It was my friend, Janie, who invited me to my first yoga class in Prescott, Arizona in 1991. The teacher was Sally Cheney. What I loved was that we got to shape our bodies into animals.
I discovered that during yoga, things stuck in my body were released. I hadn’t even been aware of them. Trauma does this, hiding away in obscure places, like some viruses.
I remember wondering why on earth Harvard Medical School, whom I had just graduated from, had not taught us yoga. Why weren’t we doing it there? There, where we were learning about healing and medicine.
My personal yoga practice expanded when we moved to Boulder, Colorado in 1997, because at that time, I could not even afford $5.00 to go to a class. So, I practiced at home, easily hearing my teacher’s voice in my head. I became self-disciplined out of necessity. My young daughter would often join me and I was soon teaching to her kindergarten class (2000). After my husband was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, he asked me to teach him too, and so I began holding classes outdoors in our lovely, flat, grassy backyard in South Boulder in the early morning hours. I set out a coffee can for donations and invited a few neighbors and friends to join us.
In 2001, I simultaneously began a PhD psychology program and began consulting for Natural Standard Research Collaboration. I was asked to do a research review of yoga therapy for Natural Standard. I was delighted to thoroughly examine the scientific evidence on yoga therapy for various conditions. I took careful notes on specific protocols. I came to learn that yoga could be helpful for many psychological conditions. (Yoga Journal also hosted a first “Therapeutic Applications of Yoga” conference in Estes Park, CO in 2001).
During 2003-2004, I incorporated yoga therapy into my clinical practicum experience with children diagnosed with ADHD (Williams Orlando C. Client-Centered Yoga Therapy: A Case Report. Yoga Therapy in Practice 2008; 4(1):16-19). In 2008, I was invited to teach yoga at the Samasati Nature Retreat Center in Costa Rica.
Yoga therapy is a broad topic, as it includes physical as well as psychological conditions, and it includes therapists from a range of backgrounds. I come from a humanistic psychology background and specifically use yoga therapy in the healing of trauma, anxiety or depression. Yoga therapy is not something that I necessarily do with everyone, but for some it is an appropriate match and an effective part of treatment- (Williams-Orlando C. Yoga Therapy for Anxiety: A Case Report. Advances in Mind-Body Medicine 2013; 27(4):18-21).
In particular, yoga therapy can be a good fit for teens with anxiety who want to learn lifelong skills in addition to or instead of pharmaceutical medication. Yoga therapy is excellent treatment for anxiety and trauma as it alleviates hyperarousal and hyper vigilance of the nervous system, lowers cortisol and blood pressure, and develops positive coping, resiliency, and self esteem, without harmful side effects. Another population which yoga therapy holds great potential for are veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress (PTS).
Yoga is an ancient science from second century B.C. India. Yoga includes fundamental and holistic principles for good health. Some choose yoga as a way to know God, or experience the Divinity within. However, yoga is not a religion, requires no allegiance, and may be enjoyed by persons of all Faiths and belief systems.