Q&A Series: Yoga Therapy

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In our Q&A series we’ve unpacked the paleo diet, the gluten-free diet, and cleanses. This week, Kayla Walker, MFT Intern, spoke with Kelly Schauermann, CPRYT & Yoga Intructor, to learn about yoga therapy and Kelly’s upcoming “Seasons of Life, Reaping + Harvesting: Acknowledging Growth” workshop.

Kayla: You are a Certified Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapist. What exactly is yoga therapy?

Kelly: It’s a way to experience how the mind and the body work together through assisted stretches and client centered dialogue. In short, I move you through stretches, ask you, “what’s happening now?” and you respond with whatever comes up. I may reflect back to you your OWN words, so that you have the opportunity to really hear what’s happening when you’re in postures. Each session begins with a centering time to connect with your breath, body, mind and spirit, and ends with a time to integrate everything you noticed from your session by creating some tangible steps to take your newfound wisdom off the mat and into your daily life.

My intention with yoga therapy is to create a safe space for people to listen to their bodies and notice what they feel, to explore their stories, and to listen to themselves without judgement, and to be heard without judgement. Creating a safe space free of judgement is important because it’s not often you have that space to be witnessed. It’s key to have that safety and to connect it with body movement, especially for those who have felt unsafe in the past, or experienced trauma. In that way, it’s an extension of talk therapy—there is so much that someone can explore and experience when they engage their bodies.

Kayla: Who can benefit from yoga therapy?

Kelly: Anyone who feels physically and emotionally ready to experience bodywork can benefit. Working with your body can be a very vulnerable space, especially for someone who has experienced trauma or has food and body issues. Usually, if someone is referred to me by a therapist, I trust that they are ready, but if someone isn’t sure if they’re ready to receive a session, then I encourage them to contact me and/or their current therapist to discuss if they are ready to try yoga and/or yoga therapy. You don’t need any exercise or yoga experience to practice with me.

Kayla: What is “Phoenix Rising?”

Kelly: “Phoenix Rising” refers to my training facility. There are different styles of yoga therapy, some are more prescriptive and specifically address physical ailments, along the lines of physical therapy but emphasizing yoga postures. My training with Phoenix Rising focuses more on a psychological level.

Instead of being prescriptive, I am trained to meet people where they are at, to listen to them, to watch their breath and the way they move, then guide the session from there. It’s a very organic process.I never assume I know how someone feels physically or emotionally. I use the dialogue piece to get an idea of what THEY are thinking and feeling, not just what I think they are feeling. Dialogue is one of the main differences between Phoenix Rising and other forms of bodywork and yoga. By giving a client space to speak freely about their experience, they can feel empowered and known.

Kayla: That sounds very different from a yoga class…

Kelly: It’s not like a class where I would have a set routine or flow of postures. Each session is different. I have no plan going in, instead each session is influenced by the dialogue and where the client is. If the person feels safe with physical touch, I incorporate light, safe touch to assist with movements and stretches, but if not, that’s okay, I can work without touch. I use a large futon mat instead of a yoga mat and many props like blankets, bolsters and blocks, to better support the clients body in longer held stretches.

Kayla: Your “Seasons of Life” yoga workshop is coming up this Saturday. Would you tell me a little bit about that?

Kelly: I’ve been working on a series of workshops this year in which I use the seasons as a reflection of our own life journeys. I think our bodies and our whole disposition can reflect the same thing the seasons do. For example, spring is a time of a lot of movement, change, growth and rebirth, so I designed a workshop around stretches and postures that help participants feel the movement and changes in their own body, as well as notice what’s emerging and growing in their own
lives.

Our bodies are such a reflection of what we feel and need on an emotional level, and these workshops help bring awareness to how we can awaken those deeper parts of ourselves. Following time of safe movement, participants have had an opportunity to journal about what they learned and even do some creative drawing or light crafting to express what it is they wanted for the 2013 year.

For the upcoming workshop, we’ll be focusing on the transition from summer to fall. Fall is also full of energy, with school starting and the big shift from warm weather to cool weather, harvesting plants and falling leaves. It’s a time to prepare for the more inward nature of Winter. So we’ll be doing a mix of stretches, postures and movements that reflect those transitions, and focus on bringing together what they’ve learned through the year thus far.

Kayla: What would you like people to know about your work as a yoga therapist?

Kelly: I want people to understand that my work isn’t about religion or pushing beliefs or philosophy on anyone. I think the idea of yoga can send up red flags in the faith community—some people are okay with it, but others seem uncomfortable with the idea of yoga practice. Yoga doesn’t have to be a spiritual practice, but it can be depending on the person doing it and if he/she wants to incorporate his/her beliefs. It’s personal.

I’m not about preaching or telling people how they should be or should think. I want people to feel safe to explore that for themselves regardless of their faith background. What’s most important is that people are learning to connect with themselves on all levels, not just physical, not just mental, not just spiritual. It’s a whole practice, and one that can be so rich with wisdom.

Thanks for reading our Q&A on Yoga!  What additional questions do you have about yoga as a support to healing and wellness?  Have you found yoga helpful in your own healing process?  We would love to hear from you and let us know any additional questions you have about yoga for future a furture Q&A post. 

Warmly – Kayla and Kelly

PS – We still have some space at this Saturday’s workshop.  You can register here.  We hope to see you soon!

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Stretch (and Breathe) Into Your Comfort Zone

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In three weeks, will host the third installment of our Seasons of Life Workshop series. I often joke and say once the month of September has finished the year is done! Time seems to go into warp speed with holidays, school activities, work, and celebrations. This lovely workshop led by our Yoga Coordinator, Kelly Schauermann, will help ground you as you kick off your fall season.

Who should register?

This workshop is for anyone who desires a couple of hours of peace, reflection, connection, and rest.

Why should you attend?

It is valuable to look back and reflect on what you have learned so far this year.  This workshop will help you focus on how you can harvest and implement this new knowledge as you turn the corner into a fast-paced fall season.

What makes this workshop unique?

The tools used in the Seasons of Life yoga workshop are gentle stretches and beginner yoga poses, small group and personally focused reflections, mindful breathing, and journal writing. Participants can enjoy a warm cup of tea or a refreshing glass of water and snacks after the workshop.  Those who attend will also receive personal support from Kelly, who is an incredibly experienced and skilled instructor passionate about ensuring every participant feels safe and comfortable.  She often adds special touches to each of her workshops, customized to those participating.

What should you bring?

Please bring your own mat, blankets and any supportive props you may use if you have a yoga or stretching practice. And if you do not have a mat or props, no problem! Just let Kelly know as she has a few extras for you to use.

Make sure to register soon since there are limited spots available. Also, the final installment in our Seasons Of Life Workshop in November is open for registration, so you can guarantee your space now by clicking here.

And for every workshop you register for in the month of August, you receive one entry to win a $100 gift card to Anthropologie.  Fun!

Questions?  Contact Kelly at kelly@potentiatherapy.com

Breathing Deeply and Exhaling Slowly (at least trying really hard to do this more often!) –

Rebecca

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Yoga Buzz Words Part 1: Grounding

kelly_web1Recently, our team was talking about the lingo of all of our various professions and how distancing it can be to those who are not in the loop of our profession’s vocabulary.  For me, this is especially true for the world of Yoga.  Potentia’s Yoga Coordinator, Kelly Schauermann, has taken on the challenge of breaking down the vocabulary of the yoga world in this first part of her series, “Yoga Buzz Words”.  And to experience Kelly’s grounding gifts as a teacher, register here for Kelly’s upcoming yoga workshop on May 18th, 2013.  

“And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”        -J.K. Rowling

Wanderlust, angst, confusion.

Ever felt those emotions? I have. And when I do, there’s a sense of just wanting to be still, to have everything stop, and feel balanced again.

The one word that quickly sums up all those things I wanted in my moment of peril is GROUNDED.

Of all the yoga words that fly about incense laden studios, grounded is the first that comes to mind, and appropriately so, as it is the beginning, the postures we commonly practice early in our classes.

How many times have you heard an instructor, or anyone for that matter, say to ground yourself? Have your ever just thought, ‘What the heck does that mean?’ Well, I have. I mean, it’s obvious that it has something to do with the big mass of dirt underneath our feet, but is there something more? I can easily get on the floor and lay down, and take a nap. Is that what it means?

The answer is, yes…and no.

Yoga lingo is confusing to many because it has this enigmatic quality, like we all walk onto the mat thinking we’re supposed to have some transcendent experience because we put our hands at our hearts and say,”Namaste” (I’ll address “namaste” in a separate post). And it’s somewhat true that there’s deeper meaning beyond just the physical postures, but how often do you get that explanation in a 60 minute Flow class? Pretty much, never. So, I’m here to demystify.

When I researched the dictionary definition of grounded, they all referenced something having to do with boats, shores and beaches. Essentially, the dictionary defines grounded as being stuck somewhere, mainly that of being stuck to a solid mass of land, far away from technology and people. It sounds kinda lonely, if you ask me.

I thought about this…and thought. And it hit me, that’s kind of what being grounded is: being anchored to something solid, that solid thing being who you are at your core, no matter how pretty, or ugly that core is. It doesn’t involve anyone else but you.

In that way, it’s kind of like being at rock bottom.

Typically, rock bottom is associated with being in a place where we’ve been stripped of all our distractions and fillers, left with nothing but the truth of who we are. It’s sobering and very real. It’s solid, like the earth. It’s not a place of feeling free and flowing and all hippie like.

It’s just who we are. No one else.

In my own experience, and in the countless sessions, classes and conversations I’ve had with those around me, I’ve found that people start feeling the most grounded and connected with themselves when they are at rock bottom.

Even the term “rock bottom” conjures up an image of being literally on the ground.

Rock bottom also tends to have a negative connotation in our society.  But what if we shifted our thinking and recognized it as a place to start over, a new foundation from which to anchor ourselves and start sailing again?

So, are you ready to experience this IN your body?

Try this GROUNDING EXERCISE:

  • Find a quiet place with a solid surface to rest on. Yoga mat optional.
  • From seated on your knees, bring your forehead to the ground, and rest your arms along side your legs. This is embryo pose (a beginning place). 

Embryo Pose

  • Observe you breath. Can you breathe easily? Is it hard to breathe?
  • Observe your mind. Are your thoughts racing? Do you feel self conscious? Do you feel emotional? What emotions?
  • If you’re being really honest with yourself, right now, what is happening? What are you feeling?
  • Take as much time here as you need, then slowly rise to a seat, take a deep breath, and open your eyes. Journaling optional.

If you’ve ever been in a yoga class and heard this described as a “grounding posture”, here is why: it literally brings you to the ground, in towards yourself, away from distractions. It anchors you to the space that’s right beneath you on your mat.

Being connected physically to the earth mirrors the connection to the core of who you are.

To be grounded does not necessarily mean you’re going to have it all figured out. It doesn’t mean your going to turn into Kathryn Budig and start doing some crazy inversion, naked, with nothing but Toe Sox on (no offense to Kathryn, as she is amazing and I follow her, but that’s her practice…not mine). It doesn’t mean you’ll walk out of the room enlightened, happy or sad.

What it does mean is that you’re consciously choosing to hit the restart button. It’s about having a strong sense of who you are, regardless of who you are.

It can be unnerving sometimes, being left with just you, but it is You.

So, hang out for a bit and see what lives in the space you are.

– Kelly Schauermann

Kelly is the founder of beulahwellness.com, CPRYT, Yoga Coordinator at Potentia Family Therapy, Inc and Yoga Teacher at Core Power
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