Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Why I Recommend Yoga to Clients


As a Multimodal Therapist, I not only look at the seven modalities that make us whole persons, but I employ therapeutic interventions that fall outside of standard “talk therapy” strategies.

One of the interventions I use is to encourage some clients to take up the practice of Yoga – specifically; Yoga styles that are gentle and incorporate measured diaphragmatic breathing as their core foundation.  The reason for this is that diaphragmatic or “belly” breathing enhances neuroplasticity, which is – after all – the key to effective psychological therapy.

 Yoga is also another form of mindfulness, which is emerging as one of the most effective therapies to help people overcome anxiety and mood disorders.  When combined with other traditional therapies, such as Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, mindfulness is extremely effective in reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression.  I’ve added Yoga to that list.

Yoga is a winning adjunct to therapy for a number of reasons;
  • It helps us reconnect to our body
  • It teaches us distress tolerance much in the same way mindful meditation does
  • It helps us supply oxygen to, [and removes carbon dioxide from] our muscles – and being that excess carbon dioxide alone can trigger panic attacks, measured breathing can reduce symptoms of anxiety
  • It lowers the stress hormone Cortisol in our body
  • It lowers Dopamine levels – too much dopamine in the limbic system has been linked to paranoia and withdrawal from social situations
  • It lowers Norepinephrine levels which can trigger a flight or fight response, raise the heart rate, raise the blood pressure, and trigger the release of excess sugar into the bloodstream
  • It raises GABA [gamma-Aminobutyric acid] levels - a neurotransmitter that inhibits the fear and anxiety caused by overactive neurons
  • It raises Serotonin levels - a neurotransmitter used both in our brain and our digestive system that keeps everything working properly 
All of these, and other physiological actions, reduce depression and anxiety, increases cognition and the ability to focus, and helps us sleep better.

A recent paper titled; “Yoga on our minds: a systematic review of yoga for neuropsychiatricdisorders”, by Meera Balasubramaniam, Shirley Telles, and P. Murali Doraiswamy explored 124 trials on the effectiveness of Yoga in treating symptoms of various mental and emotional disorders.  The study concluded that there is emerging evidence that Yoga has proven success in treating depression, sleep disorders, and anxiety when used as an augmentation therapy.

The styles of Yoga that have the highest efficacy for my clients are;
  • Hatha Yoga – postures, regulated breathing, and meditation
  • Viniyoga – gentle yoga with an emphasis on synchronizing postures and breathing
  • Tibetan Yoga – fine, flowing movements, and controlled breathing

There is little doubt that Yoga is a physically healthy practice, but with emerging studies indicating its ability to bring about healthy changes in brain chemistry, any therapist should explore it as an augmentation to traditional mental health therapy.

Aaron D. McClelland, RPCwww.interiorcounselling.com/aaron

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