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!