Yoga weekend focuses on mood improvement, by Susan Van Dongen
When Amy Weintraub, director of the LifeForce Yoga Healing Institute and author of the bestselling Yoga for Depression (Broadway Books, 2004) took her first course in teaching yoga, she had no intention of becoming a teacher herself, let alone one of the pioneers in merging the practice of yoga with treatment for mental and emotional illness.
”I only wanted to deepen my own practice,” Ms. Weintraub says. “But then I got hot to teach and wanted to share what had changed my life. It’s been a completely organic experience. My first article (on utilizing yoga to combat depression) was published in 1999, then in 2004 ‘Yoga For Depression’ was published and it’s been one thing after another. I’ve never had a five-year plan, I’m just responding to the call, to the need, from a place of passion.”
Ms. Weintraub, who also has authored the ground-breaking book Yoga Skills for Therapists: Effective Practices for Mood Management (W.W. Norton, 2012), will be returning to the Princeton Center for Yoga and Health to lead the workshop Mood Management: Be More Than Your Mood with Yoga, Sept. 21-Sept. 23. Participants can choose to take part in the weekend-long event, or just come Friday evening (Sept. 21) for an introduction. This workshop is suitable for multilevel practitioners, no experience is necessary.
At the PCYH workshop, participants will learn strategies that can help alleviate both depression and anxiety, and methods to safely release chronically held tension and repressed emotion in the physical and emotional body.
Ms. Weintraub will guide participants through a menu of yoga practices to break through mood issues and disorders, “. . . whatever blocks you from remembering who you truly are,” she says, asserting that beneath our aches, pains and shifting moods, we are bliss.
Speaking from her summer base near the coast of Rhode Island, Ms. Weintraub reflects that her teachings still address depression, but she is shifting more of her work to focus on anxiety, which she believes is being ramped up by everything from a gloomy economy to climate change.
”Everyone feels moments of anxiety, being overwhelmed with what’s going on in the world, or their own lives,” she says. “We all have a low level of anxiety, in fact, it’s a default mechanism (for humans), we’re born with it, we need it to survive in the wild. But more and more, I see a lot of people coming (to yoga workshops) with anxiety-based depression.”
”We still do energizing practices, but I like to emphasize soothing, calming practices since there’s so much anxiety,” Ms. Weintraub explains. “We’re also working more with trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder – people with PTSD need a lot of soothing practices.”
For thousands of years, yogis have understood what current research in neurobiology and clinical observations are demonstrating, that emotion, particularly traumatizing emotion, is stored in the physical body. Yoga has been shown to be an effective treatment for anxiety-based mood disorders, such as PTSD, as well as depression.
Ms. Weintraub’s LifeForce Yoga interweaves the power of an ancient discipline with current scientific findings. Neurobiologists are now saying that our reactions to life are patterned by our earliest, preverbal experiences. The forgotten emotion that accompanied those experiences can be stored in our bodies for years.
”It’s no surprise that in our earliest years, our preverbal stage, we establish neuronal patterns by our relationships with caregivers,” she says. “We learn how to love, who to love, even whether we can love or not. It’s all preprogrammed, and a lot of that is not only in the brain patterns, but in the constrictive patterns in the body.”
”Take fear, for example,” Ms. Weintraub adds. “With fear, we might constrict, our bellies can tighten. We forget about it intellectually, but it’s (established unconsciously) in the muscular structure of the body. Yoga can address these physical constrictions. Sometimes on the yoga mat, you’ll have someone breaking into tears, and that’s about letting go. When you’re touched deeply, tears arrive and you clear the space a little, creating a window into the present moment.”
Ms. Weintraub was once an award-winning television producer, suffering from a depression so severe she was cognitively impaired. ”I couldn’t put two shoes in a shoe box or fold a folding chair,” she says. That changed in 1989 when she began a daily yoga practice. Within nine months she was able to withdraw from antidepressant medication that her psychiatrist had said she would likely need for the rest of her life. Since becoming a yoga teacher in 1992, Ms. Weintraub has been passionate about sharing the techniques that helped her recover with others, both through her teaching and her writing.
She now trains health and yoga professionals at notable national and international venues and offers workshops for every day practitioners. The LifeForce Yoga protocol is being used in residential treatment centers, hospitals and by health care providers around the world. In addition, Ms. Weintraub is involved in ongoing research on the effects of yoga on mood, and has produced an award-winning library of evidence-based yoga and meditation CDs and DVDs for mood management. She edits a newsletter that includes current research, news and media reviews on yoga and mental health.
”I believe workshop participants will leave feeling refreshed, renewed, and excited about their home practice with new tools to work with their mood,” she says. “In addition, psychotherapists and yoga teachers will learn techniques they can use to help their clients focus, relax, and have greater access to their feelings.”
”We’re creating a space for the larger awakening of all that is arriving,” Ms. Weintraub adds. “When you’re less constricted, you’re less apt to act in old programmed or patterned ways. You can see the old ‘blue prints,’ and you’re becoming more self aware. We’re changing your biochemistry and neuronal patternings, evolving emotionally, physically, mentally, and psychically.”
Yoga for Mood Management; Be More than Your Mood With Yoga, weekend seminar led by Amy Weintraub, at the Princeton Center for Yoga and Health, 88 Orchard Rd., Suite 6, Skillman, Sept. 21- Sept. 23; Fri. Sept. 21, 7-9 p.m.; Sat. Sept. 22, 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. and 2-5 p.m.; Sunday, 9 a.m. to noon. $295. Introduction only, Sept. 21, 7-9 p.m., $45. PCYH members, employees and LifeForce Yoga Practitioners receive a 10 percent discount for any or all programs. The introduction is included in the price of the weekend. Ms. Weintraub’s books, CDs and DVDs will be available at the workshop. 609-924-7294. www.princetonyoga.com
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