Let’s place the purpose of therapy and the essence of yoga side-by-side for just a moment.
There are a million reasons why a person musters the courage to set up their first session with a therapist — a desire to put demons of the past to rest, a sense that there must be something more in the world, a discomfort with present circumstances or emotions, a readiness to explore limitations and dysfunction, a compelling to grow, etc.
Now, consider yoga. Though some choose yoga for strength and flexibility alone, the motivation for many to begin a regular yoga practice overlaps the reasons for seeking therapy more often than we might think.
Laura Brown is a primary therapist at All Points North Lodge, a wellness campus just outside Vail, Colorado, where she offers therapy for trauma, mental health and addiction treatment. She is also a registered yoga teacher. For Laura, it isn’t an either/or that her clients need. It’s both — talk therapy and yoga.
Laura’s interest in yoga began in college. As a retired multi-sport athlete and dancer, she says, “I picked up yoga mostly to fill the movement void in my life.” As she pursued her yoga teacher training, Laura encountered a watershed moment. She explains, “It was at the very end of a yoga class that I realized yoga had helped me so much to go through my own personal ups, downs, and transitional phases in my life. This had essentially been my therapy. Why couldn’t I combine talk therapy with this movement therapy? I thought it would be great to do both.”
What Laura learned in yoga, she has grafted into her counseling practice: “I was interested in helping people find a life worth living. I like the energetic connection between people and seeing how people move through their bodies and are connected with their bodies. I really emphasize the importance of comfortability with their own body.” She adds, “Sometimes I look at people’s overall body posture and how it changes depending on the subject they are talking about. But sometimes, I get people on the floor to have them come into certain shapes or poses or movement to see if they can access something different or deeper or even just find a sense of safety in the body.”
But what benefit does this body movement have in therapy work? Laura explains, “When we experience traumatic events (whether that’s big trauma or little trauma), it gets stuck in our body. Our body is the one thing that’s been there with us through every single event. The good or the bad, the body has been there. These memories, emotions, stories and experiences get stuck with and stored in the body. Sometimes, it can be hard to connect, access and process these memories just using cognitive therapy. Yoga can help us do that by engaging the body. It’s the mind-body connection.”
With years of experience on and off the mat, Laura argues, “Yoga and therapy go together hand-in-hand. If you’re already doing talk therapy, going to yoga classes is a great adjunct to that. It can, sometimes, give you a different perspective. A lot of times with trauma, we completely lose our connection with parts of the body. It can create bodily discomfort or even numbness. Yoga fosters that connection of the mind, body, and spirit. We incorporate yoga as a trauma therapy at the Lodge to enhance and recreate the mind-body connection that is often lost or diminished because of trauma.”
For yogis not currently in therapy, Laura suggests, “If you’re feeling a lot or overwhelmed with what shows up for you in a yoga class, I’d encourage you to go into a talk therapist to explore that piece a little bit more.”
Again, it’s the complementary nature of the two that unlocks the most potential to grow. That’s Laura’s mission, anyway. Of course, progress can happen with either/or. But it’s the combination of therapy and yoga that allows her to guide her clients deeper and further — to restore brain-body connection and a more meaningful life.
Lead photo by Lucas Pezeta.