As researchers continue to study the benefits of yoga for mood disorders and serious mental illness, including schizophrenia, who is the this emerging evidence inviting to Yoga? Yes, people who suffer from these conditions. Therefore, it’s vital that yoga professionals be trained to welcome what may arise in an ordinary yoga class or private session. Most studies that look at other health conditions like cardiovascular health, diabetes, respiratory issues, cancer and MS also include instruments that measure mood, and quality of life, including general stress and insomnia. These secondary measurements are also encouraging medical professionals to refer patients to yoga or to begin to integrate aspects of yoga appropriate for a clinical setting into their own treatment plans. This means that health professionals, too, are introducing practices culled from the yoga tradition into mental health and physical treatment, so it is important that they understand the specific practices appropriate in clinical settings, the benefits and the contraindications. In this article, I am defining yoga to include breathing practices, chanting and meditation, each of which has a growing body of research to support its efficacy in mental health treatment.
There are yoga classes for special conditions that address the needs of physically challenged children and adults, but when individuals attend a class at the local studio or health club, teachers don’t usually know that someone is suffering from a serious mental illness and they may not be prepared to handle what arises, including the emotional flooding that sometimes accompanies the releases we feel on the mat or more serious episodes of mania. Many people with mood disorders prefer not to self-identify in a regular class. Now that yoga is so popular and is listed in the United States as among the top ten most sought Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) treatment, both yoga and mental health professionals need to assess how yoga is being introduced, where it is utilized, to understand the effects of various practices on these conditions, and the importance of establishing and sustaining the safe container. This includes learning practices and rituals that clear the mind’s clutter in order to connect the participant to her own intention for the session and establish a connection to her heart, her own inner resources, to the provider and to whatever sense of spirit she/he may have. Sustaining the safe container means allowing the client to lead, meeting her mood, physical ability and belief system, without trying to fix or impose the provider’s agenda for healing. It also means providing tools for self-regulation, self-empowerment and Self-led clarity, and then getting out of the way. It means giving the client full permission to adapt, adjust and accommodate and to stop the process or practice at any time. This requires reading the client’s breath, facial expression and asking for feedback throughout the session. It also means that the provider cues to direct, not global sensation, so that the client maintains a steady sense of presence and a growing sense of self-awareness with compassion. All such practices and processes are taught in the LifeForce Yoga Practitioner Training and Retreat.
The scientific validation of yoga for mental health conditions, PTSD, and addictions means more people who carry serious mental health diagnoses are seeking out and being referred to yoga classes, yoga ashrams and yoga centers.
This makes it essential that yoga and mental health professionals further their education in programs like the LifeForce Yoga Practitioner Training and that they learn to collaborate with each other. It also means that mental health consumers would benefit from seeking out professionals trained in the therapeutic aspects of yoga for mental health, and perhaps themselves enrolling in workshops and trainings specific to yoga and mental health. Whether you are a provider or a participant in the mental health system, a yoga practitioner or teacher, you may wish to consider theLifeForce Yoga Practitioner Training and Retreat that includes a certification track for yoga and health professionals.
Our next training full training is in Tucson in January, led by LifeForce Yoga Founder, Amy Weintraub, author of Yoga Skills for Therapists and Yoga for Depression, yoga educator Rose Kress, ERYT-500, LFYP-2, LFYE, Mentor, LifeForce Yoga Education Director, trauma specialist Randy Todd, LCSW, MSW, LFYP-2, and guest Ayurvedic Specialist and Yoga Therapist, Maria Mendola, MA, RN, ERYT-500.
Other options for training include a full training at Yogaville in Buckingham, Virginia and online and regional modules in Encinitas, California, Melbourne, Australia, Sivananda Ashram in the Bahamas and at Kripalu Center in Western, Massachusetts.