LifeForce Yoga® for Depression
Research & News
Issue: # 12 Spring/Summer/2007
In This Issue
NEWS – Yoga Nidra & PTSD
RESEARCH – PTSD
CALENDAR – Upcoming Hightlights
REVIEW – The Mindful Brain by Daniel J. Siegel
REVIEW – Comes the Peace by Daja Wangchuk Meston
RESOURCE – LifeForce Yoga® to Beat the Blues
Yoga is the uniting of consciousness in the heart.
~ Nischala Joy Devi’s translation of Patanjali, Sutra I.2 Yogah Chitta Vritti Nirodaha
This spring, I’m finding inspiration from Nischala Joy Devi’s The Secret Power of Yoga: A Woman’s Guide to the Heart and Spirit of the Yoga Sutras. Just as current brain research is showing us that you cannot separate thought from feeling, Nischala’s understanding of Patanjanli’s Yoga Sutras is centered in the heart.
What are you doing to nourish your mind’s heart, your heart’s mind this summer? Some of you may be joining me at workshops, retreats and trainings in Texas and around New England. I, too, am dreaming of retreat-ten days in social silence with Richard Miller without cell phone, blackberry or laptop. Well, almost. Due to a schedule change, I will break silence in the beginning to teach at the International Yoga Therapy Conference on May 20th, but Richard will be teaching there too!
Whether I see you this summer or not, consider beginning the process of clearing your inner space with a simple phone call. I’ll be offering “LifeForce Yoga® Chakra Clearing,” a Tele-Class through Yoga Spirit on Tuesday evening June 19th (9:00 pm EST/ 6:00pm PST).
This issue of the newsletter features updates on current research, news, and reviews of two important books that have been vital to my own understanding of this sometimes bumpy path we call life. Research and clinical psychiatrist Daniel Siegel makes a singular contribution to the complementary fields of brain science, psychology, learning, and meditation is his groundbreaking new bool The Mindful Brain. And in Comes the Peace, Daja Wanchuk Meston, with help from writer Clare Ansberry, tells a powerful story that turns the spiritual path inside out–the consequences of what happens when the quest is not about mindful attunement but about detached separation. Both are reviewed below.
NEWS – from the Center of Timeless Being
Yoga Nidra Research Studies are pointing toward symptom reduction using Richard Miller’s Yoga Nidra Integrative Restoration (iRest) protocol at Walter Reed Army Hospital with active duty soldiers suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, insomnia, and anxiety from their wartime experiences. Participants in the recently conducted Walter Reed Feasibility Study and the COTS-IONS-CTB study with the homeless reported decreased insomnia, reduced depression, anxiety and fear, improved interpersonal relations, increased comfort with situations they could not control, and paradoxically an increased sense of control in their lives.
Yoga Nidra Integrative Restoration (iRest) is an ancient transformative meditative practice that is derived from the ancient teachings of Yoga Nidra (yoga = embodying what is timeless + nidra = across all states of consciousness). iRest is a non-dogmatic, non-religious secular practice. It consists of a series of 30-40 minute sessions where participants are guided through a sequence that covers body-sensing training; breath and energy awareness; systematic desensitization and disidentification to neutralize negative body sensations and stress, negative feelings & emotions, and negative beliefs, images and memories; the experience of joy and well-being; freedom from the sense of separation; the ability to experience equanimity along with the realization that everything in life is constantly changing.
Training programs are now being offered throughout North America by the Center of Timeless Being for people interested in learning Yoga Nidra and becoming certified to teach Miller’s protocol of Yoga Nidra. Please see the website, www.nondual.com for further information.
RESEARCH: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Van der Kolk, BA, “Clinical Implications of Neuroscience Research in PTSD,” Annals New York Academy of Sciences xxxx:1-17 (2006)
According to trauma recovery expert Bessel van der Kolk, M.D., working with the body is essential when treating a person suffering from PTSD. “In order to come to terms with the past,” says van der Kolk, “it may be essential to learn to regulate one’s physical arousal.”
The physiological aspects of PTSD can be measured by looking at heart rate variability (HRV).
PTSD involves a fundamental dysregulation of arousal modulation at the brain stem level, affecting the Autonomic Nervous System. This means that the sympathetic increases, keeping the individual in a perpetually hypervigilant, highly sensitive state, always alert to danger and often over-reacting to a perceived threat when there is none. The parasympathetic decreases, which means the individual has less ability to self-soothe. This is indicated by low heart rate variability (HRV), which has been associated with anxiety & depression, as well as PTSD.
In the article in Annals New York Academy of Sciences, Van der Kolk reports on two pilot yoga studies his team of researchers conducted. In one pilot study, over 8 sessions of yoga with 8 subjects, HRV increased and PTSD symptoms decreased. (CAPS) In a second pilot study 8, 75-minute yoga sessions were compared to 8 sessions of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (group). As measured by the Davidson PTSD Scale, PANAS, and the Trauma Center Body Awareness Scale, only the Yoga group showed a decrease in frequency of intrusions and severity of hyperarousal symptoms.
Bikram Yoga Flagstaff
Flagstaff, AZ (May 12)
LifeForce Yoga®: Using the Breath to Manage Your Mood
International Yoga Therapy Conference
San Rafael, CA (May 18 – 20)
Join Rama Jyoti Vernon, Richard Miller, Antonio Sausy, Mark Halpern, Mukunda Stiles, Amy and others to explore the therapeutic aspecst of Yoga.
Austin, TX (June 4 -8)
LifeForce Yoga® Practitioner Training Level 1
This is both a multi-level retreat & a training. Yoga teachers will be certified at LifeForce Yoga® Practitioners and receive Yoga Alliance Credit.
LifeForce Yoga® Chakra Clearing Tele-Class
June 19, 9:00 pm EST, 6:00 pm PST
Learn a meditation that includes breath, mudra (sacred seal/hand gesture), and mantra. This technique is especially useful in clearing the mental chaos that often accompanies both anxiety and depression. We’ll begin with a brief overview of the chakra system and how it relates to emotional issues. This protocol can be practiced by itself or as a portal into an extended sitting practice. Amy will also offer clinical applications for yoga teachers/therapists.
Lenox, MA (July 1 – 6)
LifeForce Yoga® Practitioner Training Level 1
Professional Training, certification for yoga teachers and mental health professionals.
Rheinbeck, NY (July 9 – 13)
LifeForce Yoga® to Beat the Blues
A multi-level healing retreat. Suitable for all levels.
Princeton Center for Yoga and Health
Princeton, NJ (July 14)
LifeForce Yoga® to Manage Your Mood
May 4 – 6, 2007
LifeForce Yoga® for Anxiety & Depression, Arkansas Yoga Center, www.aryoga.com, (479) 521-YOGA (9642), 1949 Green Acres Road. Yoga Alliance CEU’s.
May 12, 2007
LifeForce Yoga®: Using the Breath to Manage Your Mood 1:00 – 5:00 pm Bikram Yoga Flagstaff, www.birkramyogaflagstaff.com 928-774-3637
San Rafael, CA
May 18 – 20, 2007
International Yoga Therapy Conference, Amy will present the Therapeutic aspects of LifeForce Yoga®. www.yogatherapyconference.com
Jun 4 – 8, 2007
LifeForce Healing Retreat & Practioner Training, The Crossings, 877 944-3003. CEU’s available
Jul 1 – 6, 2007
LifeForce Yoga® Practitioner Training – Level 1 (for health professionals & yoga teachers) CEUs available, 800-741-7353www.kripalu.org/presenter/28/
Jul 9 – 13, 2007
LifeForce Yoga® to Live Your Bliss, Omega Institute, 800-944-1001
Jul 14, 2007
LifeForce Yoga® to Manage Your Mood, Princeton Center for Yoga and Health, www.princetonyoga.com
Sep 21 – 23, 2007
LifeForce Yoga® to Manage Your Mood, Jai Shanti Yoga, www.jaishantiyoga.com 404-370-0579
Sep 26, 2007
LifeForce Yoga® as an Adjunct Treatment for Depression and Anxiety, University Health Systems, University of Georgia. In-service training for medical and mental health professionals. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Grand Rapids, MI
Sep 28 – 30, 2007
LifeForce Yoga® for Mood Management Weekend, Expressions of Grace Yoga, 5161 Northland Dr. NE, 616-361-8589 www.expressionsofgraceyoga.com
Oct 20, 2007
LifeForce Yoga® to Live Your Bliss, Schoolhouse Yoga, www.schoolhouseyoga.com 412-401-444
Oct 21 – 26, 2007
LifeForce Yoga® Practitioner Training – Level 2 (for health professionals and yoga teachers) CEUs available, 800-741-7353 www.kripalu.org
Oct 26 – 28, 2007
LifeForce Yoga® to Beat the Blues, Kripalu Center 800-741-7353 www.kripalu.org
Venice Beach, CA
Nov 2 – 4, 2007
LifeForce Yoga® to Manage Your Mood, Exhale Center for Sacred Movement, www.exhalespa.com, 310 450 7676
REVIEW by Amy Weintraub
The Mindful Brain
The Mindful Brain: Reflection and Attunement in the Cultivation of Well-Being, by Daniel Siegel, M.D., New York: Norton, 2007
This is a book that belongs on the shelf of anyone who works with people who suffer from depression, anxiety, PTSD or other imbalanced mind states. It will also appeal to lay practitioners of meditation or those who are considering meditation as a tool to altar the structure of their brains in ways that support optimal mental health. Author of the acclaimed The Developing Mind, psychiatrist and attachment researcher Daniel Siegel provides the evidence that demonstrates how “we can actually focus our minds in a way that changes the structure and function of the brain throughout our lives.”
The Mindful Brain is an astounding achievement, integrating Siegel’s own personal narrative-his first experience on a meditation retreat and the way he now integrates mindfulness meditation practice in his clinical practice-with a vast compendium of research that covers the current scientific understanding of brain function, of mind (defined by Siegel as “a process that regulates the flow of information and energy”), and of the effects of mindful awareness on both intrapersonal qualities of life (our individual sense of well-being) and interpersonal qualities of life (healthy relationships).
One quality optimized in meditation practice is attunement, which Siegel suggests is at “the heart of therapeutic change.” For those of us whose brains were not supported by good early attachment experiences, the intrapersonal attunement that we may experience in mindfulness meditation can become a corrective, actually, changing our brains. As Sarah Lazar and her colleagues at MIT have shown, mindful awareness of the breath literally thickens the self-regulatory prefrontal regions, especially the middle prefrontal cortex. These are the areas that depend for their development, according to Siegel, “upon proper experiences with caregivers,” and yet mindfulness meditation has been shown to grow these regions of the brain. As Siegel explains it, “If mindfulness is considered as a secure relationship with the self, we can then make the link that this form of internal attunement would also promote the healthy activation and subsequent growth of these same social and self-regulatory prefrontal regions.”
This book is a pleasure to read, even for the non-scientist. Siegel’s prose is graceful and at times poetic, even as he seeks to explain complex ideas. For example, one way in which he describes mindful awareness is as an upending of “top down” perception that is based on past experience. He notes how we perceive time as slowing down when we notice something out of the ordinary-a phenomena, based on an experiment designed by Tse (2005) he calls the “oddball” experience. We derive more pleasure from this noticing of the extraordinary within the ordinary. “Prior learning,” he says, “helps us become more efficient information processors.” [But prior learning also] “oppresses our raw sensory experience by muddying the waters of clear perception with prior expectation.”
Throughout, Siegel takes pleasure in creating acronyms used as mnemonic devices, all of which are redefined in a glossary in one of the appendices. Here’s a delightful example, worthy of a thirteenth century scholarly mystic-“The word coherence itself is the acronym for its own features: connected, open, harmonious, engaged, receptive, emergent, noetic, compassionate, and empathetic.” (He does define “emergent” and “noetic.”)
Siegel’s compilation and synthesis of research, philosophy and psychology offers a clear picture of the neuroscience behind effective empathic communication. He even offers the reader a transcript of a fifteen minute meditation he uses in his office, a tape of which patients can use for their own daily home practice. This book is a blueprint for sustaining a mindful awareness that promotes healthier relationships, including the one we have with ourselves. “In both mindful intrapersonal and interpersonal attunement,” says Siegel, “one mind attunes to the affective and intentional states of mind and everyone benefits.”
REVIEW by Amy Weintraub
Comes the Peace
Comes the Peace: My Journey to Forgiveness, Daja Wangchuk Meston with Clare Ansberry. New York: Free
With a the help of writer Clare Ansberry, Daja Meston tells his startling story about being the child of disaffected California youth, raised by a foster family of Tibetan Buddhists and then transferred to a monastery in Nepal where he was ordained as a monk at age six.
Daja’s memorable and moving narrative reveals the flip side of the spiritual quest–the consequences of spirituality as an escape from responsibility. In Eastern spiritual tradition, there have always been two paths–that of the householder and that of the mystic. Both are esteemed and both have their duties. As Daja describes his parents’ childhoods, we realize, as he did, that neither of them received the “good enough” parenting to enable them to understand or honor their householder duties to their child.
From early childhood, Daja felt isolated and alone, but did not understand why. At three, Daja, who had been born in Greece to American parents trekking onward toward India and Nepal, had no idea that his darker-skinned siblings and parents were not his true family. When the nice white-skinned lady in Buddhist nun’s robes came to visit, he felt special. Though he did not know her then as “mother,” he longed to be with her and never understood why he could not accompany her when she left. He had no memory of his real father, who had become psychotic and was sent home from India shortly after the family arrived at the monastery.
In his daily life as a monk, Daja was trained in compassion and meditation, but lived a life of abuse and hardship. Beaten when he forgot his lessons, sleeping in rat-infested dormitories, and ridiculed for being different, Daja grew up knowing more about suffering than any child should.
At sixteen, knowing little English and less about the Western world, having been schooled in Buddhist cosmology and little else, Daja, against his mother’s wishes comes to the US. Here, his educational deficits increase his insecurities, though he does study and eventually, with the support of a tutor, graduates from Brandeis. Along the way, he meets and marries Phuni, a Tibetan refugee whom his mother rejects. His mother rejects most of his decisions-to leave the monastery, to marry, to get an education. She feels she has offered him a true path, only to have him return to the corrupt path she abandoned. Although his mother has lived as a Buddhist nun, with the financial support of her grandmother, turning her back on the depraved values of her Hollywood family, when Daja seeks his own way, her adherence to what she perceives as her Buddhist values are so rigid that she cuts him off.
Phuni’s life is in itself worthy of a book-and one hopes she will write her own painful story of growing up in a Tibetan refugee camp in India where, despite hardship, family bonds were strong, and then being tricked into slavery by an upstanding Unitarian minister in Boston. Marrying Daja when he is nineteen and she is twenty, was a way to escape. A small part of Daja’s book is the tale of Phuni’s recovery from the traumatizing affects of the abuse within the framework of their teenage marriage.
Daja has been deprived of what the psychologists call “secure attachment,” the normal bonding that occurs and the feeling of safety that develops within a bond with a primary caretaker whose love and consistency are unwavering. So he is at first unprepared for the emotional caretaking that Phuni needs. Still schooled in the misunderstanding of Buddhist nonattachment, which is the primary lesson he learned from his mother’s abandonment, Daja cannot at first grasp the importance of safe emotional connection, despite his love for Phuni.
Daja begins to understand the true nature of family and its importance to their well-being when Phuni’s father Apa comes for an extended stay. Apa has a harmonizing influence on Daja and Phuni’s troubled daily life. If there is a hero who emerges in this conflicted tale, it is Apa. Apa provides the safe harbor both of them need. His presence gives them strength to go through the much-publicized accusation and trial of the minister, during which Phuni must testify.
Daja’s story of insecurity, alienation and sense of failure, despite his accomplishmments, cuts through the heart of what the psychologists call “secure attachment,” to reveal what happens when the earliest bonds are severed. In Daja’s case, secure attachment was denied him by a mother whose embrace of Buddhist non-attachment was misunderstood. Throughout his story, Daja’s compassion for his parents who, because of their own childhood emotional deprivations, were unable to give him what he needed, is set against his momentous insecurity. By the end of the book, he has had two years of therapy and has come to a place of understanding and forgiveness for his parents, who, with Phuni’s encouragement, he maintains closer ties than he knew as a child. This frighteningtale illustrates what can happen when emotional needs are prematurely transcended in the guise of nonattachment. In also showing how secure and loving relationships, even in later life, can begin to heal our deepest wounds, this book is ultimately redemptive.
“LifeForce Yoga® to Beat the Blues is a blending of art, science, research and Amy’s years of dedication to mastering the practice of Yoga. This is a DVD that I will enjoy, and continue to learn from, for years to come.” – Richard Miller, PhD – President, The Center of Timeless Being; author, Yoga Nidra: The Meditative Heart of Yoga
“No matter what your mood, Amy’s unique LifeForce Yoga® program will bring you balance and joy. I loved this practice!” – Lilias Folan, PBS Host; author, Lilias! Yoga Gets Better with Age
· 75 minute video (DVD) practice, led by Amy Weintraub
· 12 Programmable Chapters shot in HD
· Original music by William Chapman + Music from Krishna Das, MJ Bindu Delekta
· Includes a Study Guide booklet
· Shot on-location in Tucson, AZ by Emmy- award winning Director of Photography, Dan Duncan.
Cultivating Will: Standing Poses
Will and Willingness: Backbending Poses
Will and Surrender: Forward Bends and Twists
Surrender: Yoga Nidra
This unique DVD showcases the integrative practice of LifeForce Yoga® designed especially for mood management. Invite Amy into your home to lead you through comprehensive breathing techniques, toning, and postures to awaken your physical energy and calm your busy mind.
Shot on location in Tucson, Arizona, Amy invites practitioners into the loving embrace of the Bodhisattva of Compassion, Kwan Yin, “she who hears the cries of the world.” In the sacred space Amy creates, students begin to feel and safely experience their bodies and their emotions. The practice culminates with yoga nidra, or deep relaxation, in which participants integrate the experience and return to full wakefulness feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.
For more information and to order, please visit Amy’s web site: http://www.yogafordepression .com
McMan’s Depression and Bipolar Weekly
In his excellent on-line newsletter, editor/writer John McManamy reports on current research, particularly related to pharmaceuticals. However, he also keeps readers in the know about complementary treatments, new books and other resources. You can subscribe by emailing
International Association of Yoga Thereapists
This organization maintains a vast database of Yoga research, a library, publishes a yearly journal, and a tri annual newsletter with current research and articles. In addition, IAYT maintains a searchable online member database, which folks can use to locate a Yoga therapist/teacher in their vicinity. (They currently do not do any verification of training and experience). If you are a health professional, a Yoga teacher or therapist, or have an interest in Yoga therapeutics, I encourage you to become a member. www.iayt.org
A warm Jai Bhagwan,
LifeForce Yoga® for Depression
“Amy Weintraub’s work is some of the most important in our world today for helping humanity understand more deeply the significane of the mind-body connection. Her in-depth understanding of her subject is an important basis for personal, as well as societal transformation.” – Rama Jyoti Vernon, Founder, American Yoga College
“Amy Weintraub’s Yoga for Depression belongs in the hands of every person who expereinces depression and in the library of every therapist who works with people suffereing from depression.” – Richard C. Miller, PhD, author of Yoga Nidra: The Meditative Heart of Yoga and founding editor of The International Journal of Yoga Therapy