As someone who has practiced yoga for many years, I had often wondered earlier in my counseling career how yoga could be used therapeutically in counseling. Yoga has been shown to improve health and well being in many ways and the growth of Yoga Therapy – using traditional yogic techniques with the intention of managing health challenges to reduce symptoms, increase energy, and restore balance of the mind, body and spirit – has challenged me as a Certified Yoga Therapist to integrate the benefits of yoga into counseling. I became certified as a yoga therapist well before beginning my training in counseling. It is the lens that I see the world through and thus, my clients as well.
Integrating yogic principles and practice into counseling has been a part of my personal development as a therapist. I often begin sessions by inviting the client and myself to settle into the breath. Settling into the breath involves sitting quietly and mindfully with a focus and awareness of the breath. I find it is a centered way to initiate our work together and foster the therapeutic relationship. This is particularly helpful with anxious or stressed clients. They are often amazed at their own ability to calm and soothe themselves with a few deep breaths.
There are similarities between yoga principles and some of the major counseling theories. First, Fritz Perls core Gestalt belief of the ‘here and now’ as well as being aware of how we hold stress, tension and emotions in our bodies are shared elements with Yoga. Second, Meditation and visualization are core Cognitive Behavioral and Yoga techniques. Finally, the Rogerian style of unconditional positive regard is in alignment with the welcoming inner attitude fostered through a yoga practice. It is clear that yoga can indeed be therapeutic. Therefore, perhaps the better question is how can non-yoga teachers integrate its principles into the counseling relationship? I will break down some of the ways this can be done in my next few blogs. Until then, simply focus on your breathing and invite your clients to do the same.
I will be sharing the benefits of yoga at the CT Counseling Association’s Annual Conference on April 28th – you don’t want to miss this!
Deb Del Vecchio-Scully is a counselor and writer who focuses on healing the mind, body and spirit. She specializes in PTSD, Chronic pain and mood disorders. For more information: www.anschealthandwellness.com