Bringing the movement into therapy through yoga

I have found the practise of yoga to be a powerful accompaniment to verbal forms of psychodynamic therapy and have experienced it as offering an accessible way of bringing movement and embodied understanding into the world of words that therapy can often be.

In psychodynamic therapy what is on the mind in the present moment is brought into the space and past experiences are explored within this context. Within the same space, the growing relationship between the client and therapist plays it’s own unique and important role in understanding what is arising in the session. Both the past and the relationship between client and therapist are delved into only so much as they shed light on what is happening in the present. The space between client and therapist is a unique and creative space, built on a foundation of trust, safety and clear boundaries.

Therapy can involve moments of confusion, frustration, anger, sadness, relief and clarity, upon the understanding that a situation or person from a past experience is impacting us now and influencing how we treat ourselves and how we relate to others in the present day.

It can feel like a veil has been lifted on an aspect of our life, revealing the unhelpful patterns of behavior we have cultivated towards others and ourselves. Such exploration can demand of us courage and hard work. We can leave a therapy session feeling listened to yet exhausted, confused and overflowing with thoughts. At other times we can feel energised, lighter, understood and that something within us has shifted.

The time directly after a therapy session can be an important time in which to listen to what we need to give ourselves the most. Time alone to sit, lay our head down, write something, have a cup of tea or simply walk slowly to where we need to be next, can all be wonderfully supportive.

It is here, when the therapy session has ended, that yoga can be an incredibly beneficial and nourishing tool to turn to. Yoga by its very nature, offers an opportunity to embody and process information in a healthy way.

Yoga is described in the ancient Sutras of Patanjali, as a path towards cleansing the five veils surrounding the true self, a true self that can get lost in a sea of life experiences, opinions and expectations. The imagery of once clear and bright veils, growing murky over the years, brings to my mind how easily we can lose sight of who we are, aside from that which our external world informs us that we are. Our internal world we find home in less often and our unique light beneath veils gets harder to see.

Indeed I have found that when therapy lifts the veil on life and brings us to a better understanding of ourselves, yoga can then move us into our body, where we can shift from understanding into a place of letting go of whatever we can now see that we do not need in our life.

In yoga, as we sit in stillness and silence at the beginning of our practice, we use our breath to begin connecting body to mind. We create within ourselves a safe, non- judgmental space to bring to mind that which is most challenging us, be it a person, situation or experience. As we tune into our internal world, being guided by a teacher can be extremely supportive and inspiring, as we learn how to meditate with compassion, patience and reverence towards ourselves.

As we move our body into deeply opening poses, we also invite the mind to be more open, and as we twist and untwist, invert and balance, we encourage ourselves to see something or someone from an alternative perspective. What was explored and understood through therapy can find a place to be observed without judgment in yoga. Over time, we can find the practise of yoga supporting us more and more in seeing clearly that which is no longer serving us. Upon understanding ourselves better through therapy we then get to move out our bodies and move out what we no longer choose for ourselves.

Each time we take to our yoga mat, no matter where we are at, we move at our own pace, closer and closer to making peace with that person, situation or experience; we get to make peace with ourselves. The veil that was bravely lifted can be released, made clearer, though which our true self can shine brightly.