Yoga has become an integral part of my therapeutic practice over the past five years. I started my personal journey with yoga over ten years ago. I often worked out and thought yoga would be a great way to get a good stretch after my work out. I recall my first yoga class at a local gym with a friend. The feelings of nervousness, agitation and thoughts of comparison were overwhelming when I could not master a pose at yoga class. I secretly wanted to be as flexible as the instructor or person next to me. My inner critic was very active in comparing me to more experienced students in the class.
I think back often to those beginning days of my yoga practice and never imagined I would one day become a yoga instructor. I just wanted to make it through a class and rush home to relax. Now, ten years later, I use yoga to help clients in my therapy practice. I found yoga not only as a tool to help others but also to help me in my own life. Yoga has multiple applications for private practice that I would never have dreamed of when I participated in the first class. I remember thinking “when will this class be over” and “why do these people keep breathing so loud”? I could not imagine how the teacher could be so relaxed.
Meditation – Yoga is an ancient form of meditation that reduces anxiety and rumination of thoughts.Through postures and breathing techniques it can significantly reduce anxiety, panic attacks and obsessive thinking. There are different breathing techniques used to deepen the level of meditation, one being Ujia breath. Ujia breath sounds similar to Darth Vader in Star Wars. It is a deep lengthening of the breath achieved by focusing on tightening the back of the throat. These breathing techniques are used in private practice to help clients with depression, anxiety and panic attacks.
Acceptance – I discovered that no matter how frequently I practiced yoga or how dedicated I became, yoga practice was never the same. I learned lifelong lessons such as dedication, commitment and acceptance from practicing yoga. I found that I could never do a pose exactly the same each time, no matter how hard I tried. I took this lesson and applied it to life; each day and moment is never the same and can never be repeated. I learned to let go of things I could not control and to accept them whether I liked it or not.
Self-Discovery- Yoga is a journey of self-discovery which I learned in my own practice of yoga. Going back to my first yoga class, I remember constantly comparing myself to others. Looking around the class at others postures, I would think “maybe I can do that if I practice long and hard enough”. I have since learned that yoga is not about the pose. I may never achieve this pose or that pose and that is part of the acceptance gained by practicing yoga.
Ten years later and I am a therapist in private practice utilizing yoga on a regular basis. I feel yoga has changed my perspective on how people heal and how I approach therapy with my clients. Integrating yoga in my therapy practice has helped clients accept themselves . I believe yoga teaches clients to enjoy the journey and let go of the destination. Yoga therapy combines mind, body and spirit in the therapeutic realm creating a unique environment for healing.
Moira Howard, LMHC, CAP, ICADC
Yoga Teacher and EMDR Therapist
Moira Howard is a Licensed Mental Health Therapist in private practice in Palm Beach County Florida. Moira assists clients in developing coping skills, which includes increasing their capacity for emotional regulation and self-acceptance. Moira is EMDR trained and a yoga teacher. Moira provides therapy to adults in her private practice and can be reached via email at MoiraHowardLMHC@gmail.com or her website at www.Counselingpalmbeach.com