LifeForce Yoga® for Depression Research & News
From Amy Weintraub, MFA, E-RYT (500),
author, Yoga for Depression (Broadway Books)
Dear Friends, Colleagues & Students,
It is only to the extent that we expose ourselves
To that which annihilates
That we discover within ourselves
That which is indestructible.
Sometimes we need to stand in the fire, facing the burning bush within, in order to know the truth of who we really are. The practices we do on the mat and on the meditation cushion allow us, with equal parts of equanimity and self-awareness, to dance like Nataraja (dancing Shiva), in the ring of fire, burning away what is no longer necessary in our lives.
How often do you find yourself clinging to relationships or ideas or old stories about your life or outmoded strategies for getting what you want? It’s the clinging that becomes the real source of the suffering. When you can observe, with compassion, those relationships, ideas, stories or strategies, you free yourself from their grip. Yoga, when practiced with attention to breath and sensation, cultivates that observing mind, so that we may find ourselves finally facing that which we fear will annihilate, only to discover that which is eternal and indestructible.
If this doesn’t sound like a prescription for happiness, well, it isn’t. And it is. What I’m talking about here are not yogic strategies for feeling good, like pranayama and kriya practices or meditation techniques. I’m talking about the darkness that may be exposed when we do these practices. Sometimes when the layers of protection in which we’ve armored ourselves begin to dissolve, we feel more—both joy and pain. Over and over with my students and in my own explorations on the mat, I have seen that if we can invite the darker emotions “in for tea” as my mentor Richard Miller would say, we can begin to free ourselves of their power over us. “When you invite your depression in for tea,” says Richard, “you will discover that you are not the depression, but the one who welcomes it in for tea.”
Ultimately, this work is a prescription for happiness. But we may first have to annihilate that which is false and no longer serving us, a sometimes painful but always rewarding process, to arrive at the eternal and indestructible truth that we are whole and perfect, just as we are. To truly believe that, as my friend Stephen Cope says, “Everything is already okay.”
Welcome to the 9th issue of LifeForce Yoga® for Depression News!
In this issue, we’ll be reporting current research and news of interest about yoga and mental health. You can see the schedule of events and workshops and trainings that I’ll be offering this fall, and I’ll tell you briefly about three books that have inspired me this summer. Please feel free to share this information with your friends, colleagues, clients and students.
NEWS: NASW-AZ approval
for LifeForce Yoga® Tucson Retreat & Training
After last year’s successful January Retreat & Training in Tucson, we were able to quickly receive NASW approval for 20 CEU’s, which means that in addition to social workers, the Arizona Licensing Board will also grant continuing education credit for counselors and other mental health professionals.
In addition, this year’s retreat offers 42 hours of direct contact instruction credit with Yoga Alliance.
Sign up for the January retreat and Training in Tucson has begun, and there are only a handful of private rooms left, although we still have plenty of doubles.
For more information, you can read the brochure on- line and sign-up that way as well by visiting www.yogafordepression.com If you have questions about the retreat, please write or call LifeForce Yoga® Program Manager, Rose Kress at firstname.lastname@example.org or 520 349-2644.
NEWS: LifeForce Yoga® Therapy
In-depth interview with Amy On-line
Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D., conducted a thorough interview with me about LifeForce Yoga® and its application to those suffering from depression and/or anxiety. It appears in the current issue of Yoga Therapy in Practice, the quarterly publication of the International Association of Yoga Therapists. You can read it on line by clicking on the following link. http://www.iayt.org/publications/ytip/au g06/weintraub.htm
NEWS: Stories of Transformation
Share Your Yoga Story
I’m adding my story of how yoga changed my life to an upcoming, fundraising book meant to inspire new and experienced yogis alike, and you can too. Please visit the website for “Stories from the Yogic Heart” at http:/ /www.yogastories.net/guidelines/, and see sample stories and guidelines for how to add your transformational yoga story. You can choose a charity where you want your honorarium to go.
Would you like to “foster ecological consciousness, reverence and action within the yoga community”? Would you like to support the 40 Green Yoga studios and other individual yogis in their efforts to be a positive force for change in the world? Green Yoga is just two years young, but they’ve already had an impact on our community. You can help by joining as an individual member (you receive their excellent newsletter by mail and notification of events and conferences). Or, if you’re a studio, you might consider going green, along with the 40 other studios in their pilot program. The second conference on Green Yoga will take place May 18-20, 2007 in California. May 18 will focus on studios, and an extended Green Yoga Teacher Leadership Retreat will run from May 15-23. To find out more about the Green Yoga Association and to join, visit their web site: www.greenyog a.org.
RESEARCH: Yogic Breathing
Slow Pranayama Breathing and its Effects
The authors of a research paper published in Medical Hypotheses in April, 2006, propose a hypothesis that explains the physiological process of how long pranayama breathing works to decrease oxygen consumption, decrease heart rate, decrease blood pressure, as well as increase theta wave amplitude in EEG recordings, increase parasympathetic activity accompanied by the experience of alertness and reinvigoration. Voluntary slow deep breathing functionally resets the autonomic nervous system, say the authors, synchronizing neural elements in the heart, lungs, limbic system, and cortex. For more information, please see Med Hypotheses. 2006;67(3):566- 571. Epub 2006 Apr 18.
RESEARCH: Yoga and Anxiety
Yoga Intervention Reduces Anxiety
Researchers at the Integral Health Clinic (IHC) at the Department of Physiology of All India Institute of Medical Sciences were able to show significant changes, within a ten day period, in stress levels in participants in a yoga lifestyle training program. According to a study published in the Jan- March 2006 issue of the Indian Journal of Physiological Pharmacology, both state and trait anxiety were significantly reduced. Among the subjects significant improvement was seen in the anxiety levels of patients of hypertension, coronary artery disease, obesity, cervical spondylitis and those with psychiatric disorders. The training program consisted of asanas, pranayama, relaxation techniques, group support, individualized advice, and lectures and films on philosophy of yoga, the place of yoga in daily life, meditation, stress management, nutrition, and knowledge about the illness. Observations suggest that a short educational program for lifestyle modification and stress management leads to remarkable reduction in the anxiety scores within a period of 10 days.
Antidepressant Treatment and Suicide Risk: Children versus Adults
In a study published in the August, 06 issue of Archives of General Psychiatry, researchers at Columbia University in New York evaluated the risk of suicide among patients following discharge after hospitalization for depression.
Included were 263 children and adolescents who attempted suicide, and 8 who completed suicide. Corresponding numbers among adults were 621 and 86. Each case of attempted or completed suicide was matched to as many as five controls by age, sex, race or ethnicity, state of residence, date of hospital discharge, substance use disorder, recent suicide attempt, and recent treatment with psychotropic drugs other than antidepressants.
Results reinforce previous analyses that show increased suicide attempts and completed suicides among children and adolescents treated with antidepressant for depression. Adults do not appear to share this increased risk.
LifeForce Yoga® to Beat the Blues – 5 Days at Kripalu
For the first time, by popular request, I will be offering LifeForce Yoga® to Beat the Blues as a 5-day program at Kripalu. There are so many practices and space-clearing processes to lift the mood, a weekend hardly seems long enough. I’ll be leading Breathe to Beat the Blues over the weekend of September 8-10, then the 5-day program from September 10-15th. CEU’s available. For information about both programs, please visit http ://www.kripalu.org/presenter/28/
Home to Rhode Island to Teach
I began teaching yoga in Newport, Rhode Island in 1991, so it’s always fun to see old friends when I teach at All That Matters in Wakefield, RI. I’ll be teaching a new program called “Brain Changing Yoga” on September 22-23, 2006, “LifeForce Yoga® for Trauma” on Sunday morning, September 24th, and a program on LifeForce Yoga® Therapy for professionals on Sunday afternoon. For information call 401-782-2126 or visit www.allthatma tters.com
Midwest LifeForce Yoga®
Do folks in Nebraska consider Grand Rapids the Midwest? In 2006, it’s the most Midwest place I’m teaching, unless you count Pittsburgh. I’ll be teaching at Expressions of Grace Yoga on October 7-9th. For more information call 616-361- 8589 or visit www .expressionsofgraceyoga.com.
Psychotherapy Networker Symposium West
San Francisco, October 19-22, 2006
Keynoters include Mary Pipher, Dan Siegel, Jean Houston, Susan Johnson, & Sam Keen. Scheduled throughout the weekend are more than 70 workshops with other luminaries in the field of psychotherapy. I will be presenting an all-day pre-conference workshop on October 19th, and teaching morning yoga and afternoon meditation every day throughout the Symposium. www.p sychotherapynetworker.org
Texas LifeForce Yoga® to Beat the Blues
I love to teach at The Crossings in the Texas Hill Country, near Austin. I’ll be there again for a weekend program on November 3 – 5th. For more information call 877-944-3003 or visit www.thecrossingsaustin.com.
LifeForce Yoga® in Phoenix
I’ll be back in Arizona, teaching a LifeForce Yoga® workshop in Phoenix at Yoga Youphoria on Saturday, November 11th. For more information call 480 706- 5400 or visit www.www.yogayou phoria.com.
Pittsburgh LifeForce Yoga® Weekend in November
I’ll be back in Pittsburgh, where I spent my childhood, visiting family and friends and celebrating Thanksgiving. Schoolhouse Yoga is one of my favorite places to teach, and I’ll do so again November 17th – 19th. Friday, Saturday and Sunday morning are for all levels, including beginners. Sunday afternoon is a LifeForce Yoga® Therapy workshop for mental health professionals and yoga teachers. For more information, visit www.schoolhouseyoga.com/workshops
THE WISDOM OF YOGA: A Seekers Guide to Extraordinary Living by Stephen Cope (Bantam Books, 2006).
The 3rd century Indian sage Patanjali penned The Yoga Sutras, a sophisticated understanding of human psychological development and spiritual potential that was most likely the culmination of wisdom transmitted orally between teacher and student for thousands of years. Patanjali may have been the first cognitive therapist. He understood that in confronting reality directly—“a persistant, direct and authentic investigation of the experience of being human,” as Stephen Cope explains it—we have the potential to see more clearly through the fog of ignorance and to remain fully awake human beings. Although there have been many valuable commentaries of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras in the centuries since their composition, including Chip Hartranft’s, the English translation of which Cope quotes in full in an appendix at the end of this book, there is nothing quite like The Wisdom of Yoga: A Seekers Guide to Extraordinary Living. Here the focus is not on Patanjali’s text, but every idea is informed by it.
As an early editor of this work, I had the opportunity to read its evolution, draft by draft. At each sitting with his manuscript, I found new inspiration. Cope’s in-house Bantam Books editor worked with him on the final version, stripping away the inessential, so the book is infinitely readable, lucid, and inspiring.
In the Prologue, we are introduced to six contemporary seekers, including Cope himself, with whom we will travel as each one struggles with the human affliction that prevents her or him from full awakening. Throughout the book, Cope interweaves a deep understanding of Western psychology and Eastern wisdom, even as he entertains with stories that bring his characters to life in the reader’s mind. As we read how these contemporary seekers face the challenges of lives plagued by seemingly insatiable needs, we begin to understand The Yoga Sutras at the deepest, most experiential level. “Secondhand answers have no power in them,” says Cope in the Prologue. The skillful use of sometimes disturbing stories that dig deep for psychological and spiritual truth, may rock the foundations of our perceived realities. In so doing, The Wisdom of Yoga comes closer to a firsthand experience of these ancient wisdom teachings than any ordinary commentary on The Yoga Sutras.
The Wisdom of Yoga is an accessible twenty- first century classic, destined to join the centuries- long dialogue about the wisdom teachings contained in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras.
LETTING GO OF THE PERSON YOU USED TO BE: Lessons on Change, Loss, and Spiritual Transformation by Lama Surya Das (Broadway Books, 2003)
As always, the author of Awakening the Buddha Within, the classic best-selling book on living an awakened life, brings your life and mine into bas relief against the wisdom teachings of Tibetan Buddhism. Even those long on a spiritual path will find new twists and turns that open the heart and free the mind to receive lessons in leading a happier life. There is much wisdom here, beginning and ending with love. The reader taking her first baby steps onto the path, as well the seasoned yogi or meditator, will identify with Lama Surya Das’s stories of personal loss and letting go. A brilliant storyteller and lucid writer, Das offers an engaging narrative that helps heal, even as it entertains. Each Chapter suggests a practice to assist the reader on the road to letting go and “healing our wounded hearts.”
He shares his own small losses that seemed big at the time, like, when just back from India, he lost most of his clothes and his favorite saffron shirt in a Woodstock Laundromat one Saturday night, while he was down the road chanting.
He tells the story of a deep love lost, unmanifest in the world but fully alive in the heart. From this personal tale of the loss of an important relationship, he says, “I learned how to hold on tight when you can, and to let go light when you must.”
There are stories about the painful letting go in divorce and death and lessons about meeting grief and loss, without numbing out. Das looks at the hardest questions—how to stay open and trusting when you’ve been betrayed; how to be a hero in the midst of fear. “Heroes aren’t afraid of being afraid,” he says. “They don’t run from their fears.” And he reminds us that “Generosity of spirit is part of heroism; holding yourself back can impose all varieties of mind-made limitations.”
Das quotes from his teachers, from the Buddha, and from the holders of wisdom in every religion and culture—Schopenhauer, Teresa of Avila, Jewish and Christian mystics, and from ordinary people—his students, his friends and his colleagues.
When, by the end, Das tells us to “Meet each day like a renewed life,” we are more than willing to follow his lead. We trust him, because he has shared so much of his own journey to daily renewal.
NONVIOLENT COMMUNICATION: A Language of Life by Marshall B Rosenberg (Puddledancer Press, 2003) In the circles in which I travel, there has lately been a buzz about the benefits of nonviolent communication, called by its practitioners, NVC. One of the most conscious businesses I know, Yoga on High in Columbus, Ohio, was founded seven years ago by three women who continue to operate it and remain true spiritual friends, as they manage personnel and schedules and planning for future development with the use of NVC. Their success caught my attention when I taught there in April, so I bought Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life by Marshall B. Rosenberg.
Rosenberg is a clinical psychologist who travels throughout the world mediating conflict. His book is full of anecdotes about teachers and students and principals and communities and families at war with each other, who learn to communicate with greater compassion. During his years as a clinician, he studied the words we use to get what we want. He found that often those words are tinged by judgment or demand. From his studies, he cognized an approach to using language that “leads us to give from the heart, connecting us with ourselves and with each other in a way that allows our natural compassion to flourish.”
Through antecdote and exercises, Rosenberg instructs us in the four principles of NVC: 1) observe without evaluating 2) express true feeling 3) take responsibility for the feeling 4) form a specific request, using positive language. He demonstrates how these four steps help us receive what we are truly asking for from another. Most of us would like to be more conscious and compassionate in our relationships, and we have learned the value of making “I” statements and of not blaming. However NVC takes this consciousness several steps further. Rosenberg quotes the 20th Century Indian sage Krishnamurti, “Observing without evaluating is the highest form of human intelligence.” Yes, and it may be the hardest. It is true spiritual practice. I can’t tell you if it works, because it’s not a practice that can be done alone on the yoga mat. I hope to find NVC partners willing to practice with me.
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. John is working on a book about bipolar disorder. You can subscribe by emailing email@example.com and put “Subscribe” in the heading and your email address in the body. www.mcmanweb.com
International Association of Yoga Therapists 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 local area. (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 highly encourage you to become a member. www.iayt.org
Yoga for Depression
To learn move about Yoga for Depression (Broadway Books)
Blessings on recovering and maintaining your positive mental health!