the mind of anxiety, using meditation to eliminate pain, coming into an awareness of the body through yoga pratice to connect to the inner self. Just a few of the connections that will be explored in this blog.
Feel free to share ideas and experiences, ask questions or ponder the amazing connection of the mind and body!