What is Yoga Therapy?
Yoga Therapy is a mind-body modality of healing that approaches life’s challenges with the assertion that each of us carries within us the potential to heal ourselves. There are many different types of Yoga Therapy- some that use yoga similar to the way you would physical therapy- prescribing certain poses, breathing techniques and meditations to work with the conditions presented. Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy is based on Carl Roger’s humanistic psychology, which asserts that your felt experience is your highest authority, and that transformation comes not from a prescribed set of poses, but from your own inner Truth.
Who can benefit from Yoga Therapy?
Some people come to Yoga Therapy to explore a physical concern, like chronic pain. Some people come because they're integrating trauma, experiencing anxiety or suffering from depression. Still others come because they feel stuck or off track in their life. Yoga Therapy offers a way for every part of you and your experience to be healed.
What does a session look like?
Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy sessions are offered one-on-one, in a safe and supportive environment. The practitioner will guide you into an embodied experience completely informed by what is happening in your body right now, offering options for exploration, but with the only goal being to bring you into closer connection with your own felt experience.
So, how does this work?
So how does this work? Terms like “inner Truth” always carry with them a vague “wooey” feeling, no matter how much we may want to feel connected to it. There are more scientific studies and reviews coming together every year that supports this work, but this one in particular speaks to a different way of being that can lead to this transformation.
The study (1) was headed by Norm Farb and published in the Oxford Journal of Social, Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience. Farb and others wanted to look at the way we think about ourselves and our experience. It has long been theorized that there are two distinct mental pathways that we can experience at any given moment, narrative experience and direct experience.
Narrative Experience is our most common way of being and thinking. The analytical mind plans, remembers, worries, hopes, and projects. The contents of our thoughts are mostly about the past or future. This is a very important way of being – it allows us to move through our lives and make decisions.
Direct Experience, on the other hand, is a rarer phenomenon. The continuous narrative quiets down and ceases its planning, and the moment is experienced as it is, without analysis or judgment. Sound familiar? It has long been the goal of yoga practices to turn on this neural pathway!
So what happens when we slip into direct experience? The study showed that participants relatively new to mindfulness practices experienced less activity in the prefrontal cortex (the most advanced part of our brain, responsible for the continuous monologue of thought). Those participants who had continued the practice regularly also showed an increase in activity in the right hemisphere of the brain, especially in places responsible for creative, non-linear thoughts!
Transformation and Change
So, being supported in dropping in to Direct Experience in Yoga Therapy, means we can access new ways of thinking about ourselves, our concerns, and come up with creative solutions for transformation! In a Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy session, we use the tools of embodied movement, yoga poses, breathing, hands-on assists and support to facilitate moving past the Narrative Experience, into this quieter, more creative way of being. One of the most powerful ways of dropping into this space is finding what we call edges – places of powerful sensation where new information can be learned and changes can begin to take place.
While in this space, we talk about what you’re experiencing, so that your felt experience can be externalized, validated and processed. At the end of our session, you’ll have the opportunity to figure out what happens next, integrating the experience into your life in meaningful, tangible ways.
Ready to give Yoga Therapy a try?
Alexi Neal of The Neal Center for Counseling and Yoga Therapy is currently offering heavily discounted sessions while completing her hours for certification. That makes this the perfect time to try the work! You can also join us at the Free Therapeutic Yoga & Info Session on June 13th or June 27th!
1. Norman A. S. Farb Zindel V. Segal Helen Mayberg Jim Bean Deborah McKeon Zainab Fatima Adam K. Anderson; Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, Volume 2, Issue 4, 1 December 2007, Pages 313–322, https://doi.org/10.1093/scan/nsm030