I can’t believe we’re already at the sixth module of the re:source yoga yoga therapy teacher training! Only one to go! This time, we looked at Meditation and Mentality. With Carina Raisman as our teacher and guide, we explored sitting meditation, restorative yoga as a meditative practice and the conscious/subconscious mind.
The weekend was focused on how to observe our thought patterns and dissociate, detatch and dissolve those patterns. In our lives, these may show up as limited beliefs or repeated behaviours that don’t serve us. In the therapeutic context, these patterns may show up as cycles of pain.
The Power of Language
We started the weekend off with an interesting exercise: writing the stories of our lives (in about 30 minutes). It might be difficult to figure out what my life story has to do with yoga therapy, or even yoga. But the exercise was an opportunity to look at the thought patterns that create my story and start to examine the language I use to tell it.
In yoga philosophy, the thought patterns that create our behaviours are known as samskaras – the individual impressions that make up our conditions. This is what creates our thought and belief systems.
During the preceding module, we practiced the fine art of listening. This was preparation for the deeper practice of listening when clients tell their story, and identifying their behavioural landscape.
In the therapeutic setting, we look at the client’s information to see the story they’re telling themselves. Our work, as therapists, is to give tools that filter into pre-existing story.
We learned how to pay careful attention to the language clients use to tell their story, and hear what it reveals and reinforces. As therapists, we see the essence behind the story, identify their skills and how they can use them to overcome their obstacles.
What we can offer are simply the tools of awareness, movement and breath. If they’re equipped with these tools, they have the power to change their behaviour, and their story. A little bit of information goes a long way – don’t have to give too much too fast.
We were also reminded to keep our own life story and opinions to ourselves. We don’t need to tell people what to do – they have the answers inside. As we’ve learned throughout this training again and again, we guide them there, ask questions to open possibilities and offer the tools that we’ve explored through our own practice and experience.
The Marvelous, Mysterious Mind
After delving into our stories, guest teacher Albert Beshak Bissada took us through an introduction to the conscious and subconscious minds. He shared a series of “mental laws” which illuminated the relationship between the thoughts and their effect on the body.
The conscious mind is where we practice discernment; the subconscious mind is where everything is an extension of itself. As Albert pointed out, our conscious, or rational, mind has become overly dominant in our culture – but this isn’t necessarily making us happier. Everything happening in the body is a reflection of a subconscious process
Yoga is a way to get people into a subconscious, or trance state, to encourage intuition and trust. Albert has a background in hypnosis, and he brought a few little techniques (namely, word repetition and syntax play) into a powerfully simple practice.
Came back to how we work with clients, powerful suggestion to imagine that they’re already healed, reinforce that reality by speaking to them as if they have no illness. Listen to how they describe their world, what words they use.
How to Make Meditation Accessible in a Therapeutic Context
It’s highly likely that the average person who comes to yoga therapy for lower back pain, digestive problems or whatever may not be interested in meditation. They may not think of it as part of a healing practice to overcome a physical ailment. So how do we work it into sessions with clients? How do even begin to approach a subject which many people may have misconceptions about?
Carina suggested that we frame the practice of meditation as “mental digestion.” She made parallels to the body’s digestive system – we get nourishment from digesting food, not from eating it. This is similar to the effect that meditation has on the nervous system.
She also suggested using metaphor and common imagery that people can relate to. We tried a simple “river meditation” in which the river represented our thoughts, emotions, experiences, and we just let them flow. She also used renovation and spring cleaning analogies, and encouraged us to find the language and analogies that clients can relate to.
The Inward Journey
Over the course of the past six months, we’ve been studying the body from the outside in. We started with anatomy, moved into physiology, immunology and breathwork. This module took us to a deeper, more internal level.
Each component of this training is a reminder that everything is interrelated. Muscles and alignment are cues for what’s happening subconsciously. There is a circular connection between the brain and the body. In the therapeutic setting, we use our tools to meet people where they are.
It’s not always a linear process. Pain may come back, conditions may worsen. But it’s not necessarily a sign that it’s not working to the person is regressing. Two steps back can be two steps deeper.