Saturday, March 10, 2012

Presenting My Research at Laurier University

It was a beautiful day outside but a group of 20 decided to commute in from Cambridge, Guelph, Toronto, Burlington, Oakville and even Toronto to spend the afternoon with me at Laurier's Faculty of Social Work, doing yoga and exploring its potential benefits for their client populations suffering with anxiety, stress, depression, insomnia and trauma.

        This week I presented my research at Laurier University to a surprisingly receptive group of young clinicians. I took up researching yoga formally in 2011 after having felt the positive changes that yoga brought to my life through relieving stress, bringing emotional balance and physical fitness. I've practiced yoga for years and became a yoga teacher, needless I was already a believer in yogas benefits. Convincing my fellow graduate level mental health colleagues of yogas benefits I thought would be difficult.

Yoga is popular today, many people have an awareness of it so my assumption was that I would receive resistances from some during my presentation in the form of hesitations due to feelings that yoga was useful only for fitness and not for mental health, that yoga would be intimidating and required a high level of physical fitness and I also braced myself for the downright objections to participation, that was yoga was part of the occult or an eastern religion that conflicted with any participants belief. I tried to proactively suss this out by explaining to the group "Today, we will do yoga. To be clear, yoga is not a religion, nor does it require devotion to any God." I saw some nodding heads and knew we were on the right track. I continued to explain that yoga is for everyone, regardless of physical ability. Importantly, having an awareness of the body, understanding it's limitations are essential. To my surprise, the group eagerly hopped onto the mats, slipping of their socks and smiling to one another. 

I led the group of twenty through a brief introduction to yoga which involved me giving a fifty minute class that included poses (which  I am in the process of empirically validating as treatments for specific mental health concerns) and discussed the potential of using yoga in direct practice with clients, as a modality of therapeutic care for an hour. I explained the clinical research that has been done using yoga as a complementary therapy in mental health, specifically for anxiety, stress, depression, insomnia and even with diagnoses of schizophrenia. I explained to the group that I believe yoga has an important place in mental health; I challenged them to introduce yoga in their practice as counsellors and therapists.

The response was incredible, the participants shared that they saw the direct relevance of introducing a yoga practice into therapy and therapeutic programs with their clients. Most importantly, they told me I sparked an interest in them to learn more, to take yoga classes themselves and use yoga for their own self-care (something I've been touting for a while). 

I really feel that I'm on the right track,

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