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Yoga, Intuition, and the Anatomy of Whole Body Living: An Interview with Tom Myers

Tom Myers is the author of Anatomy Trains, a book that reimagines our anatomy as an interconnected, holistic system instead of a series of independent parts. In this interview he talks about how the Anatomy Trains concept can help yoga teachers and yoga practitioners get a deeper understanding of what happens in yoga postures and how to make progress in our practice.

YogaUOnline: Tom, you are famous in bodywork circles for your development of the Anatomy Trains concept.  This model is often referred to as “the anatomy of connection.” Tell us what is meant by this, and how you developed this concept?

Tom Myers: Well, the anatomy that we’ve been working with for the last four hundred years is the anatomy of isolation or the anatomy of parts. When you try to apply that to yoga, it really doesn’t translate very well. For example, when you go into a Downward Dog, it doesn’t make so much sense to think in terms of whether you are stretching the hamstrings or the plantar flexors or the fascia that goes over the sacrum, because you’re stretching all three. And importantly, how deeply you go into that pose and where the pose fails or could be improved is not going depend just on this structure or that structure, but the relationship among the structures.

So it’s not that Anatomy Trains is that new or that different. But it applies so much more easily to yoga, where you are putting a stretch, a stress or a strain into large sections of the body at once.

YogaUOnline: How did you come up with this concept?

Tom Myers: I was trying to teach anatomy to students at the Rolfing school. We started making a game, because there was nothing connected about any of the anatomy books then. So I started making a game of saying, “Well, can you go from this muscle to this muscle in a straight line? And then can you go from this muscle to this muscle in a straight line.” And I called it the Anatomy Trains because it literally was a game for my students. But then, I began to get more serious about it and turned it into a system.

YogaUOnline: Very interesting. In terms of understanding how this relates movement in the body, give us an example. You made reference to the spiral lines. And of course, the equivalent movement in yoga anatomy, or rather yoga functional anatomy, would be rotation/twisting postures.

Tom Myers: Exactly.

YogaUOnline: So, if a person is having limitations in range of motion, in twisting postures, in tradition Western anatomy, we would look at some of the muscles involved in, for example, trunk rotation. Tell us how you would be looking at that from the standpoint of Anatomy Trains and what implications that has for our yoga practice.

Tom Myers: Well, it’s particularly useful for yoga teachers to know these things, because they’ll be able to see more of what’s going on as their students go through different postures. If you watch someone doing the Triangle Pose, for example —which puts one upper spiral line into a twist and requires engagement of all the muscles along the other spiral line—there could be a fault in the ability of the muscle or a fascial fabric to elongate enough to get into the pose. Or there might be a lack of strength in an opposing muscle that couldn’t support the ribcage or support the neck so that the spiral is clean, so to speak….

It’s important for yoga teachers to be able to see when their students are doing it differently on one side and the other and then take steps to either strengthen or lengthen, depending on what’s needed.

But the brain needs to have that concept in mind to be able to see these things. So practice, practice, practice. Just keep looking for what’s not lengthening as you watch your students.  Knowing the Anatomy Trains lines, knowing what anatomy is involved in each of the myofascial meridians, is very helpful in being able to see what is going on in a pose. Once you see what’s going on, you can cue students so that the pose becomes more even.

What we’re looking for in the Anatomy Trains vision is an even tone across the whole line and even tone along the lines and a good relationship among the lines. Injury occurs where there’s no give. And so, the idea of yoga, and the idea of the kind of bodywork that I do, is to even out the tone and make it possible for that little bit of give to happen, no matter what functional movement you’re doing. But we use the yoga poses as models of functional movement to see that.

YogaUOnline: When we think in terms of movement, in traditional anatomy, it is described in terms of ropes and pulleys. But you’re saying movement works in a very different way in the body. Is that correct?

Tom Myers: Yes, that takes us to the concept of tensegrity, which tells us that the bones are not a solid structure on which the muscles hang. Rather, it is much more that the bones float within a balanced tension of the muscles and the fascia. So when you go into yoga poses, when you go into the extreme of a movement and then extend your extreme by stretching, you are increasing the amount of resilience in your tissues so that all the tissues give a little.  

But Anatomy Trains is not a theory of movement. Movement is a mystery, how we move is a mystery. Scientists like to tell you that they think they know a lot about it, but I don’t think we really have sorted out how movement works in the body yet. The idea that nerves make muscles move is a basic concept. But there are other feedback loops that we have not really explored yet, scientifically, or that we can’t even really articulate that well at this point.

We are at a breaking point in research, where the mechanics that we’ve been happy with for the last 350 years are going to give way to a new kind of biomechanics that’s based on more interconnected concepts, like the Anatomy Trains and the idea of tensegrity. My prediction is that we will begin to look at the nervous system more as a kind of cloud computing than the kind of computing we’ve been doing until now.

YogaUOnline: Yoga postures are unique in that they generally involve movement of the spine, which we don’t get that much of otherwise. I’ve often wondered if this kind of movement creates a stimulation of the nerves that might be, in part, responsible for some of the benefits people are experiencing from yoga practice?

Tom Myers: Well, I’d say that it’s more out at the ends of the nerves that the benefit is happening. Yes, there’s some benefit to those nerves sliding through the holes in the spine. But I’d say that the effects come more from the stretching in the limbs or in the trunk, wherever the nerves end.  Those little nerve endings are listening to the fascia and the muscles, so to speak, and when we stimulate them, it goes right back into the spinal cord and stimulates the part of the brain associated with those nerve endings.

That’s the wonderful thing about yoga. If you’re allowing your practice to deepen, you’re constantly coming across new areas in your body that were forgotten. And you’re bringing them back into your body image or your body awareness.

YogaUOnline: Interesting.

Tom Myers: I would almost say that it is a moral person who makes decisions, feeling their whole body. In the West today, we have so many places in our body that we have forgotten and that we don’t use in our day-to-day lives. So we have to be broader in our movement range, using yoga or some other form of union to feel our body as a complete thing again.

YogaUOnline: Many people believe that intuition is very much tied into feeling that somatic reality, is that your understanding as well?

Tom Myers: Yes, hunches are a physical process. Intuition is a physical process. It’s a process of tuning into your body and thinking of the body as an antenna. I don’t mean to sound New Age-y, but scientifically, your fascia is a liquid crystal. It is arranged in crystalline form. So it could be considered to be a kind of antenna. If you are tuned to it, if you are inhabiting all of it, I think you will make better decisions, than if you are only inhabiting small pieces of it.

That is a part of your mind. Your mind extends all the way down to your feet, all the way down to your hands, all the way into your back. And if you’re only paying attention to your hands and your face and your eyes on the computer screen and you’re otherwise sitting most of the time, you lose access to those kinds of intuitive feelings.

This Q&A is an excerpt from Tom Myer’s interview on Yoga, Somatic Awareness & the Growth of Intuition.To download the full recorded interview, go here.

The Century of the Body: Fascia, Yoga and the Medicine of the Future

The medicine of the future will have to focus on healing the epidemic of lifestyle-related diseases by changing behavior, says Tom Myers, author of Anatomy Trains. Yoga, bodywork and other therapies that tap into the transformative potential of the body’s fascial network have an important role to play in this process. In this interview with Yoga U Online, Tom explores the transformative potential of the body’s fascial network and its implications for the future of yoga and yoga therapy. 

Also Check out Tom Myers' online course on Fascial Fitness—An Emerging Evolution in Movement Science 

Yoga U Online: Tom, you trained with Ida Rolf, the founder of Structural Integration, before developing the notion of the anatomy of connections. How did you get interested in this area?

Tom Myers: Well, Ida Rolf was giving a demonstration in Santa Monica, close to where I lived. I went there with a friend of mine, and as it happened, Ida chose my friend as a model to work on. He was one of these people, who looks normal when you look at them from the front, but when you look at them from the side, you can hardly see him because his chest was collapsed so badly, his breast bone was nearly on his back.

In 45 minutes, Ida Rolf took a hold of his ribcage and changed its shape so that he was visibly deeper from front to back. His voice changed. Even his emotional affect changed. He became, if you will, a deeper person. I was so impressed at the level of change that this woman could generate in a short time that I thought, “Hmm, I really want to do this.”

yoga and fascial fitnessYoga U Online: Ida Rolf developed her work in part inspired by yoga, is that correct?

Tom Myers:  Yes, she started studying yoga in the 20’s in New York with a kinda rogue tantric guy named Pierre Bernard. She studied yoga for many years. At the time, yoga was totally unheard of in the States. So she never thought that there would be the kind of resurgence of yoga in the West the way there has been.

When she created Rolfing, she was asking, “How do I create a yogic experience in a western way?” Rolfing or Structural Integration was aligned with the goals of yoga as “a physical system that enriches the student’s body, mind and spiritual well-being through an understanding of structural balance.”

When Ida first started working with people, she started putting them into yoga positions and looked at where they weren’t stretching properly. She would then grab the tissue and start stretching it. Later, as she got in contact with osteopathy, it evolved into table work. But it was still trying to get that experience of yoga, still trying to get that fundamental thing of Hatha yoga which is, if you change the body, you can change the person.

That’s not an idea that we’ve really gone with in the West. We mostly thought, “Oh, well, if you change your mind, you could change your body.” We think of it in terms of stress; you have to reduce the stress in your mind, and then you can reduce the stress in your body. However, we all know now that if you reduce the stress in your body, you will reduce the stress in your mind as well.

So the theme in my approach to body work over these past 30 years has been to do just that – reduce the amount of structural or gravitational or oppositional stress that was going on in the body, so that the person could be more themselves.

Yoga U Online: Part of your work has been to draw attention to the all-important, but much overlooked role played by fascia in the human body. What is the role of fascia in this picture?

Tom Myers: Fascia is that network that connects it all together. We are made up of somewhere between 70 to 100 trillion cells. That’s 70 trillion cells acting together. Most of your cells are little packets of water, like little water balloons. Something has to hold all those 70 trillion cells together. That’s the fascia.

Fascia—or connective tissue—is what glues us together. So, it’s a broad use of the word fascia. What we’re really talking about is the body-wide extracellular net that holds us together.

Yoga U Online: Yet, as it is turning out, fascia is more than just the ‘wrapping’ of the body?

Tom Myers: Yes, what’s really exciting is the new research on fascia that’s coming out.  Up till recently, everybody was thinking of fascia as just the packing material that goes around the other tissues. Now, we’re finding out that it’s a regulatory system in the same way that your circulatory system is a regulatory system and your nervous system is the regulatory organ balancing your inside and your outside world.

The fascial system is also a regulatory system. It has an organizational dimension that keeps us in the shape that we’re in. It’s that role that’s being explored now, which is really exciting.

Yoga U Online: Fascia is often referred to as the ‘organ of form.’ Does it play a wider role as a regulatory system than that?

Tom Myers:Yes, it’s the organ of form, but it goes far beyond that.  In the development of the embryo, it’s actually the connective tissue cells that are organizing the brain. The brain cells of the neo-cortex are originally born in the ventricles in the middle of the brain. And they have to migrate out to the surface of the brain. That’s not very far in a little tiny little embryo, but it’s incredibly long, as far as the cell is concerned.

So how do the cells which get born in the middle of the brain know where to go on the surface of the brain? The answer is that they put their little ‘arms’ around a connective tissue fiber and ride that connective tissue fiber out to the surface of the brain and are deposited in just the right spot.

The same thing holds for organs. The fascial bags for organs develop before the organ develops. So there’s a bag for your liver. And then the cells that are going into that bag become liver cells.

Yoga U Online: Fascia also seems to be linked to the potential for mind-body transformation in a major way. You referred to your friend who was transformed when Ida Rolf worked on him; you said not only his posture and the way he appeared changed, but he himself was transformed.

Tom Myers: Yes. I’ve seen that again and again in my practice. You make these changes and the person changes. The nervous system, the circulatory system, and the fascial system are never separate in a human being. They develop together and they work together. So when the fascial system changes, everything else changes.

For example, think of someone who’s depressed. The image that comes to mind is somebody with their chest collapsed—you certainly don’t think of someone with their head held high and their chest stuck out.

So you can approach depression from a neurological point of view, and look for things in their past that contribute to their feeling of depression. You can approach it from a chemical point of view, and say that serotonin reuptake inhibitors like Prozac or Zoloft might be helpful, because there’s a chemical effect, when someone is depressed.

But depression also has a fascial effect as well. It also is expresses as a specific look and shape of the body. You really don’t see people with their chest puffed out going around saying, “I’m so depressed.”

So we’ve gone after the talk therapy solutions to depression, and we have more recently gone after the chemical reactions to depression. But I think we really ought to be looking at how people hold themselves and how they shape themselves.

That relates to what we talked about before, fascia as the organ of form. We have to change the connective tissue, change things at that level. And that in turn changes people’s breathing, and when their breathing changes, their chemistry changes and their outlook changes.

So, again, people have been paying a lot of attention to the chemistry and neurology of conditions like depression, and not much attention to shape. But shape is hugely important, and that’s where yoga and bodywork really shine.

Yoga U Online: What are the implications for health professionals and movement teachers of looking at the body as a functional whole, rather than as an assembly of muscles, bones, organs and biochemicals?

Tom Myers: We’re really just looking at the very beginning of the potential offered by body work, yoga, Rolfing, osteopathy, and so on—all these body therapies contributing to this realm.. This next century is going to be the century of the body, because this is the century in which we need to learn to change behavior.

We need to learn how to get people to change behavior, because so many of the big diseases are all lifestyle-related. At the heart of big, epidemic conditions like heart disease and diabetes really are behavioral, lifestyle issues. These are conditions where people need to change their habits more than they need to take the medicine. There’s plenty of medicine on the market but that’s not really solving the problem. That’s just pushing back the symptoms.

Medicine is great at changing chemistry, but it is lousy at changing behavior. And bodyworkers movement therapists, and yoga teachers may not administer things through the mouth or through needles—but we’re wonderful at changing behavior! We have to get better at it. But this is basically our realm: How to change behavior or to change movement, which is behavior.

We’re just starting to really examine this potential now. Yoga was very small until quite recently. Pilates was very small until quite recently. And bodywork was quite limited until very recently. Going forward, I think we will see these unite into a very powerful combination of manual therapy and movement, where everybody is speaking one language.

On that note, to get yoga the seat at the table that it deserves, yoga teachers need to learn the language of anatomy. If yoga people are just talking about energy and how everything is connected, then they really won’t get a seat at the table, because anatomy is the language that everybody speaks. And I’m talking about bringing orthopedists and physiotherapists and athletic trainers and yoga people and body workers all to the same table and developing something that is very strong and very powerful.

And I think yoga has a lot to say about that. So I’m really hoping that yoga will improve its training standards and improve its ability to talk its walk so that the value that yoga has will make it into this new science.

Study Yoga Online! Check out Tom Myers'  webinar on

Fascial Fitness—An Emerging Evolution in Movement Science 

Shakta Kaur Khalsa: Happily Ever Now – Working with the Law of Attraction

Shakta Khalsa is the creator of the Radiant Child Yoga Program and the author of Yoga for Women and several other yoga books and DVDs. In this interview with Eva Norlyk Smith, Shakta discusses her work with the Law of Attraction and the inspiration behind her upcoming webinar on Yoga U Online Trainings, Happily Ever Now.

ENS: Shakta, we’ve heard so much about The Secret and the Law of Attraction—the notion that you can create your own reality through your mental projections. As I understand it, you’ve been engaged in this kind of work for a long time. What originally sparked your interest?

Shakta: Well, ever since I started doing yoga and Eastern teachings in the early 70’s, I began to realize that we have a lot more power over what unfolds in our lives than we usually think we do. I was very curious about this. So I spent the past 35 years really being a student of life in the sense of “How does life work? How does creation work? How do things come to me? What is the idea of Law of Attraction?”

I’ve found that when I put out energy in a certain direction and I’m very confident that this is going to happen, when there’s a certain focus that I feel, then the universe brings it to me in some form or other. That’s not to say that it always comes in the form that I think it’s going to come in. But whatever came, it was actually a gift to me.

ENS: Your work with this is partly inspired by what you refer to as the teachings of Abraham. Would you mind telling us a bit about that?

Shakta: Yes, about 8 years ago, someone gave me a book by Esther and Jerry Hicks called The Astonishing Power of Emotions. That was a book about the teachings of Abraham.

Abraham is the idea of higher consciousness coming through Esther Hicks when she sits quietly in meditation. It’s like her higher self comes through and they called that Abraham. So it’s not like a person; it’s really just a pure, positive sort of expanded viewpoint on life.

The work in that book really spoke to me. I felt like I already knew a lot of what they were saying, but that they had such a clear way of explaining it that it sort of accelerated my awareness and my consciousness.

ENS: How would you sum up the core of the Abraham teaching?

Shakta: It’s really just a different viewpoint on the same philosophy as you find in yoga. The core teaching of the Abraham work is that even though we seem like physical beings, we actually emit or project a vibration at every moment just like anything does. If you hit a tuning fork, it has a vibration to it. If you hit a gong and you put your hand in front of it, you will feel a tickling feeling in your hand, because it has a vibration.

So, according to science as well as this work, everything has vibration to it. When you do yoga and meditation, you become more aware of your vibration. What the Abraham work is asking you to do is to pay attention to your vibration, whether you are in a happy, connected-to-you-inner-self vibration, or if you are in a down-in-the-dumps negative vibration. Just notice that difference. And if your vibration is not where you’d like it to be, they have a lot of wonderful techniques to help you get into a better emotional place.

The concept of being vibrational beings is also a teaching of yoga. You know, the causal plane in yoga is the vibrational plane and that’s where everything starts. So it’s the same in yoga.

Another one of the Abraham concepts is that there’s only one relationship to attend to and that’s between you (who you think you are) and You (the inner Self with a capital S, the connection with your bigger Self). And that’s what all your relationships is about. It’s not about your wife, your husband, your child, or your coworkers. You can’t control what anybody else is doing but you have absolute control over the way you view things, the feelings you have, what you’re putting your attention on, how you get yourself in a better mental place… You have absolute control there. So I find this work very, very freeing.

ENS: That understanding of the deeper mechanics of the Law of Attraction could almost be called the secret behind The Secret: It’s not just about positive thinking, there are deeper mechanics involved to actually make the shift to make that higher vibration a reality.

Shakta: Exactly. And it’s funny, because the woman who wrote The Secret was inspired by the Abraham teachings and wanted to bring it out into the general public. But by the time bigger publishers got a hold of it, ironically, they left the inspiration out. They left Abraham’s work out and it made it much more superficial, in my opinion.

And really, it’s about how you can feel good and be connected to your whole self as often as possible. To me, the purpose of life is about being as connected as I can be to my infinite joyous Self. That’s why people are attracted to yoga and attracted to meditation—even if they think they’re attracted just because they want a good stretch. On a deeper level, everybody wants to feel good. Everybody wants to enjoy their life. Everybody wants to feel connected in a big way to who they really are. So that’s why I want to offer this course on Yoga U Online Trainings, Happily Ever Now.

ENS: Tell us a little bit about your course. What inspired Happily Ever Now?

Shakta: Happily Ever Now was inspired by the idea that the teachings that are part of yoga, especially the 8 limbs of yoga where you start to understand that the purpose of yoga, is to come into the meditative mind and use your awareness. That was the inspiration for me to develop the Happily Ever Now course. The basis of this course is how to be happy now, by noticing your thoughts and noticing how you have the ability to move your thoughts and feelings into a happier place.

ENS: So even if people are feeling stressed and anxious, you are teaching people to move beyond those feelings?

Shakta: Well, let’s say somebody is feeling stressed. The first thing that we would do, if we are working toward being conscious beings, is to notice that we are stressed. That’s the first thing. And to notice it without self-reproach. In other words, the things that we tell ourselves are really important. Those are what help us or inhibits us from being able to move into a better feeling space.

So, if I notice I’m stressed, I say to myself, in a friendly way, “I’m feeling really stressed now.” Then the second step is: “It’s okay. I can understand that I’m feeling stressed. I’ve got a lot on my plate. It’s alright. I’ve got to give myself a little bit of space here to be stressed.” If I do that and I tell myself that, I immediately start to feel more relaxed, because I’m noticing that I’m stressed and then I’m befriending myself.

So, the first thing is being compassionate towards ourselves. The next thing is, once you relax a little bit, then you can say, “Alright, what can I feel, think, or do that could be just one step better than this? I could get myself a glass of water and take a couple deep breaths while I’m drinking it.” Or just: “I know that this won’t last forever. It’s just a moment in time. In a few minutes or tomorrow, I’ll feel differently.” That already is making me feel better.

ENS: That’s a beautiful point. I think most people have experienced that they have certain patterns or mental habits that don’t serve them. However, it’s not easy to shift out of these just because you’re aware of them, if they’re deeply ingrained tendencies. What would you say in cases like that?

Shakta: Well, we all have habitual patterns. Dr. Wayne Dyer makes a great distinction between the habitual mind and the creative conscious mind. When we’re in our creative conscious mind, he says, we feel alive and that we can handle things. When we’re in our habitual mind, we feel like our patterning is so ingrained in us that we can’t move forward.

So the first thing is to just recognize that we’re in a pattern and we’re in the habitual mind. Then, it’s just like taking baby steps. So one baby step would be if I say to myself, “Look how far I’ve already come with these patterns. I trust, that I’m moving in the right direction. I’m just going to, little by little, move myself in the direction of using my creative conscious mind and be more in that space, rather than this space. It’s just going to take some time, because that’s the way life is.” So I’m already feeling better and I’ve done a little bit of movement.

Some of the best tools to break habitual patterns are yoga and meditation. I’ve been doing yoga and meditation for more than 35 years, and I’m here to say it really works. It moves you out of the habitual mind and out of those patterns into a more conscious, aware, state. Especially meditationif you do ten minutes to an hour of meditation every day, or whatever you can afford to do, it will start to break down those habit patterns. And we’re doing that in this course. We’re going to help people establish something that they can do each day if they don’t have something already.

So by the end of the training course, the Happily Ever Now course, everybody will commit to something that they can do in their lives that will help them feel better. It might only be 10 minutes a day. And then I ask people to just send me an email afterwards within the next month and say how’s it going, how am I doing with this.

ENS: Right. So basically in the course, you draw on techniques from yoga and meditation techniques as well?

Shakta: The course is also based in my style of yoga which is Kundalini yoga. It contains Hatha yoga, too. So if anyone is familiar with Hatha yoga and not so familiar with Kundalini yoga, they’re still going to see what’s familiar to them and they’ll hopefully find some very exciting new things that they can also use (some meditation, some yoga) that creates change within the body and mind very quickly.


 

Amy Weintraub on Best Yoga Techniques for Depression

LifeForce Yoga Founder Amy WeintraubThe ancient yogis believed that we hold life’s traumas and losses in both our psychic (mental-emotional) body and our physical body. If this is indeed the case, the body is an important gateway for relieving mental health issues like anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders.

Amy Weintraub, founder of LifeForce Yoga and author of Yoga for Depression has long been a leading advocate for using yoga to help combat depression, whether as an alternative to depression treatments in cases of mild depression or an adjunct to allopathic treatments. In this interview, she discusses some of the yoga techniques she has found to be particularly helpful when using yoga to combat depression. This is the second half of an interview with Amy Weintraub, which appeared on the Huffington Post. The first part of the interview can be found here.

Question: In LifeForce Yoga, you particularly emphasize yoga techniques like Pranayama breathing techniques, chanting, and Kriyas (targeted movements with specific actions). Breath and Kriyas are often used to move energy blocks in the body. Do you think that stagnant or blocked energy is a factor in depression?

Amy Weintraub: Most likely. If you’ve noticed people who are depressed or if you’ve been depressed in the past, the posture is usually slumped and the belly is kind of dormant. There’s not much happening in the 2nd chakra and the 3rd chakra and the core of the body.

So yoga practices targeting depression can help release blocks in those areas. People who struggle with depression can use sound, for example, while doing a yoga pose to energize and release blocks in the core of the body, which tends to get dormant and sluggish in people with depression. For example, Kapalabhati breath, which involves a vigorous pumping of the belly is very useful for enlivening this area. Similarly, doing yoga poses like Cobra or Sphinx pose, while reciting the seed mantra for the 2nd chakra, “Vom,” is very useful. What happens is that we’re actually stimulating those areas and releasing blocks of stagnant energy.

Another wonderful practice, just to get your energy moving and get you motivated to practice is Breath of Joy. Breath of joy is a kriya, a targeted movement practive, which is particularly effective in managing mood, as it counters the shallow breathing that is so common in people who struggle with depression.  

So basically any yoga, whether they’re Yoga Asanas, Pranayama, Kriya, or sounds like Mantras or chanting, we help to release the blocks and  release whatever is compressed or constricted from those areas of the body. And this can be any kind of blocks—lymphatic, muscular, energetic, or emotional.

Study with Amy Weintraub Online: Recorded Webinar:

Question: As you work with people who suffer from depression what are some of the greatest joys that you feel?

Amy Weintraub: Just the shining faces. When someone is depressed, their countenance can be dull, they often have a lethargic, almost grey look. It’s so gratifying to me to see the transformation in people’s faces and to look into their eyes afterwards and see them shine.

People tell me, “Well, I’m no longer taking medication. I worked with my doctor. I feel great.” I get stories like that all the time. But for me, it’s seeing the faces. It’s very heartwarming. So it’s just interacting with people and seeing the transformation in people.

Yogis believe that one of the reasons we get depressed is because we forget who we really are. We forget that we’re intimately, eternally, and deeply connected to all beings and to universal energy. And we forget that, especially when we’re depressed. We feel isolated and alone.

When we do these practices, we get sense of our connection and it begins to shine on our faces. And then we begin to connect with others. So it’s just a delight to see the transformation in people’s energy and faces by the end of a weekend workshop or even the end of an evening.

Question: That’s beautiful. What would you say to someone who suffers from depression and anxiety at this moment?

Amy Weintraub: I would say it’s hard. It’s really hard to believe this. When depression is there, it’s really hard to believe that you are more than your depression. But you are. You may have a depressed mood, but you’re so much more than that mood. You may have negative beliefs about yourself or the world. You may be very self-judgmental. But you’re so much more than those negative beliefs. You may have physical discomfort related to your mood but you’re so much more than your physical discomfort.

And when you practice yoga, you get a glimmer, at first, just a glimmer. But it’s a window into how much more you really are than that depressed mood. So when you’re practicing yoga with attention to sensation in your body and to the breath, you sense how much more you are than that depression.

You can practice yoga in a driven, compulsive way and it’ll still be good for you. But if you can pay attention to sensations and you can pay attention to the breaths, you are creating a window into the present moment. And in that present moment, there’s no grief. There’s no shame. There’s no depression. There’s just what is.

Study with Amy Weintraub Online: Recorded Webinar:

Change Your Body, Change Your Mind - Yoga for Depression

 

 

 

John Friend: The Radical Quantum Shift of Yoga

YTW-Writer Eva Norlyk Smith recently sat down for an interview with Anusara® yoga founder John Friend. This is the second installment of the interview. Go here for the first part of the John Friend interview.

Anusara yoga founder John FriendYTW: We hear a lot of reports like that about the transformative powers of yoga, enough so that it’s clear that yoga isn’t  just about working out or even feeling better, getting rid of back pain, or whatever. A lot of people seem to have a natural experience of transformation in their life. Could you speak a little bit about that?

John Friend:  Yes, as I see it, there are three aspects to the transformation many people experience when they start yoga. I call them the 3 A’s: attitude, alignment, and action. That is really the source of tremendous deep transformation within a person, not just physically but on all levels: mentally, psychologically, emotionally, and I think even spiritually.

Very regularly I meet people who tell me that yoga helped to change their life. What are they really saying? Well, they’re saying that their whole view on life, the way that they’re approaching and relating to life has radically shifted. It speaks to something much more than just the physical benefits of yoga.

YTW:  Yes, a case in point: In one of the sessions at the Anusara Yoga Grand Gathering in Estes Park, you brought up a guy, who was hit by lightning many years ago, and had such a painful spine condition that he had been on painkillers for 7-8 years and had become addicted. He said that after one yoga session, his life started turning around and he’s now off his addiction.

Yes. Ben (name has been changed) came to me on the recommendation of somebody else, whose life had been radically shifted by their yoga practice. Ben had had a very mysterious physiological response to being hit by lightening. He was in chronic pain, and he had been to numerous doctors around the United States, but no one could provide him with any other relief than pain medications. In the process, he had even gotten addicted to those pain medications.

When I worked with him, I basically helped him to align his body, physically. So I worked with him from a physical orientation. But by aligning him physically, he had an opening, energetically.

He was in chronic pain, but I got him out of pain within a few minutes, at least for a few minutes, and that immediately gave him some relief. And, as you know, physical pain is directly connected to mental pain. So once he got out of physical pain without medication, he relaxed.

And then as the energy moved through him, he started to literally realign his body within minutes, to the extent that he could hold it. And the pain went away. The pain went away and he began feeling so empowered that he could finally exercise. After 7 years.

Living with pain like that is like being imprisoned in your body. And when you’re let out, what happens? Watch him. Watch people come out of jail. They will kiss the ground. They smell the air outside. It shifts you inside. It’s a feeling that your spirit, you soul, is free of a chronic pain. And the suffering is really the mind and the soul suffering in reaction to this pain.

When that pain is alleviated and you know that you can alleviate it without medication, that you have the power to do it by yourself, that blows your heart open. And that changes your life. And you think, “You know what, I can do this myself to some extent in alignment with nature. I can do this.” That’s what’s so empowering about this practice.

YTW:  You’re probably familiar with Richard Miller’s work with veterans with post traumatic stress disorder and Amy Weintraub’s work with yoga for depression and anxiety…

John Friend: Yes, of course.

YTW: One of my favorite yoga quotes is, “Whatever and we hold the past in our bodies as well as in our minds.” That quote speaks so well to why and how yoga would have an effect even on mental health issues. Do you think yoga is ultimately going to prove to be as effective in treating psychological issues as counseling or guidance?

John Friend: Firstly, when we say that yoga affects these conditions, it’s a big catch-all. So for the purposes of this conversation, let’s define yoga as a practice that aligns one with the rhythms of nature to bring greater balance and harmony to one’s life.

And that harmony, at the deepest point, is in one’s soul. And, it’s in one’s mind, on all the levels of mind, from the most intuitive part to the most rational. Because, while yoga appears to touch only the physiology, we now know that the biology of the body is intrinsically intertwined with the mind. There’s a very fuzzy border between mind and the biochemical reality of the body. So our yoga practice helps us to align with nature, i.e. we literally have more control over our biology. It helps us align in ways so that those deep traumas, which have created bindings and pains and have blocked the flow of life within us, can be completely shifted.

I have seen this happen again and again over 40 years, so I know it works.

The trick is to be able to take a yoga program, take any kind of a template and take it out to the masses, so that we can empower people, so that they don’t have to be in this situation. Because right now, when people are in pain physically or emotionally, many times there are no big avenues for alleviation. So people just kind of say, “You know what, this is the way it’s been. This is the way it’s always gonna be.”

So, that’s what blows many people away when they start yoga. The fact that even just after just a short while of practicing yoga they can have such a radical quantum shift in their physical, mental, and emotional states through this practice. It is completely astounding.

See here for the first part of the interview with Anusara yoga-founder John Friend: The Importance of Alignment in Yoga
 

See links below for information about recorded Yoga Spirit webinars with Anusara Yoga Teacher Martin Kirk:

Enrich Your Yoga Practice - Key Principles of Anusara Yoga

Deepen Your Yoga Journey: The Spiraling Energy Principles of Anusara Yoga

 

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