Yoga Connections 2014

Deborah LubetkinDeborah E. Lubetkin, Psy.D. is a Licensed Psychologist in Montclair, NJ.  She is also a Kripalu Yoga teacher (RYT-200), and a Certified LifeForce Yoga ® Practitioner and mentor.  Deborah’s work integrates psychotherapy with LifeForce Yoga and Eastern Philosophy.

Last month I traveled to Ofakim, Israel, a small town in the South of Israel just 28 kilometers from Gaza. I joined a Greater Metrowest Federation P2G (Partnership 2Gether) program called Yoga Connections that a dear friend of mine, Leslie Gurland started 4 years ago in Essex County, New Jersey. On the trip, I volunteered to provide LifeForce Yoga to a variety of people and programs throughout this community. Our journey began only 3 months after the July-August airstrikes on Israel. Ofakim, meaning “horizons” is a community in the Negev in southern Israel that has been hard-hit by missile attacks since its formation as a development town in 1955. Close to the Gaza border, Ofakim was built to receive the large number of immigrants arriving from North Africa, and later, the Soviet Union.

I felt strongly that bringing LifeForce Yoga to this community would help to provide a resource to aid in both coping with and healing from the emotional-psychological impact of living under the threat of missile attacks after the end of Operation Protective Edge just 3 months prior to this mission. While there isn’t formal research on the incidence of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in Ofakim, there was a significant amount of self-reported trauma in both the children and adults in this community. As one woman from Kibbutz Erez, just one mile from Gaza told us, “I feel like someone should wake me up from a bad dream. I emptied my closets so if someone comes, I hide my daughters. Months later I realize I have post-trauma.”

The way that LifeForce Yoga was received by the people of Ofakim was both remarkable and inspiring, and I would like to share some of these experiences in this article.

First, a brief description of the settings in which I taught:

  • WIZO Women’s Club-women’s international Zionist organization
  • Isha Center-offers middle –aged women a variety of classes and activities
  • Alma Preparatory School for Female Leadership- Pre-Army training to help secure higher level jobs in the Army and in overall career path.
  • Youth Futures Program Trustees-like a Big Brothers program-yoga provided for the counselors-each counselor is responsible for 18 children.
  • Resilience Center-provides services to people in emergency situations teaching tools to decrease anxiety and continue their daily life in emergency situations
  • Soldiers in a specialized 2-week Army training program
  • Schools-taught 2-6th grade children

(Note that there are other settings where the group provided yoga where I did not teach: senior centers, ultra Orthodox women’s groups, special needs adults, and at-risk teens in a group home).

From my beginning preparation for this trip, I had a strong sense that there was really no way to prepare a class or have a plan. One of the things I love most about LifeForce Yoga is how deeply the practice allows me to access my intuition, whether practicing on my own at home, or teaching a class. I had no idea at all who and what would face me each day, and I relied on Amy Weintraub’s wisdom of “meeting the mood on the mat.” I was also dealing with a language barrier, and I had translators with me in most classes.

Observations:

IMG_1361All the populations I worked with received and appreciated the mantra sounds, which are part of the Lifeforce Yoga protocol. There was neither conflict nor question about the sounds being something religious. Of course, I also explained, as Amy explains, that the sounds are universal tones, often vowel sounds found in every language, often ending with the soothing sound of “mmm.” When I used longer mantras, the translators explained their meaning. For example, that ShaMaYa is a mantra of peace for the heart. In several groups, we used the Hebrew word Sh’ma instead of the Sanskrit, ShaMaYa and this really helped to create a safe container by offering the students full permission to find sounds in their own language that resonated with them. One group of girls also offered the Hebrew word, Shamayim which means “sky” or “heaven.” This was one of many moments where I welled up with tears of connection and awe, as we raised our arms into a full Sunbreath, gazing toward the sky. I invited the girls to choose any of the 3 mantra options that felt right for them. As we inhaled with a sunbreath and dove down into a forward bend using one of the 3 options, it was, as Amy suggests, “a symphony of sounds.” Sounds are clearly a universal language. By using the mantras, I didn’t need as much translated into English and this profoundly impacted the depth of the classes.

IMG_1765In my classes in the elementary schools, the sounds helped the children stay focused, and it was a way to work on clearing blocks in the energy centers without having to explain anything at all. Since the events over the summer, when sirens were going off daily, and people had to run to their safe rooms or bomb shelters, the stress level increased dramatically. As reported by a teacher on Kibbutz Erez near the Gaza border, many of the children were showing symptoms of PTSD and Acute Stress. She explained to us, “they fear going to the bathroom alone and having the door locked. I made a special signs saying STOP or GO so the children don’t have to lock the door.” Kids were sleeping in their parent’s beds, were over- or under-eating and having nightmares. I noticed as I taught in the schools that even turning one light off in the room was triggering to some of the kids. I had to keep the environment stable and not startle them. During one class, I was thinking about how to use the RAM sound, but in my head it kept sounding like sirens, so I just stayed with the gentler “Ah,” the cooling, calming tone for the 3rd Chakra at the solar plexus. Even in the Orthodox day school, both the children and teachers embraced the mantra practice openly. For example, while we practiced a Warrior Two standing flow, I led them in inhaling the arms overhead, straightening the legs, and exhaling back to Warrior 2 while “singing” …Lalalalalala.

IMG_1504On the Army base, the Officer who invited us to tour and teach a class said to me, “I have no time to cry, and when I do, I can’t.” She asked for a vigorous physical practice to “prove” to the soldiers that “yoga is a serious exercise.” I heard what she said, but also trusted intuitively that yes, I needed to give them a physical challenge, but I could do this in a way that would reach what I believed to be the higher need: that of clearing space, releasing emotional obstructions, and finding their own inner resources and sense of true self. Since they spoke English, I had more space myself, and I worked with them on understanding the dualities that always exist within each of us: the strength with the vulnerability, the joy with the anguish, the love and the loss. I integrated a lot of cueing to direct sensation throughout the class, and especially after energizing pranayama such as the Power Hara. I used the victory goddess pose with the mantra DiRiHa for personal power, having them sustain the pose for a long-hold, while at the same time finding freedom, movement, and joy in their upper body. I also offered a short Yoga Nidra during Savasana, a relaxation in a supine position. At the end of the class, the Officer came up to me and said, “I am so glad you didn’t listen to me! This is what we REALLY need.”

These are only a few of the many inspiring experiences I had with LifeForce Yoga in the community of Ofakim. LifeForce Yoga was recognized by the staff and leaders of this program as a practice that they feel is necessary for the community to have on a regular basis. So the LifeForceYoga Nidra CDs , donated by Amy Weintraub and myself to the soldiers, along with other programs in Ofakim are a beginning, a planting of some healing seeds that will one day flourish into a viable resource. With the support of Amy Weintraub, Greater Metrowest Federation P2G and Kripalu, plans are in the works to continue training yoga teachers and LifeForce Yoga practitioners who reside in Ofakim so that the community will eventually have more of their own yoga programs. Last summer, Kripalu generously provided scholarships for two school teachers from Ofakim, giving the community of Ofakim their first two certified yoga teachers. In the meantime, I set a new personal resolve (Sankalpa), which I nourish each day in my own practice. “Infinite connection breathes through me always.”

To find the appropriate level DVD that includes the mantra-based LifeForce Yoga hatha practice that Dr. Lubetkin taught in Israel, click here.

To find a LifeForce Yoga Practitioner in your area, click here.

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“In the compassionate voice of someone who definitely knows the territory of depression, Amy Weintraub presents Yoga science and personal stories, research results and poetry, and practice instructions that are genuinely interesting in this very readable book that is both comprehensive and totally inspiring.” — Sylvia Boorstein, author of That’s Funny You Don’t Look Like a Buddhist and It’s Easier Than You Think: The Buddhist Way to Happiness
“Giving my clients a strategy and permission to quiet their minds and rebalance the sympathetic nervous system has been very beneficial to them and in our work together.” — Sue Dilsworth, PhD, RYT 200, LFYP, Allendale, MI
“As a teacher of yoga, Amy Weintraub has continually reinforced my longtime belief in the strong connection of mind-body-spirit. For the past three years, I have benefited, both personally and professionally (I am a clinical social worker), from Amy's supportive and competent guidance in yoga. Because of Amy's influence, I often recommend the practice of yoga to friends and clients.” — Dory Martin, CISW, Tucson, AZ
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“Heal yourself with Yoga For Depression. I absolutely love this book and highly recommend it.” — Dharma Singh Khalsa, M.D. Author of Meditation as Medicine
“I have found the pranayama (breathing practices) especially easy to introduce in a clinical setting. Some people have benefited quickly in unexpected and transformative ways.” — Liz Brenner, LICSW, LFYP, Watertown, MA
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“As a musician living with multiple spinal deformities, I have participated in many yoga classes lead by Amy Weintraub. I see Amy’s classes as very fluid, well-structured arrangements of poses, breathing exercises and vocalizations. Amy manages to pace her sessions and her voice at just the right tempo as to add focus and confidence to the students’ efforts. The systematic progression of movements in Amy’s classes naturally engages the student to go further and further within, tapping into the wellspring of their potential.” — Léo Gosseli, musician, Prescott, AZ
“I am indebted to Amy's Yoga instruction for teaching the part of me that had trouble letting go. My wife died almost two years ago, and I am now free of grief and other destructive thought-patterns. Since practicing Yoga with Amy, my meditation practice has gone to new dimensions.” — John deCoville, systems analyst, Tucson, AZ
“I gained perspective of who I am in the world and this will change my life significantly.” — Mary Ford, artist, Southport, CT
“Amy’s teaching is enthusiastic and loving.  She guides me gently, harmoniously and confidently to a mindful state and encourages me to find my own strengths and edges.  With well-chosen language and carefully executed examples, she reminds me of my own inner healing knowledge.” — Penelope Simmons, artist, founder of Odyssey Storytelling, Tucson, AZ
“My experience in Amy’s classes for the past four years has been uplifting and powerful. I have found that the techniques she shares are powerfully effective for dispelling the dark clouds of negativity and hopelessness. But more than that, Amy brings us the ability to easily access the inner world where healing and self-understanding reside.” — Cynthia Athina Kemp Scherer, author, The Alchemy of the Desert and The Art and Technique of Using Flower Essences, Tucson, AZ
“I have been reminded that I am not on this path alone, that others are sharing the journey that sometimes seems so difficult. I have also been reminded of the importance of daily practice and I will do that. The whole program has been an incredible experience for me. Thank you!” — Lorraine Plauth, retired teacher, Voorheesville, NY
“Yoga Skills for Therapists brilliantly opens a door to the physical and spiritual layers of a client - one that therapists and counselors have been waiting to walk through. Its chapters unfold a unique and inspiring blend of ancient traditions and contemporary concerns. From a place of genuine respect, integrity and intention, Amy offers easily applied foundational yogic practices to enrich the therapeutic experience for both client and practitioner.” – Elissa Cobb, MA. Director of Programs, Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy
“In my private sessions with Amy, I learn, expand and heal, and I leave more vivid in every way. I rely on some of the exercises she teaches, throughout the day, to reenergize and rebalance.” — L.D., writer, Tucson, AZ
“A psychotherapist might spend many years studying yoga and still not achieve anything near this elegant, practical, powerful integration. The instruction — while emerging from a 4000-year-oldtradition some consider esoteric — is immediately useful for treating abroad range of mental health disorders, even for therapists with no other background in yoga. As a bonus, the book seamlessly weaves in indispensable related tools, such as imagery, self-suggestion, and mindfulness meditation. It is a fabulous resource.” — Donna Eden & David Feinstein, Ph.D., Co-authors, Energy Medicine and The Promise of Energy Psychology
“Amy offers many guidelines and solutions through yoga, to both those who suffer from depression and to yoga teachers working with them.” — Angela Farmer, internationally known master Yoga teacher
“Amy Weintraub’s work is some of the most important in our world today for helping humanity understand more deeply the significance of the mind-body connection. Her insights are inspirational for yoga teachers and all readers. 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, co-founder Yoga Journal
“Amy is a beautiful gift in my life! Her yoga offers a powerful blend of the practical and mystical. She has developed yogic solutions to many chronic health problems, and to many of the ways we habitually get stuck in our bodies and minds. Amy's yoga keeps me grounded and healthy, like the earth under my feet.” — Mary Driscoll, freelance writer and Ph.D., Southwest Institute for Research on Women, University of Arizona
“Weintraub has written…a sensitive, intelligent, painstaking exploration of the deeper psychospiritual issues that make up the complex experience of depression.” — Phil Catalfo, Yoga Journal
“Amy is a treasure. Through her gentle and affirming teaching style, she helped me establish a yoga practice that has become a most satisfying and grounding aspect of my life. I was surprised by the depth of the experience and the enduring nature of the changes I enjoy through this practice.” — CA, journalist, videographer, Tucson, AZ
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“Amy’s gentle and caring presence blends beautifully with her skillful Yoga teaching talents.  I have enjoyed attending Amy’s unique class offerings for the past 4 years now.  As a practitioner and teacher of Yoga, I find that her style of teaching creates a safe place for me to deepen my own Yoga practice, free from the competitive "striving" attitudes found all too often in Yoga classes.  I have appreciated Amy’s strong focus on acceptance and presence and always leave her classes feeling happier, lighter and more centered in my true self.” — Janine Walter, Oriental Bodywork Therapist and Teacher, Tucson, AZ
“Amy’s 7 AM yoga class was a journey from darkness to light.  On each morning of practice the route is different.  She embodies the compassion that she writes about so well.” — JS, 48, biologist and writer, Tucson, AZ
“I began a fantasy during the meditation exercise... almost as if I’d been there. It’s now an on-going work of fiction.” — Serian Strauss, Tanzania
“My life is already changed! I will use the tools I learned in my own practice and in my work. I feel safe and seen.” — Susan Andrea Weiner, MA, teacher/expressive arts facilitator, El Cerrito, CA.
“Amy is extensively trained in many schools of Yoga. This allows her to provide a wide variety of information from which the student can choose. Amy knows that what benefits a student is a unique ‘recipe.’ She is a loving and kind teacher. As a colleague, I love to attend her classes!” — K.H., Yoga Teacher, Tucson, AZ
“Research now validates what yoga adepts have claimed for thousands of years: Yoga practices profoundly affect our state of heart and mind! Drawing on her wisdom and notable expertise, Amy Weintraub guides us in bringing this ancient science of healing into clinical settings. Yoga Skills for Therapists is both practical and inspiring; it will allow you to offer the precious gifts of yoga to your clients and deepen the roots of your own practice as well.” — Tara Brach, Ph.D., author of Radical Acceptance (Bantam, 2003.)
“I have gained a softer heart, more receptive mind, and tools to enrich both personal and professional aspects of my life.” – Regina Trailweaver, LICSW, clinical social worker, Hancock, VT.
“I learned lots of ways to reduce the anxiety and depression of my patients and myself.” – Aviva Sinvany-Nubel, PhD, APN, CNSC, RN, psychotherapist, Bridgewater, N.J.
“Amy is a wonderful instructor. She is a vital and vibrant person and she kept the program flowing. Her voice was very soothing and nurturing and she created an open, safe and sacred space.” — Mary Lou Tillinger, massage therapist/rural carrier, Plainfield, CT
“I have tried a number of antidepressants and therapy to treat my chronic depression. When I began working privately with Amy, something shifted, and I saw that I could live from a place bigger and brighter than my depression. At first, I just felt better for a few hours after our work together. But after several months, I am feeling that those positive feelings — more energy, more optimistic, more flexible — are taking me through the days in between our sessions.” — KW, technical writer, Tucson, AZ
“Amy has a wonderful, powerful presence. Her energy radiated to the entire group. I feel better able to be who I am and to be compassionate toward myself in a new, loving, way.” — Suzanne Phelps-Weir, editor, Boston, MA
“I had the pleasure of experiencing several private yoga sessions with Amy Weintraub, which were for me the most profoundly healing yoga experiences I’ve had.  Amy has the gift of not only being very skillful in helping me feel supported and "held" in yoga postures physically, but, also, the ability to use words to bring me more deeply into my own inner experience. I found myself releasing emotions that had been held in my body for a long time.  After the sessions, I had the experience of being much more at home within myself and much more present to my own inner experience. This was particularly important for me since I am a body-centered therapist who specializes in helping people get in touch with emotions held in the unconscious. Amy’s work is very important in a world where so little attention is given to one’s own inner experience. I’m grateful for having had the opportunity to experience the power of yoga with Amy.” — L.F. 44, Rosen Method Bodyworker Practitioner, Florence, MA
“With a specific emphasis on managing mood, Amy’s book delivers dynamic insights and yoga-based practices that she has refined over decades of first-hand experience working with clients, students, and therapists, that relax, focus, and reduce the symptoms and causes of anxiety, depression, and stress, as well as prepare the mind and body for the integrative work of psychotherapy.” — Richard Miller, Ph.D., author, Yoga Nidra: The Meditative Heart of Yoga, President, Integrative Restoration Institute.
“I utilize the LFY techniques in both a class room setting and one-on-one environment. The skills have infused my teachings with compassion, mindfulness, and awareness.” — Kat Larsen, CYT, LFYP
“I integrate strategies like mantra tones and pranayama, but above all I invite myself and those I teach to cultivate svadhyaya, to practice self-observation without judgment.” — Barbara Sherman, RYT 200, LFYP, Tucson, AZ
“My patients can now have the same effects as many medications without having to actually take medication!” — Deborah Lubetkin, PSY.D, LFYP, West Caldwell, NJ
“Suffering from depression and chronic fatigue syndrome, I've tried medications, supplements, and many forms of traditional and nontraditional therapies without beneficial effects. While taking yoga classes with Amy at Kripalu, I noticed a definite shift in my consciousness, a reduction in stress, and an improvement in my well-being. Amy's classes have helped me to love and appreciate myself. Amy is an outstanding yoga teacher and in dealing with the fatigue and depression I experience, participation in her classes has been a real gift to my yoga practice and me.” — E. M., teacher, Lenox, MA
“In this well-written and well-researched book Amy Weintraub provides therapists with simple, easy-to-apply but powerful, breathing, meditation, and hand gesture techniques that do not require a mat or body postures. Therapists can easily incorporate these techniques into their practices without otherwise having to change what they do, and clients can use them on their own. Thank you Amy for giving us access to this ancient healing wisdom.” — Richard C. Schwartz, Ph.D., developer, Internal Family Systems Therapy, author, Introduction to the Internal Family Systems Model
“I have realized how to go deeper into myself and find what is blocking me. I now can focus and clear my mind. Keep Amy! She is fantastic. She enabled me to release and find where I need to go.” — Kathy Myers, homemaker, State College, PA.
“This workshop helped me rededicate my energies and begin to work through some of the blocks I’ve felt creatively.” — Steve Mark, college professor, New Haven, CT
“Amy Weintraub's talent as a yoga instructor is surpassed only by her ability to inspire compassion and depth in each of her student's practice.” — LuAnn Haley, attorney, Tucson, AZ
“I came hoping to learn to move past some of the obstacles blocking my creativity. Over the course of this weekend, I feel I’ve gained a certain measure of faith in myself and in my ability to change. I also had some realizations that I believe will be very helpful to me. I feel encouraged. Both the content and presentation of this program were so well-thought out that I can’t think of any way to improve it.” — Andrea Gollin, writer & editor, Miami, FL
“Yoga Skills for Therapists is the ideal resource for those who want to bring yoga practices into psychotherapy or healthcare. Weintraub, a leader in the field of yoga therapy, offers evidence-based, easy-to-introduce strategies for managing anxiety, improving mood, and relieving suffering. Helpful clinical insights and case examples emphasize safety, trust, and skillful adaptation to the individual, making it easy to apply the wisdom of yoga effectively in the therapeutic context.” — Kelly McGonigal, PhD, author, Yoga for Pain Relief, Editor-in-Chief, International Journal of Yoga Therapy
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