Dr. Heather Violante, PsyD
How Therapeutic Yoga Can Improve Your Emotional Well-Being
In general, yoga has been found to improve physical fitness, flexibility, balance, strength, sleep, attention, and cognitive functioning. Yoga in a therapeutic setting is different from mainstream yoga in that it moves away from the goal of physical fitness, exercise, core strength, and physical flexibility, and focuses on our emotional well-being.
Therapeutic yoga for emotional healing is used as a supplemental treatment to traditional psychotherapy. It’s a process that includes a mindful, “here-and-now” approach to enhance your concentration and energy while nurturing hope, acceptance, and self-forgiveness.
Using yoga in a therapeutic setting teaches you how to become comfortable with the uncomfortable when dealing with typical daily stress to a major crisis.
Research has shown that yoga can reduce cortisol levels (a stress hormone) in our bodies, which subsequently strengthens our immune system. It helps us learn how to create rhythms in our bodies, increase our sense of empowerment, provide us with the ability to choose and listen to our bodies instead of the chatter in our heads, react to conflict or challenges with stability and purpose instead of impulsivity, and broaden our window of tolerance when dealing with emotional discomfort or pain.
Therapeutic yoga gives us the ability to see a broader picture of ourselves instead of getting caught up in the ruminations of the past and the anticipations of the future that tend to heighten our anxieties, fears, depression, anger, and resentments. There are no expectations for how you should feel, what you should be experiencing, or how you should be changing. Whatever you are experiencing in the moment is what you nurture since this process is all about honoring your body and it’s needs.
Therapeutic yoga can help with a variety of mental health issues, whether you have a diagnosis or not. If you are struggling with the stress of everyday life, or have chronic mental illness, yoga for emotional healing can help.
YOGA FOR MANAGING DEPRESSION
Therapeutic yoga for emotional healing teaches you to love your body exactly where it’s at to improve self-esteem, self-forgiveness, and self-love. Therapeutic yoga teaches you to read your body and trust your inner wisdom, so you can gain back a sense of control and be able to better regulate your emotions. You’ll work through feelings of shame and self-doubt that might feed into depression.
Although it’s not wrong or bad to feel sadness, grief, or depression, it’s important we don’t let these emotions control our behavior and thoughts. We can still feel a full range of emotions while staying mindful and present.
Using yoga postures and breathwork in a therapeutic setting can assist you with grounding – meaning achieving a sense of emotional balance or stability. It encourages you to connect with yourself, and find a broader way to channel out internal chatter or negative thoughts that can be difficult to tune out. That dark cloud over your mind will be lifted, and you’ll get you back in touch with yourself and your surroundings in the present rather than reliving the regrets of the past. You’ll stop living in the past and start being present, bringing back your awareness to now, not what was.
YOGA FOR REDUCING ANXIETY
Therapeutic yoga for emotional healing helps you bring awareness inwards to your body, so you can become more in tune with what your body is telling you. When you are experiencing anxiety, therapeutic yoga for emotional healing can help you remove the angst and edge, and let go of what you’re holding on to – whether it’s worrying about the future or trying to be in control.
You learn how to move on more quickly from anxious moments or prevent panic attacks through increasing self-awareness. You’ll be able to let go of the anxious moment by learning how to tell when an anxiety attack is coming on, acknowledging your feelings (because feeling anxious at times can be acceptable and valid), and then allowing these feelings to pass without judgment or further angst.
You’ll understand that anxiety attacks are temporary, and once they’re gone, they’re gone. Through yoga, you’ll begin to understand that the present moment is what is real – not the past or the future. With this understanding, you’ll be able to find a sense of peace, clarity, and interpret situations rationally, rather than feeling doomed and worrying about the “what ifs.”
Therapeutic yoga postures and breathwork allow you to redirect your focus to your body and the present. You’ll move your attention away from the mental chatter and ruminative thoughts by shifting the energy level down so you can find peace and tranquility. Yoga for emotional healing trains you to be more forgiving and kind to yourself, and empowers you to strengthen the positive parts of your life.
YOGA FOR RECOVERING FROM ADDICTION
If you are struggling with a drug or alcohol addiction, therapeutic yoga can help you live a sober and productive life. The primary goal for using yoga in substance abuse treatment is to teach you how to tolerate minor emotional discomfort without becoming easily triggered or overwhelmed. By building distress tolerance, you’ll be able to eliminate harmful or addictive behaviors, choose healthier options, set more attainable expectations, and increase access to self-care.
A therapeutic yoga practice for emotional healing always incorporates grounding to assist you with finding a steady mind-body connection and building self-trust through yoga postures and breathwork. It immediately connects you with the present moment and help you regain your mental focus. However, grounding can be challenging and often an uncomfortable experience, especially for those struggling with addiction, because many people who struggle with addiction are trying to escape the present moment and their current feelings or discomfort.
Therapeutic yoga requires that you stay in the present moment by sitting with yourself and your thoughts without external distractions. When grounded, you give yourself the opportunity to listen to the needs of your body and learn to rely on your own inner wisdom to promote self-trust. If you are more attuned to your body without judgment and become more self-aware then you learn to stop fearing your feelings, start understanding what your feelings mean, and stop avoiding or seeking escape in your life.
As a result, you can learn to intervene early using learned coping skills to prevent panic attacks, anger outbursts, or even relapses by relying on your own self rather than on external factors. This is a skill with which many people struggle, but it is also a skill that is crucial in emotional healing and treating addiction.
LEARN TO LOVE AND TRUST YOURSELF WITH THERAPEUTIC YOGA
Overall, therapeutic yoga promotes self-care and self-worth, and teaches you to start doing things for yourself that create positive outcomes. It enhances your own sense of self-empowerment as you begin to trust your own inner wisdom and knowledge, rather than relying on external validation or substances or even patterns of avoidance.
Yoga promotes new ways of thinking about yourself, the environment, and the relationship between the two. The ultimate goal is to help you become more grounded and emotionally stable not only during sessions, but in your own personal life off the mat, which is shown through making healthy life choices that nurture your mind, body, and soul.
herapy can provide you with the coping tools you need to effectively manage your life. If you need one-on-one support and would like to inquire or learn more about therapeutic yoga and how it can be incorporated in your mental health treatment, contact Dr. Heather Violante, Psy.D. today at 954.391.5305 or at her website to find out how she can help you improve your emotional wellness and guide you on your pathway to new beginnings.
Dr. Heather Violante is a licensed psychologist and founder of Serenity Lane Psychological Services. She is a certified vinyasa yoga instructor and additionally certified in using therapeutic yoga techniques for emotional healing. She specializes in helping adults struggling with drug and alcohol addiction, stress, anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder.