Somatic Emotional Healing
How Yoga Therapy supports emotional healing
Yoga Therapy helps build emotional well-being and resilience, bringing a state of ease in both body and mind, even after significant stressful life events (including early childhood trauma). In Yoga Therapy, healing begins with deep listening and a willingness to open to, witness, and experience what is inside us.
The body offers us a doorway into emotional dimensions of our inner being.
Every impactful emotional experience, including trauma, is imprinted in both our physical and psychological being. Beliefs, ideas or emotions we carry with us from our childhood—consciously or unconsciously—can form and be continuously reinforced as patterns that leave their trace, and affect us energetically and physically. The healing process starts with becoming aware of these patterns and the situation that gives rise to them, being willing to feel emotions and witness them with a compassionate heart, while also being attentive to what the body is experiencing. As a skilled yoga therapist, I guide you in and through this process.
My own experience of early trauma allowed me to become profoundly aware of the powerful role emotions play in creating a healthy balanced sense of self. For many years I felt overwhelmed by negative feelings, the type that hide away in the dark because they are socially unacceptable. These emotions had their counterpart in negative thoughts. These incessant negative emotions and thoughts had me living in a constant state of stress as they fed upon each other. Then through the inner body-focused experiences offered by the practice of yoga as therapy my life started to turn around. As I allowed myself to open to what my body was carrying, the heaviness of burdens held within for so long began to lift and a space, a crack opened where light could get in. There was a sense of reprieve from the onslaught of negative self-talk. I could see more clearly what I needed to heal. I learned first-hand the power and potential of this deep healing work.
Research confirms what direct experience reveals: emotional stress can lead to a complex of physical, emotional, and psychological effects. Emotional stress may bring feelings of isolation, or disconnection from self; worry and anxiety; depression; and addictive coping mechanisms. Such stress can affect our digestion, sleep patterns, cardiovascular health or other bodily systems and, over time, may even predispose us to developing degenerative illnesses and dis-ease. Not surprisingly, there is also a correlation between chronic stress and perceived pain levels in the body.
Over time, the persistent and regular activation of the fight-flight-freeze response (or sympathetic nervous system) which is how our body is wired for survival when faced with overwhelming negative stress or danger, causes havoc with our health on all levels. Both the relationship to self and to the external world can be compromised.
Since the 1970’s, psychoneuroimmunology (PNI), a branch of medicine with a focus on the mind/body connection, pioneered by neuroscientist Dr. Candace Pert, has studied the continuous interaction between the mind-brain (mental states, thoughts and emotions), nervous system, and the immune system. This research reveals that no barriers exist between our thoughts, feelings, and our biological healing system.
As Dr. Christiane Northrup points out in her book, Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom, “healing goes deeper than curing and must always come from within. It addresses the imbalance that underlies the symptoms. Healing brings together the often hidden aspects of a person’s life as they relate to their illness.”
Insights and understanding gained from talk therapy or counselling are in some cases not enough to create a shift in our experience. We can understand intellectually what our issues are, yet not be able to change how we feel.
What can you expect from a session with me
In a session with me you are encouraged, in a safe environment, to open up to emotions stored in your body that emerge naturally as we work together. First, you are guided to notice your breath, and to become aware of inner sensations by allowing your breath to open up into spaces that may be guarded or closed off. The breath has surprising power to bring about release of tension. As your breath deepens, you move toward a state of inner relaxation where habitual thought patterns begin to lose their importance. You are more aware of your inner state of being and feel more connected to your emotional reality.
As you continue to bring attention to areas of tightness, such as in your neck and shoulders, you learn to make use of exhalations to release internal tensions. Over time, you begin to notice what it feels like to live in a body that is more free of physical tension. In this state the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) is activated, the relaxation response is initiated, and emotional healing can occur. With a release in the physical body a mental and emotional release can arise that creates a very clear inner mental space. This inner stillness connects you to your wiser self, and allows you to access this wisdom to catalyze healing.
In this space, you grow your capacity to accept and befriend your pain (which means that it never entirely disappears but it will be a significantly lesser force in your life). Here, as inner conflicts begin to dissolve, you can let go of hurt and open yourself to acceptance and an emerging love of self.
This healing process helps you shift from your old habitual reaction to stress to a new, healthier, and more conscious response. Over time and with practice, you build new, more open and self-affirming habitual responses to stress when it arises. You begin to feel the ebb and flow of your emotions and to realize that they are fleeting states. Remaining anchored in this embodied moment to moment experience you are more easily able to open to the spaciousness of self, where you witness yet do not identify with these impermanent anxious or depressed mental states.
The relaxation and well-being you feel reinforce a dawning awareness that any emotional suffering is not who you are. You learn to use the practices of Yoga Therapy to experience a state of wholeness, resilience and balance. You discover and celebrate the crack through which light can enter in your life.