Using Hatha Yoga in Counseling By Robyn Brammer and Christina Ingram
Using Hatha Yoga in CounselingDevelopment of Yoga Most Hatha Yoga involves the science of posture (asana) and the science of breathing (Pranayama). One serves little purpose without the other. Every aspect of the breath serves as a role, just as every aspect of movement. Practitioners learn to focus on the stages of breathing: breathing in, the moment of retention, and breathing out.
Using Hatha Yoga in CounselingSimilarities Between Yoga and Counseling In both Yoga and Counseling, the worldview of the individual is elevated above social dictates. American and European mindfulness exercises have entered into mainstream counseling theories and techniques classes. Many of these techniques have their roots in ancient Yoga practices, but few practitioners understand the links between these disciplines. This presentation starts by addressing the history of Yoga, its introduction to the West, and the similarities/differences between contemporary counseling and ancient Yoga. Research on the physical and psychological benefits of Yoga are provided (e.g., reduced anxiety, improved healing after surgery, better balance, improved self-regulation, and increased longevity). In the second half of the class, we will demonstrate basic Hatha Yoga poses (e.g., mountain, tree, and warrior) and have four volunteers learn these poses. In the process of teaching the poses, we will discuss mindfulness and breathing techniques and demonstrate the efficacy of Yoga in regulating negative thinking and anxiety.
Using Hatha Yoga in CounselingUnique Contributions of Yoga to Counseling When psychological theories arose, they were focused on gaining insight. This cognitive process still comprises much of talk therapy in counseling. Yoga focuses on mental change through action. This is not to imply that Yoga “is” an action. Iyengar (1989) explained that yoga cannot be “done.” Iyengar (1974) has also commented on the spiritual nature of the exercise, equating inhaling with drawing strength from God and exhaling as a representation of the service people give to the world. It is a connection with self, helping people to reach a natural state of contentment and unconditional love. Despite these spiritual and mental facets, Jois (1988) commented that yoga is 99% percent practice and only 1% theory. Yoga has also provided some unique contributions to mental health. It is associated with awareness of body, flexibility/energy, and mental clarity/concentration (Schure, Christopher, & Christopher, 2008). When part of an integrated mind/body routine, students expressed having increased self-understanding and self-acceptance (Schure, Christopher, & Christopher, 2008).
Using Hatha Yoga in CounselingUnique Contributions of Yoga to Counseling continued Specifically, Yoga has been closely monitored as a tool for stress management (e.g., Milligan, 2006), and many are advocating it be taught in counseling as an example of mindfulness training (Christopher, Christopher, Dunnagan, & Schure, 2006) and counselor self-care (e.g., Valente & Marotta, 2005). These yoga benefits have resulted in better stress management for high school students (Venkataramana, Poomalil & Shobhasree, 2008), people recovering from drug/alcohol abuse (Lohman, 1999), eating disorders (Scime & Cook-Cottone, 2008), sleep quality and hormonal regulation (Vera, Manzaneque, Maldonado, Rodriguez, Morell, Blanca, et al. 2009), and countless other stress-related issues. The process is effective because it provides a way to remove unconscious, self- defeating mechanisms and also provides maintenance for continued restoration. The essence of the philosophy is to overcome the shell or façade we display to others and ourselves. Eliot (2008) provides several great metaphors for explaining this.
Using Hatha Yoga in CounselingUnique Contributions of Yoga to Counseling continuedWe can view the ego as a Halloween costume. We put it on, forget we are wearing, and learn to think of this as ourselves. When the itchy costume starts to rub us wrong, we might move it around a little or add pads to protect ourselves from it, but, ultimately, we are only healed when we accept ourselves and remove the costume. According to this, the journey of self-enlightenment is not something we choose to start. We are already on it. We must simply allow our awareness to drift beneath our present concerns and worries until we find spaciousness and peace.According to this philosophy, physical postures and their associated breathing, help align the body, mind, and spirit. Through these routines, we unlock the nadis (invisible channels that carry energy) and prana (the life-force in the body) (Eliot, 2008). We do this by allowing our minds to focus on trains of thought. Allowing allof our thoughts to flow through us until they are no longer hidden. Once known, we become aware of how some anxiety and self-judgment have directed our behaviors and tightened our bodies. Beginners are often surprised torealize that they are carrying dozens maybe even hundreds of thoughts. We look at each one and release it.
Using Hatha Yoga in CounselingThe Vinyasas (Breath Synchronized Movement)Yoga works by uniting breathing with action. The goal is to help people control their breathing, even when their body enters a state of mild stress. As Vera et al (2009) note, Yoga should never evoke pain. Movements should evoke minor tension. The depth of the strength depends entirely on feeling a challenge to the breathing. If the breathing is interrupted or cannot flow, the exercise has lost its point. In this class, where we lack mats or any way to use the floor, we will create a standing Vinyasa. (i.e., a sequential movement that interlinks postures to form acontinuous flow and breathing routine). We’ll start by taking a mental note of your stress level. Think of one or two things that have raised your anxiety over the pastweek. From here, we’ll focus on Three-Part Breathing (Dirga Pranayama) and Ocean Breath (Ujjayi Pranayama).
Using Hatha Yoga in CounselingThe Vinyasas (Breath Synchronized Movement) continued For our class, we will run through the following routine: (Images may be found on http://www.yogajournal.com/poses/sequence_builder) • Kumbhaka Pranayama - Breath Retention • Tadasana - Mountain Pose • Urdhva Hastasana - Upward Salute • Standing side stretch Right and left • Ardha Uttanasana - Standing Half Forward Bend • Uttanasana - Standing Forward Bend • Virabhadrasana I - Warrior I Pose • Virabhadrasana II - Warrior II Pose • Utkatasana - Chair Pose • Urdhva Hastasana - Upward Salute
Using Hatha Yoga in CounselingThe Vinyasas (Breath Synchronized Movement) continued • Blown Palm pose • Urdhva Hastasana - Upward Salute • Uttanasana - Standing Forward Bend (Complete below on Right side) • Utthita Trikonasana - Extended Triangle Pose • Utthita Parsvakonasana - Extended Side Angle Pose • Parivrtta Trikonasana - Revolved Triangle Pose • High Lunge, Variation • Anjaneyasana - Low Lunge • Intense Side Stretch Pose - • Virabhadrasana III - Warrior III Pose • Ardha Chandrasana - Half Moon Pose
Using Hatha Yoga in CounselingThe Vinyasas (Breath Synchronized Movement) continued • Urdhva Prasarita Eka Padasana - Standing Split • Prasarita Padottanasana - Wide-Legged Forward Bend (Repeat above on left side) • Vrksasana - Tree Pose • dandayamana yoga mudrasana – Standing Yoga Seal • Padangusthasana - Big Toe Pose • Utthita Hasta Padangustasana - Extended Hand-To-Big-Toe Pose • Garudasana - Eagle Pose • Easy Pose (Sukhasana)
Using Hatha Yoga in Counseling Comments by Jenifer Head It is really important to listen to your body if you attempt any of these yogapostures. The ego, or the lower-case self where all suffering arises from, will oftenpush the yoga practitioner to do poses they are not ready for. So, please, listen toyour body and what it is telling you. To find a demonstration of the poses listed in this Power Point Presentation, visit www.yogajournal.com or www.youtube.com and type in the sanskrit name of the pose. You can also contact me at 832-289-8414 if you have any questions or would like a free yoga class.