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Yoga Therapy for Teens with Mental Health Disorders

By Ashley Curry, Yoga Instructor, re:YOGA Staff Writer

 

TEENSAdolescence is a challenging stage in life, yet it is common for adults to discount what teenagers may consider as stress. For many teens though, serious afflictions follow them into adulthood. Some debilitating issues that can affect our youth include depression, anxiety, trauma, substance abuse, eating disorders, self-harm, even suicidal ideations, and many other behavioral and mental health problems [1].

 

By the time they reach adulthood, 20% of teenagers will have experienced depression [2], 1 in 8 youth will be affected by an anxiety disorder [3], and roughly 3% of adolescents will have an eating disorder [4]. On top of that, these issues often go hand in hand; someone who has depression can often have anxiety; someone who has an eating disorder can often have depression; and so on. [3]. The compounding of these conditions make the whole situation more difficult to manage.

 

Additionally, many adolescents get wrapped up in using addictive substances. In this stage of life, their brains are still developing, and therefore, they are more susceptible to forming addictions consuming or using substances such as alcohol and drugs. Nearly half (46%) of high school-aged students use addictive substances with 1-in-3 qualifying as having an addiction. To put that in perspective, this means that 6.1 million teens are currently partaking in addictive substances [5].

 

TEENS_STUDYING

These serious issues often go unaddressed. For example, 80% of our youth that have an anxiety disorder and 60% that have depression are not being treated [3]. The same sentiment can be found in the other issues they face. Why is this? Teens lament that they feel like they are not being heard or taken seriously, or they feel they cannot freely express themselves for fear of judgment. Also, as a society, we often do not consider psychiatric problems to be as serious as physical health problems [6].

 

However, ironically, if left untreated many mental health conditions manifest into physical health issues. The most common are stress pains experienced in the neck and back, but it can extend into self-harm, harming others, and even suicide.

 

The good news is that teens can get the help they need through the establishment of supportive and open communication; this will allow them to feel safe when opening up about the issues that trouble them. As adults, we can be actively involved in noticing abnormal behaviors and addressing them early by providing professional medical attention and also by helping to equip them with tools to cope.

 

Yoga therapy is beneficial across the age spectrum, but during adolescence, it can be a profoundly helpful tool to foster “the important skills of creativity, flexibility, self-control, and discipline” [7].

 

At re:YOGA, we support this population by working closely with organizations such as Paradigm Malibu to bring yoga, meditation, and mindful breath practices to adolescents struggling with anxiety, depression, trauma, and addition. As remarked by one of the teens at Paradigm, “Yoga is fun and really helps get rid of my anxiety and helps with my back issues.”

 

If we can address the issues affecting our youth, they have a better chance of becoming high-functioning adults who can be free of, or at least embrace and manage, their behavioral and mental health challenges. As the saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child, so let’s play our part to look out for the younger members of our communities.

 

 

References
[1] Paradigm Malibu Home Page. (n.d.). Retrieved from Paradigm Malibu: http://paradigmmalibu.com/
[2]
Borchard, T. J. (2016). Why Are So Many Teens Depressed? Retrieved from Psych Central: http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2010/03/04/why-are-so-many-teens-depressed/
[3] Children and Teens. (n.d.). Retrieved from Anxiety and Depression Association of America: http://www.adaa.org/node/137
[4] Most Teens with Eating Disorders Go Without Treatment. (2011, March 7). Retrieved from National Institute of Mental Health: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/news/science-news/2011/most-teens-with-eating-disorders-go-without-treatment.shtml
[5] National Study Reveals: Teen Substance Use America’s #1 Public Health Problem. (2011, June 29). Retrieved from The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse: http://www.centeronaddiction.org/newsroom/press-releases/national-study-reveals-teen-substance-use-americas-1-public-health-problem
[6] Weller, C. (2013, November 19). Most Mental Health Problems In Teens Go Untreated; Phobias, Anxiety Among The Worst. Retrieved from Medical Daily: http://www.medicaldaily.com/most-mental-health-problems-teens-go-untreated-phobias-anxiety-among-worst-263174
[7] Marlynn Wei M.D., J. (2015, May 22). 7 Ways Yoga Helps Children and Teens. Retrieved from Psychology Today: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/urban-survival/201505/7-ways-yoga-helps-children-and-teens

Yoga as Therapy: Positive Effects on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

By Ashley Curry, Yoga Instructor, Prime of Life Yoga, re:YOGA Staff + Writer

 

PTSD_Dictionary

Over 20 million people in the United States alone [1] pursue yoga for its stress-relieving effects and to improve their well-being, but for people with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), the practice can offer powerful methods for coping with the effects of trauma.

 

Having personally experienced PTSD for many years, I can say with certainty that yoga brought tremendous healing to all areas of my mental and physical health.

 

 

What is PTSD?

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a condition caused by a singular traumatic life event, a recurring event, or multiple events. For many with PTSD, they’re haunted by an overwhelming perception of having become an anxiety-ridden mine field, drowning in a sea of depression, and caught in a web of perpetual uneasiness. People who are symptomatic of PTSD often relive the event(s) that traumatized them through nightmares, flashbacks, or triggers. They also avoid circumstances that remind them of their trauma, have transformed beliefs about themselves, others, and the world, feel on alert, struggle with insomnia, and/or possess an inability to concentrate [2]. Sadly, this crippling condition affects around 5 million people in the United States annually [3].

 

Trauma affects people differently. In my case, I developed a deep separation inside in order to protect myself. Frankly, I didn’t even realize just how disconnected I was until I began my practices in asana (yoga postures), pranayama (breath control), and dhyana (meditation). These powerful tools help to re-establish the essential mind-body connection and were key in my healing process. When I began practicing yoga, it forced me to become present, confront what demons lurked within, breathe and learn calmness, and most importantly, reconnect with my surroundings in a meaningful way. To say that yoga helped me is an understatement.

 

 

How can yogic practices improve the quality of life for those experiencing devastating symptoms?

Sat Bir S. Khalsa, Ph.D, lead researcher for a study on yoga’s effects on veterans and PTSD, and an assistant professor of medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School adeptly noted:

 

“What we believe is happening, is that through the control of attention on a target — the breath, the postures, the body — that kind of awareness generates changes in the brain, in the limbic system, and these changes in thinking focus more in the moment, less in the past, and it quiets down the anxiety-provoking chatter going on in the head. People become less reactive and the hormone-related stress cycle starts to calm down.” [4]

 

During the study, researchers discovered that these “anxious, reactive, and stress” symptoms of PTSD were improved after just ten brief weeks of yoga postures, breathing exercises, and meditation completed twice a week and practiced daily on their own for 15 minutes [4].

 

 

How about stress?

Stress can be used in a positive way like when we need to overcome obstacles, but when it is constantly looming overhead, the stress response can lead to health problems; such as high blood pressure, a major risk factor for heart disease, and can also quash the immune system, which increases the susceptibility to illnesses [5].

 

For people with PTSD, constant stress can adversely affect their physical and mental well-being due to overstimulation of the sympathetic nervous system (which is responsible for the “fight-or-flight” response). Harvard Medical School cardiologist Dr. Herbert Benson recognized in the 1970s that deep breathing switches the parasympathetic nervous system on (which is responsible for “rest-and-digest” activities) and can thus combat stress and the effects of stress [5].  By taking deep belly breaths, the lungs can take in a full range of air, whereas shallow breathing limits the lower portion of the lungs from doing so. This shallow breathing can add to feeling “short of breath and anxious” [5]. Thus, adding simple breath control practices, particularly slow exhalations, can reduce day-to-day stress and even aid in combating more severe symptoms such as those experienced with PTSD.

 

Knowledge, experience, and heart.

The dedicated team members at re:YOGA Therapy and Wellness have made it our mission to pass on these types of lasting change on to our students. By pooling our knowledge of physical exercises, breath work, and meditation practices, we’ve created a range of therapeutic services that have resulted in extraordinary transformations. Some of our services include classes taught to adolescents and adults struggling with mental health disorders at rehabilitation centers (Paradigm and Passages, Malibu), private yoga therapy sessions for individuals, small group supportive classes at our studio, as well as community classes taught to the public.

 

If you or a loved one is experiencing challenges from anxiety or trauma, contact us to see how we can help you rediscover and regain your quality of life.

 

Blessings to your health,
Ashley Curry + the re:YOGA Team

 

 

References
[1] Yoga Journal. 5 December 2012. 14 May 2016.
[2] PTSD: National Center for PTSD. 13 August 2015.
[3] Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. 2007.
[4] Zimmerman, Rachel. wbur’s CommonHealth Reform and Reality. 8 December 2010.
[5] Guide, The Family Health. Relaxation techniques: Breath control helps quell errant  stress response. 18 March 2016.

Alternative Relief for Chronic Back Pain

Are you among the twenty-six million Americans who suffer from chronic back pain?  Back pain is the most prevalent and debilitating health condition around today, and remarkably, it makes up the largest treatment category of medical claims. Standard medical treatments often focus on physical symptoms, but leave unaddressed the mental distress caused by prolonged chronic back pain. Alternatively, yoga therapy uses effective techniques that reduces back pain and provides calming practices to overcome mental and/or emotional hurdles.

 

 

Is there evidence to support Yoga Therapy’s effectiveness?

Yes! The benefits of yoga therapy have been validated through clinical trials from Virginia University, Washington University, and York University that compared various recovery treatments of patients suffering from back pain. The patients that received yoga therapy, in addition to standard medical treatment, showed greater back functionality and reduction of pain sensitivity. Clients of Los Angeles based, re:YOGA Therapy, share the consensus of these research findings, often reporting relief in as little as a couple of sessions.

 

 

How does Yoga Therapy help reduce back pain?

Most modern healing modalities neglect to incorporate the powerful benefits from mindfulness, breathing, and meditation to bring balance to the various responses produced by the central nervous system in today’s modern lifestyle. Yoga therapy techniques bring alignment, mobility, and stability to the spine and may incorporate techniques from physical therapy to meet your specific needs.

 

In addition, Yoga Therapists will typically encourage the practitioner to become more aware of their daily habits, behaviors, and movement patterns that may be underlying sources of pain. For example, our body’s mechanic while standing, sitting, walking, running, bending, lifting, reaching, and sleeping play a large role in our spinal health. Those in acute pain may be given breathing exercises or meditation techniques to ease the nervous system so the practitioner can better cope with their situation. In essence, our mental and emotional stress level has large implications that often goes unrecognized and is worthwhile to address when considering care for the spine.

 

 

Long-Term Benefits of Yoga Therapy
  • Supplements the healing process
  • Prevents future injuries through greater back functionality
  • Sustains a healthy body and mind
  • Reduces pain sensitivity
  • Reduces or prevents pain medication dependency

 

 Yoga therapy is an excellent alternative to modern healing practices  in providing effective techniques to alleviate back pain. re:YOGA Therapy offers a unique approach which emphasizes educating the recovery, prevention, and maintenance of our clients’ back care needs. We offer personalized programs that assist in back pain as well as a wide range of other injuries and/or ailments. Regardless of age, background, or condition, re:YOGA Therapy can tailor a program to fit the specific needs of any client.

 

“Most of my clients come to me to seek reprieve from back pain. However, the greatest reward comes when they share how the practice spills into areas in their life that they would have least expected. Inevitably, everyone shares a unique story and it’s truly a blessing when someone places their trust and allows me to be a part of their process.”

 

~May Che, Yoga Therapist + Instructor

 

 

re:YOGA Workshop - Yoga for Back Pain

 

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References

1) AAPM Facts and Figures on Pain. The American Academy of Pain Medicine. http://www.painmed.org/patientcenter/facts_on_pain.aspx

2) Hayden JA, van Tulder MW, Malmivaara AV, Koes BW. Meta-analysis: Exercise Therapy for Nonspecific Low Back Pain. Ann Intern Med. 2005;142:765- 75. [PMID: 15867409]. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-142-9-200505030-00013

3) Johnson RE, Jones GT, Wiles NJ, Chaddock C, Potter RG, Roberts C, et al. Active exercise, education, and cognitive behavioral therapy for persistent disabling low back pain: a randomized controlled trial. Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2007; 32:1578-85. [PMID: 17621203]. doi: 10.1097/BRS.0b013e318074f890.

4) Sherman KJ, Cherkin DC, Erro J, Miglioretti DL, Deyo RA. Comparing Yoga, Exercise, and a Self-Care Book for Chronic Low Back Pain: A Randomized, Controlled Trial. Ann Intern Med. 2005;143:849-856. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-143-12-200512200-00003

5) Tekur, P., Nagarathna, R., Chametcha, S., Hankey, A., & Nagendra, H. R. (2012). A comprehensive yoga programs improves pain, anxiety and depression in chronic low back pain patients more than exercise: an RCT. Complementary therapies in medicine, 20(3), 107-118. doi:10.1016/j.ctim.2011.12.009

6) Tilbrook HE, Cox H, Hewitt CE, Kang’ombe AR, Chuang L, Jayakody S, et al. Yoga for Chronic Low Back Pain: A Randomized Trial. Ann Intern Med. 2011;155:569-578. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-155-9-201111010-00003

7) United Kingdom Back Pain Exercise and Manipulation (UK BEAM) randomised trial: effectiveness of physical treatments for back pain in primary care. UK BEAM Trial Team. BMJ. 2004;329:1377. doi:10.1136/bmj.38282.669225.AE

8) Williams, K., Abildso, C., Steinberg, L., Doyle, E., Epstein, B., Smith, D., … Cooper, L. (2009). Evaluation  of the Effectiveness and Efficacy of Iyengar Yoga Therapy on Chronic Low Back Pain. Spine, 34(19), 2066–2076. doi: 10.1097/BRS.0b013e3181b315cc

Ayurve-“DUH”

By Kathy Cassre:YOGA Yoga Therapist + Ayurvedic Specialist

 

Several weeks ago during our unusually intense hot spell I was in my kitchen cutting up the cucumbers I had just gotten from the farmers market. I stepped outdoors and picked some mint leaves from my balcony herb garden. I was preparing my “famous” cucumber mint water. It’s a big hit at barbeques. I often get requests. Its just a big pitcher of water, a few slices of cucumber and a large handful of mint leaves. SO simple, SO tasty, SO cooling.

 

With sincere curiosity, my husband asked “Why that combination?”

 

“Those ingredients are cooling” I quickly replied. “In Yoga and Ayurveda, we treat with opposites and nature grows exactly what we need to nourish and replenish ourselves. We eat and drink with the seasons.”

 

With a huge grin on his face, my husband replied “That makes so much sense. Why don’t they call it Ayurved-DUH?!”

 

My husband began his Ayurvedic odyssey as an accidental guinea pig of sorts. He has become a believer because he applied a few simple tools with consistency and a sense of humor. He has been willing to try new foods, take herbs daily, drink teas, go to bed a little bit earlier and change his Yoga practice. Since dabbling in Ayurveda over the last few months, he is able to play softball free of pain, he has cooled and healed his severely itchy “heat rash”, and he has even learned how to eat vegetarian chili and prevent gas… (Sorry Honey!).

 

When I first mention Ayurveda to my Yoga students, many have ”heard of it” but are quite frankly intimidated by it. They might assume it is some kind of religion, raw vegan diet, or maybe even a bizarre painful pretzel like posture that takes years of severe discipline to master. “NOT SO!”…I tell them “It is SOOOO much simpler than that”. Just like we change our clothes with a change in the weather, in Ayurveda we make simple lifestyle changes to adjust to the changes in our environment (ie: climate, work and home).

 

These basic lifestyle considerations are traditionally broken down into three categories know as the “The three pillars of life”.

 

  1. Food and digestion
  2. Sleep
  3. Energy expenditure

 

When we look at these pillars and make changes according to our individual body/mind constitution, we can create a sense of balance and well-being that is meant just for us. Yes… an Ayurvedic lifestyle is a SIMPLE way to reconnect with our true nature, rebalance our health, and revitalize our spirit.

Join us for Kathy's upcoming workshop ``re:JUVENATE: A Free Introduction to Ayurveda``

Sleep Well, Live Better

By Prema Jyoti, re:YOGA Therapist + Instructor, Meditation Guide

 

Difficulty with sleeping has been a growing and prevailing problem in our modern and face-paced lifestyles. In fact, a lack of healthy and nurturing sleep is being described by many as an epidemic.

 

Chronic lack of sleep can lead to a variety of debilitating health issues including:

 

  • Reduced productivity
  • Mood issues,
  • Reliance on sleep drugs and caffeine
  • Weight gain
  • Poor mental health, including depression
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Low sex drive
  • Relationship difficulties

 

Disrupted sleep can easily turn into a vicious and hard-to-interrupt cycle, and unless there is an identifiable medical problem or illness behind it, disrupted sleep is ultimately traced back to the ‘T Word’ – Tension.

 

Tension dramatically reduces the ability to actually rest and properly nourish the body tissues, which results in the build-up of toxins and hormones, leading to more tension. When we are tense we can’t relax and so it becomes harder to sleep. The sleep we do get is then not of the same quality and we wake up feeling tired. More tension builds up… further inability to sleep… then a fear of not going to sleep due to past bad experiences… more tension.

 

So do we need to relax about sleep? Yes, most definitely. Along with the genuine disruption in sleep pattern may also come a sleep obsession. Often people are so obsessed with the need to get ‘proper sleep’ that they think they are sleeping less than they really are. This creates an obsessive fear reaction in the brain circuits. Once this pattern sets in it is very difficult to fall asleep, and when sleep does come, it is disturbed.

 

Unfortunately, people are reaching for pharmaceutical pills or self-medicating with recreational drugs, alcohol, or food as Band-Aid solutions to the deeper underlying problem of tension within their system.

 

The use of sleeping pills and tranquilizers means that people build up a tolerance to these chemical substances and thus, the requires increased dosages to get the original effects. Eventually the drugs lose their effectiveness and when withdrawn they leave behind the undesirable effects of no sleep the first night and disturbed sleep the next few nights. Even though this situation is temporary, the individual may panic and decide that he was better off with the drugs, thus getting back into the same old rut.

 

There are many natural ways to break the vicious cycle of disrupted sleep or insomnia, so of these – such as herbal teas, warm milk drinks, herbal supplements still deal with the symptoms rather than the underlying cause.

 

Increasing physical exercise also helps with releasing built us stress and tension. Forms of exercise that are engaged in order to feel tired and ready for rest, also may have the affect of increasing overall stress on the system.

 

Yoga is scientifically designed to relax the mental and physical tensions so that sleep comes quickly and easily. Yoga, in its fullest expression allows a person to find the ‘middle path’, for their system where the mind, body and the deeper layers of consciousness harmonize. In yoga when we are in a complete state of balance this also known as the ‘sattvic’ frequency. When our systems achieve this state of homeostasis, underlying tensions and even past traumas release at their root rather than show themselves as wounds to be bandaged from time to time.

 

 

The Good News

With some easy to follow simple yogic techniques, in most cases a return to your own natural nurturing sleep pattern is possible. Many people even experience instant improvements.

 

Techniques within Yoga that are known to help to heal your sleep cycle are:

 

  • Restorative postures such as Shashankasana (Childs Pose) and Pawanmuktasana (specialized joint rotations).
  • Breathing techniques that invoke the parasympathetic nervous system – restoring a restful state.
  • Cleansing techniques to rid the mind of tension
  • Yoga Nidra – Guided Deep Relaxation, which is excellent both to release deep underlying tensions and as a means to induce sleep.

 

Yoga in this way may be given as a Yogic Prescription – a unique mix of techniques and solutions that suit your individual needs and current lifestyle. Yoga Nidra, in particular is a deep relaxation that can written especially for you and then recorded so that you have it to listen to during the day to systematically relieve and release tension and also at bedtime to lead you into the most optimal brainwave pattern for excellent and restful sleep.

 

Psychologically, doing something active for your total wellbeing rather than passively taking a sleeping pill or having that extra glass of wine before bed will empower you to take charge of the situation and ultimately develop a new healthy and beautiful relationship with bedtime and the renewing gift of sleep.

Tip:

Try Child’s Pose for 3-5 minutes before going to bed. This posture calms the nervous system, brings rest and renewal to the spine, regulates the function of the adrenal glands, and brings us to a more internalized state ready for sleep.