My prison yoga teacher training left me wanting more which ultimately led to my enrolling in the yoga therapy course in London. I wanted to gain more knowledge of the theoretical part because let’s face it, a weekend-long prison yoga project course is not that much (even after having previously completed ashtanga vinyasa yoga teacher training).
We had a special guest, Heather Graham, introducing herself at the prison yoga teacher training and telling about her work and studies in the yoga therapy field and it sounded very interesting. When I got back from London, I noticed that there was one course coming up from the Minded Institute; yoga therapy for post-traumatic stress syndrome, and luckily I was able to enroll in it.
Camden; the Course Location
The next 5 days we spent our days in Camden. It was a really good location for me because I just love the area. Such a cool spot with a plethora of restaurants, cafes, bars, quirky boutiques, and the Camden markets. During the day we didn’t have too much time for exploring the neighbourhood, though. The lunch hour was usually 45-60 minutes and if you opted eating out, that meant waiting for your food as well.
The participants were mostly from the UK, as in the prison yoga teacher training. We had a few overseas visitors though, (in addition to myself), from Norway, South Africa, and Taiwan. Most had gone through yoga teacher training or at least had an established practice themselves. Many had knowledge of PTSD and they worked with clients in the mental health field. We had 2 psychologists also which was very good because they had interesting stories to tell and us, from the yogic background, could gain a great deal from them.
According to Heather, some people have criticised her for accepting people into the program who haven’t done yoga teacher training. I kind of understand their point but at the same time, these people had other kind of professional knowledge from which we benefited a great deal.
The Struggle Is Real
The 2. and 3. day were the hardest. We went through some very complicated stuff. I mean I have studied in English and my English is fairly good but when we started going through the human anatomy, especially the brain, and the chemicals affecting our behavior and conditions, I was completely lost at times (most of the time, to be honest).
Equally, I would probably need a recap in Finnish which part of the brain does this and that but when it was in English, it was just way over my head.
However, I do believe all of this was necessary and I need to learn by heart some of the functions we were taught. Heather pointed out that when yoga teachers are trying to take their message to the healthcare/mental health workers, it is important to know the basics and get the trust and respect from that domain.
And I completely get that and hence, need to study a bit more. Furthermore, I think its necessary to understand the basic reactions in the human body, for instance, if someone has PTSD, and how yoga impacts on these reactions and can alleviate the health problems.
It wasn’t all just theory – luckily. Every day we had different practical tasks in which we were working with a partner or in a group. Some of these were quite simple, such as coherent and ujjayi breathing or rehearsing mirroring and attuning to other person’s feelings and needs. Others were more demanding.
On the last day, we practiced how to get a person back if you are losing your client in a session due to flooding (a state where a client is overwhelmed by physiological responses). I am not very good at acting but even more difficult was reacting to this situation. It felt very real when you weren’t able to have a connection with your partner who was pretending to be the client/patient. This gave some important insight on what you might have to deal with one day if you will work with people who are suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome.
I quite liked walking meditation and will try it soon on Koh Phangan again, in the courtyard of a Buddhist temple. Another practical that I really liked was based on aromatherapy, or scents, to be more accurate. The idea is that you choose a scent that you like and associate positive things to it during deep relaxation. Then you put a few drops of the essential oil on a cotton pad and keep it with you. Whenever you feel anxiety or negative thoughts arising, you smell your scent and it calms you down. Very simple, yet effective.
The 5 days were certainly challenging and tough but we all made it in the end. It was definitely hard studying the neurological bits and so forth in English. Now I think I need to look them up in Finnish also, though.
In the end, everybody got to express their thoughts and feelings about the course and thank everyone. After that, we ended the week with some chanting and singing before everybody broke off.
What’s Next After the Yoga Therapy Course?
Well, the course definitely sparked my curiosity to know more. I’ve been listening to a lot of yoga podcasts, mainly from Ashtanga Dispatch but also on OmStars. I’ve been especially fascinated by Vagus nerve and have been trying to learn how it affects our well-being.
I’m also super happy to say that I’m starting volunteering at a 3rd sector multicultural women’s association in a couple of months. I know that many women who attend the activities at this association have trauma history (though that is not always the case). Hence, I am hoping to put my newly acquired skills into use and also help many people through trauma-informed yoga.
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