“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”
Matthew 22:37 (NIV)
May is Mental Health Awareness Month, so we thought we would focus on the last part of that popular verse — our mind!
A recent study by Yale University found the following:
For 44 to 66 million disadvantaged Americans, the pandemic is exacerbating existing stressors — including financial insecurity and systemic racism — which impairs prefrontal cortical performance that is critical for regulating emotions and coping, among other functions. Even a mild stressor, if you feel out of control about it, initiates a series of chemical reactions that immediately weakens prefrontal connections. And when that stressor is sustained and chronic, you actually lose those connections. At the same time, stress strengthens some of our more primitive circuits.(Yale News)
The pandemic is unique especially in that it has also limited the coping mechanisms most people need to manage stress. Community became diminished, gyms closed and therapists’ calendars quickly became booked. Yet despite the fact that at least 44 MILLION Americans struggle with mental health issues, there is still a stigma surrounding the topic.
At Holy Yoga, we’re big fans of neuroscientist and mental health expert, Dr. Caroline Leaf. She states, “I do not think we have a mental health problem. I do, however, think we have a mismanagement of the mental health system, and this mismanagement is leading to a stigma that follows people for the rest of their lives. I think this figure of 44 million is wrong — it should be 100% because everyone battles with mind and mental health issues, it is the human condition.” (Authority Magazine) We couldn’t agree more! We are all human; we are all fallen, sinful beings; we all experience traumatic events that perpetually shape who we are and how we respond to our environment and our circumstances.
In our Trauma Sensitive yoga training, Lead Instructor Jonnie Goodmanson reminds us how no one can qualify our traumatic experience — it is ours and we are all impacted by traumas differently. That is why psychologists developed resilience factors. Unfortunately, we have been programmed to immediately disqualify our traumatic experiences unless they are absolutely horrific. This minimization of our experiences means that we fail to acknowledge the hurt and the pain, and our body is unable to process it in a healthy way. As yoga instructors, it is easier for us to understand the effects of trauma on our bodies. Trauma is a physical experience that happened in or to your body, but it is also so much bigger than that! As Christians, we know that trauma is also spiritual in nature because our battle is not against flesh and blood (Ephesians 6:12).
As Holy Yogis, we believe that God is the God of the light and the dark, which means He is also the God of our trauma! He is in our brokenness and wants to restore us to wholeness. Yoga is just one modality that helps us process, integrate and file away the memories of our traumas in order to move forward. As our Founder, Brooke Boon, so beautifully teaches us, courage is the line of delineation between shame and fear. It takes courage to show up and seek healing!
As yoga instructors, it is important for us to meet our students where they are at and provide them a safe environment that allows them to focus on coping with their daily experiences and find grounding techniques. We do not take the place of counseling or other psychiatric treatment; we provide tools for them to experience healing and help them integrate their psychiatric care with the techniques that we teach in our classes so that they can experience grounding and healing.
But we also strongly believe that you can’t teach what you don’t know. That means you must first work on processing your own trauma in order to help others! As we work to seek healing and to create safety in our bodies and our environment, it is important to understand who/what we are looking to for our safety, truth and love. The beauty of Holy Yoga is that we can expect that if we show up, God will meet us on our mat!
Breathwork is a powerful grounding tool and is an easy technique to incorporate into your practice. After all, yoga is the discipline of yoking your movement with your breath! Jonnie continues in our Trauma Sensitive Training, “When our hearts begin to settle before Him (God) in meditation, it is through the breathwork that the head (intellect) meets the heart (will). It is through our soul’s connection to His Spirit that these systems in our bodies can be trained and renewed.”
Trauma Sensitive yoga is especially helpful for those who not only have experienced trauma, but who also struggle with mental health. It is a practice that places emphasis on breathwork, grounding and teaching students to reconnect with their bodies. Oftentimes with trauma and mental health, dissociations have occurred in the mind and body, and reconnection with one’s own body becomes vital for healing. The ultimate goal of a trauma sensitive class is to create a safe, non-judgmental environment for the vulnerable experience of reconnections and integrating our heart, soul, mind and strength.
We’ve compiled a list of some ways to help your mental health this month (or anytime!):
Try a Trauma Sensitive yoga class.
We offer several Trauma Sensitive Holy Yoga TV episodes. Simply sort by “Trauma Sensitive” in the focus bar.
Incorporate breathwork into your practice.
We have a few specific Holy Yoga TV episodes that focus on breath. Sort by “breathwork” in the focus bar.
Be intentional with your community.
We love fostering community at Holy Yoga! Here are some of the ways you can get involved:
If you’re a Holy Yoga TV subscriber, make sure to join our Stream Team!
Join our Spring session of Holy Yoga Live for weekly live yoga flows, prayer and meditation.
Holy Yoga Instructors are invited to join us for Soul Coffee on the first Thursday of each month.
Skylar grew up as an Arizona resident, and graduated from Arizona State University with a BA in Global Health, minoring in Biology, Communications, and Religious Studies. She has extensive experience in the non-profit sector; she co-founded a non-profit while in college and has nearly ten years of ministry experience working for local churches. Skylar is currently on staff at Holy Yoga as the Creative Content Provider, in addition to working for her own creative studio, Skylar Renee Creative. In her free time, she enjoys gardening; testing new recipes in the kitchen; using her brain – being creative, learning a new hobby, or reading; and spending time with her family and rescue dog. You can find out more about her on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/mrs.skylarrenee or on her website www.skylarreneecreative.com