Anna Passalacqua

Point of View Matters—A Yoga Therapy Perspective

It seems like almost every day we see a new article pointing to scientific evidence for the effectiveness of yoga in treating various conditions.

This is definitely good news for us as Yoga Therapists. And we are seeing more and more people without a yoga background coming in for treatment–some even with referrals from their physicians.

In working with western clients, we want to make yoga practices more accessible and avoid using yoga terminology that certain people might find off-putting, or even threatening. But it’s essential not to forget or ignore the cultural framework within which yoga has been practiced for thousands of years.

—Listen in as Brandt explores some challenges and tips in sharing classical yoga teachings with clients unfamiliar with these concepts.

Finding Contentment With Yoga Therapy

In yoga circles, we often hear people talking about acquiring “bliss states”. Bliss is found more easily when we can hold both pleasant and unpleasant feelings simultaneously. The science of yoga provides us with many tools to do this. Yoga Therapists are well equipped to help clients achieve a more peaceful experience by teaching them how to increase their capacity for opposing thoughts and feelings through practice.

Listen in on this candid moment during a Breathing Deeply Yoga Therapy Program session, as Brandt shares his thoughts about helping clients find contentment using yoga techniques.

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A Yoga Therapist’s Role in Processing Trauma

Traumatic experiences live in many aspects of our system. Yoga Therapists often find themselves working with people who have experienced trauma and are influenced by it’s effects. Yoga techniques have the ability to transform our relationship to the past but they also have the ability to stir up reactions to mind and body held traumatic patterns.

Listen in as Brandt shares wisdom on the role of the Yoga Therapist in processing trauma.

Yoga Therapy For Plantar Fasciitis

When working with yoga therapy clients, knowing what NOT to do is just as important as taking the right treatment approach. In this segment, Brandt shares advice about working with plantar fasciitis, and stresses how to avoid aggravating this common and painful issue.

Transcription

There’s a couple things you want to look at with plantar fasciitis. One would be, you know the condition itself is like a shortened fascial state like on the foot but usually it includes the calf and up the hamstrings. So at some point you’re gonna have to stretch that. So it’s not difficult to figure out how to do that if you’re a yoga teacher, but what’s not as obvious maybe is if you look behind someone if they’re supinating or pronating that would need to be corrected too. So you’d have to look at, or my advice would be to look at them standing from behind and see if you can get those Achilles tendons to line up straight, if they’re not, you lift their toes and have them form arches and possibly you figure out how to get their feet back into neutral so that would be one thing. And then when they’re not symptomatic or really warmed up, you’d want to very gently lengthen the fascia on their feet, and their calves, and possibly their hamstrings.

But here’s the thing. What I see a lot of people do it, and I’ve even seen PTs do this, you can’t just take somebody who has plantar fasciitis, which is basically the tearing of the fascia away from the heel. And then start stretching the heck out of it because we’re just gonna make it worse because I think it’s gonna tear more. So the trick to it is, along with the sort of structural piece is to teach the person how to get very warm before they do any stretching. And then do some fairly long holds. And at first, I would target the calf area and see if you can get the calf to lengthen without feeling it in the bottom of the foot and then see if you get the hamstrings to lengthen without feeling it at the bottom of the foot. And then the final thing I do would be to do a more sort of extreme stretch where you would lift the foot off the ground, balls of the feet off the ground at some point, but that’s after they’re better. So the mistake I see people making is kind of going for these big stretches, you know, and you see this a lot in athletes so they’re very game to do things usually. So, you know, you get someone in to your practice then athlete and they’re like, yeah, I’ll just stretch it out, tell me how to stretch. But you’re likely gonna do a lot more damage, so, what I’ve seen is people have plantar fasciitis and get it made much worse by the stretches.

So the key is where the person feels it. So you really want to be targeting, usually it’s not the fascia on the foot that shortens actually, could be but usually the real problem is up the posterior chain fascially, so really going to be sort of long, gentle stretches in the calf and the hamstring. I’ve worked with that condition hundreds of times, it’s very common and that usually works. And as you give the person what to do, you know, make sure they’re warm. So actually the first thing in the morning probably isn’t your moment, so make sure they’re already warmed up and then you can go further by actually having them heat the area. And I know a lot of times if you have inflammation people think ice because it cools it, but really what you want is all the tissues to be warm and open before you do any kind of manual stuff with them.

Yoga Therapy For A Rotator Cuff Tear

Listen in as Brandt shares strategies and discusses best practices for working with rotator cuff tears.

Are you ready to be a change-maker in this emerging field of yoga therapy? Apply now and start your journey on a new and exciting career path.

Transcription

One was a question about rotator cuff tears. What’s the deal with them? Can you tear it more and how careful do I need to be? That’s really the basics of this question. So, the answer to that is, it depends. Without giving an hour lecture on rotator cuff tears, I’ll say this – that basically tears have different sort of grades to them. So, it depends how severe the tear is, so you need some information from their doctor about tears. There’s no way for you to know how torn something is. But that said, unless it’s really intense, so they usually grade them, so if it’s a low-grade tear which is kinda the most common thing especially if it’s not a trauma, if it’s just like over time. I see a lot of people have tears and, you know, usually when a yoga therapist gets, and they’ve been to PT, and so this has been my experience. This is just one possibility, but a lot of times they’ve gone to PT and they’ve done rehab exercises that have either worked partially or not worked. When they haven’t worked, it’s usually has something to do with – well, there’s lots of reasons they could not work. But often what you see as a yoga therapist coming in after all that is, or what I’ve seen is that the PT has given them exercises that were too strong. They didn’t work on them gradually and I think that was a problem.

The other thing I see kind of commonly is with older people, say above 60, sometimes they write them off like, “Yeah. You have rotator cuff tears and here’s a couple of exercises.” And, you know, obviously, no PT or Physio should do this, but it just kind of happens a lot. I don’t know if it’s just because of ageism or…because I just see so many and it’s kind of a mill and it’s hard to keep track of everyone. But they say, “Well, you’re good enough.” I get a lot of those. So, one thing you need to remember is that non-painful movement is really important. So the non-weight bearing, no-pain movement to warm up the area, and also to sort of treat whatever arthritis may not be in there coexisting with the tear, so that would be good. Do a lot of that, a lot of moving and breathing. And then when you start to strengthen, one of the key things is to do it in a way that’s suitable to their shoulder. And you can’t always tell while you’re doing it. So a lot of times it’ll feel fine in the session but what you want to do is follow up and make sure that you’re doing things that don’t really inflame it too much, say, the next day afterwards. I always follow up with my clients. So, those are the two things I would think about.

The third thing is a technique. Actually, Karina in this course was teaching that to us on the last retreat. But where I’ve used forearm stand against the wall, sometimes on the floor, depending on the shoulder to sort of reset the shoulder. I’ve used other techniques like that where you use the muscles and then the working theory is other muscles take over usually for the supraspinatus which is torn. Her group has a technique where you do forearm standing against the wall and you relax your upper traps, and then right afterwards, you kinda swing your arms up and down, and that sort of resets it for the day, or forever, or for a few hours depending on the person. So that’s another technique that I could show you sometime. The main thing is that you have to kind of stay on them and make sure that the strengthening exercises you’re doing are not inflaming it too much because, you know, it’s a sign of a couple of things. But one is that you’re really getting at the sort of attachment where it’s torn and that could be really dangerous.

Where I’ve seen people make mistakes in the past is that they don’t follow up properly. And so the person seems fine, and then it swells up, or it hurts a lot the next day, and then the person thinks, “Well, this is probably just part of me having a hurt shoulder. I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing.” And that’s kind of the danger zone. So I would be careful there. Make sure you follow up. You want to talk to them on the phone the next day. You can do it by email. I try to actually talk to them so I can ask them some questions. Questions like, “Well, does your whole shoulder hurt today more than it did yesterday? Is it more sore today than it was yesterday?” Some people are pain sensitive and they’ll always tell you something hurts. Other people go the other way and they’ll be like, “Oh, it’s fine.” I have a guy like this right now, actually, I’m working with who says, “Oh yeah, it’s fine.” But what he really means is that he can handle the pain. So you have to ask more specific questions like, “Look, is the pain today worse than it was when we were working yesterday?” That’s a very specific question as opposed to “Does it hurt?” So just keep all that in mind.

Yoga Therapy For Trauma

When someone seeks out a Yoga Therapist because they are suffering from trauma,  the role of the Yoga Therapist to facilitate this transformation with the self takes skill and knowledge. In this segment, Brandt explains the difference between and best practices for working with trauma in a group class versus a private session.

For additional information, read out supporting blog post about yoga therapy for trauma.

Video Transcription

When you’re working with people that have suffered trauma, it’s a very different experience to work one on one than a class so there are certain things that are the same like how you might use invitational language, how you give people lots of options and don’t require them to do things necessarily, and then there’s a similarity in the physicality where you create a safe space where you as the teacher are not coming at them, standing over them, etc. but the difference I think and where sometimes people are confused is in private sessions you will, this is similar but different in that where in both cases try and encourage people to have certain kinds of experiences and the primary one is interceptive or sensory experiences where you’re feeling things in your body and you’ve heard probably a lot of times that trauma lives in the body or the tissues and that’s true in that in order to allow trauma to move and be resolved right, the body has to be felt. If the body is cut off not always but it can be more difficult so you know often it’s a good idea to whatever level a person can feel their body and that could be as sort of big body experiences like big asanas and as small as feeling the breath move in and out, but being in the body can be extremely useful, but when you’re working with somebody who really is interested in accurative solution in terms of working through their trauma and you know hopefully they’re supported by psychotherapist or social worker psychotherapist or a psychiatrist, some sort of mental health professional, but in private session there’s more of a place to allow them to explore how they feel about their trauma or their reactions to it or things that trigger them for themselves in the safe environment so usually it’s not going to happen with twenty people around you but if you can create a container where that’s possible and you can resist the urge to sort of process with them and use yoga practices to allow them to have experiences and then maybe talk it out for themselves so you know on our retreats we do a lot of active listening techniques so that we can get use to this experience of listening, about judging, of not implying anything with our physical bodies or the things that we say, so in that way it’s different and I think the other way it’s different is that you know you’re working through the koshas and in private sessions you may have a better take on where that trauma lives I mean it’s quite likely in vision of my kosha because that’s where conscious patterning is stored but it could certainly be in other places as well and to really help people specifically with practices with that so you’re not just generalizing a trauma sensitive practice that doesn’t trigger them you’re more looking in a private session at a practice that allows them to work with their bigger stuff in a way that is actually safe for them or that they can do. And that’s all about relationship so the questions around that are sort of like well what do I do? Do I simply just teach them yoga and not trigger them? Do I talk to them about their stuff? Do I work with things and then so the answer is you slowly work into the koshic techniques we learn in the course with their consent and permission, once you’ve established a relationship with them that’s solid, once you have their consent and consent in this case could be tricky I think because sometimes in order to consent to what you don’t know is going to happen consent is when someone can say you know I understand that this technique might bring up this stuff but to be honest with you I’m really interested in doing this work because I feel like that can be beneficial to me and then so you give them techniques that might help them let’s say deepen their access to their vision of my kosha which could allow some stuff to move and you would do that while explaining to them that you are a support system but they also might need other support.

Using Ritual to Balance Anandamaya Kosha [Bliss Body]

“You absolutely can offer ritual to a non-yoga person—someone off the street. People have all sorts of rituals in their life. Watch baseball if you want to see people with rituals.”

Listen in as Brandt gives examples of ritual that can help access bliss and balance the anandamaya kosha [bliss body].

2017 Year End Message From Brandt To BDYT Students

“Teach what is inside you.
Not as it applies to you, to yourself,
but as it applies to the other.” – Śrī T Krishnamacharya

Friends in Yoga,

As I reflect on our school and the changes we have gone through over the year, I am reminded of this quote from the father of modern yoga therapy. This year our student body has grown. Our Advanced Program has taken off and many of you are working on or submitting case studies. I have had the pleasure of working with you on how to effectively serve your yoga therapy clients. Through this, I have witnessed so many of you in a process of transformation.

When we begin sharing yoga, we often teach what we know. What we know is usually what has benefited ourselves. This is how we begin to understand how yoga works. As we delve deeper into the yoga therapy teachings, a shift takes place—we become more in touch with our universal knowledge. The knowledge under the knowledge so to speak. We begin to share universal truth as it applies to our clients. This is what Krishnamacharya speaks of, and is what I have seen in our community this year.

As a teacher, I couldn’t be more pleased. Seeing students deepen their understanding of yoga therapy and gain the ability to share it with great skill and specificity, is a gift. As a school, it speaks so well of our community and our collective power to ease suffering. I am humbled by the hard work you have put towards this goal. I am positive that we will make a real difference in the world in the years to come. Sharing our knowledge from deep within in a way that individuals, health care systems, schools etc… will be able to utilize for the common good.

It is a great honor and privilege to share these teachings with you. May this holiday season be a reminder of the peace and love that exists in all of us.

¡Jai! BDYT Sangham!

Brandt

Yoga Therapy and Medication

There is a lot of talk about how yoga therapy can help with a wide range of mental health conditions. There also seems to be some dissonance between how yoga and medication intersect. In this segmentBrandt answers one of his students questions about how to work with a client on medication, specifically, what a Yoga Therapist’s scope of practice might look like in this scenario. 

Here, we share a candid moment taken from a live session with students. We are working to spread the word about yoga therapy including the subtle details one must be aware of to be effective. Knowing what you don’t know is key. 

TRANSCRIPTION:

“It’s definitely not in our scope to comment on medication. You know, you can have personal beliefs about that, but you really have to know the history of someone. So, someone who’s had lifelong depression, you know you’d have to be really sure… well, first of all, you really shouldn’t comment at all as a Yoga therapist. You should say, “Actually you don’t know a lot about medication.” You know, “What I do know is that Yoga therapy can help alleviate the symptoms. And then if you feel like those symptoms are alleviated enough to try pausing your medication, you should talk to your doctor, psychologist or psychiatrist whoever you’re seeing about that.”

That’s for the official line. And then on another note, I would say, there is mounting evidence that medication for mild and possibly moderate depression isn’t that effective. And the reason I bring that up is that mild and moderate depression is not in the suicidal realm.

So, you know, if you had some science based around that and wanted to share studies or points of view from the Yoga Therapy tradition, that would be fine. But I wouldn’t become the ally against medication. I would stay in the zone, not just because of a liability perspective; more in terms of you really want your client to be achieving their personal goals. And so even though someone might say, “my personal goal is to get off medication,” it’s not the only goal. Because…and if you are skilled and talking to them, you would also find out that their other role would to not be depressed. So those things have to balance each other out.

So more important to ally yourself with the pursuit of overall health and happiness. Whatever that means. So that’s my general answer – that I have definitely helped people achieve their goals of getting off medication especially depression – it’s kind of a commonly, in my opinion, overused realm in terms of medication. However, some people you know it’s the perfect thing. And you know without it, it’s not going well. So just keep your mind there.”

Strategies For Working With Client Push Back

In this segment, Brandt discusses how a Yoga Therapist might work with a client that is having difficulty moving forward towards their goals. Listen in as he discusses strategies for working with client push back and creating trust (Satya).

Therapy For Back Pain: What NOT To Do

Listen in as Brandt discusses first steps in dealing with back conditions such as sciatica, spinal stenosis, spondylolisthesis.

TRANSCRIPTION:

I’ve gotten a bunch of different people asking what to do about different kinds of back pain clients, but the one common theme is, for me anyway, is that we should really know what not to do. If you know what not to do, you can work backwards from there. So we have a lot of back education including in the 800 hour, we deal with that. We just did that last module and the one before. But the main thing is, what I’ve seen, online and then some people are referencing me like, “Oh, my client had sciatica,” or “my client had this or that” and, “I saw these exercises online that are good.” Let’s say, you know, “My client had sciatica and I gave him these exercises that were good for sciatica,” or, “My client had a spinal stenosis and I gave him these exercises,” or, “My client that spondylosis and I gave him these exercises.” A lot of the times, those exercises you find are wrong, and I can’t really tell you why other than, you know, free speech is powerful, and people can say whatever they want.

But just a couple of basics, especially for people in the Foundation’s program who are just getting going. It’s important, you know, to get…the best thing is to always get a diagnosis, which you can’t do, but a doctor can, a specialist, not a PCP. And that usually comes with pictures, like an MRI, and those are really useful and probably one of the top three awesome contributions of Western medicine is being able to take pictures of things and see what they look like. And the reason you want…you don’t have to be able to read the pictures, but you want a diagnosis like, “Oh, we see a bunch of bulging discs,” or, “Oh, we see spondylolisthesis, which is basically a slipping of a vertebra,” or, “We see spinal stenosis, which is like a narrowing of the canal, so it squishes the nerve.” Because each one of those comes with contraindications or things that’ll likely make the problem worse. So an example of that is, if you have bulging disks, you generally don’t want to do anything that involves forward bending, and that also includes twists because most people forward bend a little when they twist unless they’re very body aware.

So you want to be careful with those versus in spondylolisthesis… That word is a bit very difficult for me and they should have named it something else. But it basically means one vertebra…I’m trying to give you a good picture…is slipping, usually forward, over the other. So your vertebrae is stacking, you’ve got one slipping. And in that case, forward bending would be better for it, but you don’t want to bend back. And sometimes, they come together, so you’ll have both of those conditions at the same time. So if you get a client and you don’t know what the problem is and they have some sort of radiating back pain like nerve pain down their leg or, you know, spreading all around, and you’re not sure what to do, you say, “Oh, this would be better if you had a diagnosis.” But you want to do something, I mean, generally, the best thing to teach people, right, in a pinch, is how to extend their spine, like their spine gets longer, and how to do it in a neutral position, without their forward bending or back bending, so that’s where you would start.

So you would look for postural problems. Usually, people come in, they say, “Oh, you know, I have a, you know, thing in my back” and they’re not sitting up straight and they’re not extending, and they probably have a lot of weak muscles. You know, if they’re acute like that, you can’t just muscle tests and be like, “Oh, your hip flexors are weak,” etc., etc. You have to kind of stabilize them in a neutral position first, so that’s what you would do. And then, you would sorta wait to figure out whether you need them to go forward or back. But most likely, in any big back pain scenario, at least in the beginning, either bending forward or back is gonna be contraindicated. So if don’t know which way is, you have to be very mindful. If you want to do no harm, think about neutral. So tadasana neutral, side plank, that’s a little dicier, but if the person’s in better shape, you know, their spine is still neutral, you can do exercises seating on a chair, sitting on a chair in neutral. But if you lie them on the ground, for instance, and they’re in a backbend, and you have a condition where that’s contraindicated, you’re gonna make their symptoms worse. I think there’s same, but the opposite, so if you’re pulling their knees into their chest, you think, “Oh, this is great. I’ll just roll their spine on the ground in apanasana,” or whatever, the problem is that you’re doing constant flexing, constant forward bending of that spine, and if they have disc problems, for instance, you’re making them worse or you’re likely to make them worse. But you can’t just go online and be like, “Oh, I found you 10 cool exercises for spinal stenosis.” Just five minutes before I logged on here, I just did a quick tour of those things and I immediately found many movements that make no sense, many movements that, I would say, are contraindicated for that condition.

Neuroplasticity and Habit Change

Listen in as Brandt discusses how to speak with yoga therapy clients about practices which promote neuroplasticity and how that helps with habit change.
 

Brandt: I think what’s helpful, most helpful for people, is that your brain is completely changeable, and at the same time its tendency is to keep doing the same thing, and therefore, if you want it to change, you actually can’t just think something else, you have to do a practice that changes it. So when I talk to people, and I actually probably have that conversation, one out of five people I see, you know what I mean? Somehow that comes into it because it’s about habit change, right?

And so, the argument for habit change, and I think what’s not intuitive for people, for instance, is that doing an asana practice even, which is shocking to me, makes, you know, enhances neuroplasticity.  So if you want to stop having negative thoughts about … whatever, your spouse, I don’t know, you know what I mean, it wouldn’t naturally occur to you to do a bunch of down-dogs or to do meditation for 15 minutes, right?

So, usually, I’m talking to people about their goals and what’s going to actually get them there. And the science piece is that what’s actually going to get you there, it’s usually around meditation, in my practice right now. So it’s like, what’s actually going to get you there is to actually do this practice that has nothing to do with what you’re trying to do. And that’s the leap, right, because that’s like, “Why would I, you know, follow my breath if I’m trying to…” even, like, lose weight. I mean, whatever, you know, stop eating cookies at night or any kind of habit change, right? Stop road raging. Like, what’s the connection, you know?

Interviewer: And what do you say if they’re like, “How is meditating for 15 minutes a day going to help me stop eating cookies at night?”

Brandt: Because you have your neural pathways that are there now. Your goal is to have different ones, or at least other ones that compete with them. So, right now, you have all the pathway of eat late at night, that’s what we do. And then, you are trying to develop new, basically, brain chemistry is what they’ve found out. That’s the science, right? Is that it’s not just willpower. In fact, it’s not at all. It’s brain chemistry and how your brain…and the brain anatomy, so it’s like how your brain’s actually configured.

So the science says that you are unlikely to make habit changes unless you put yourself in a state where your brain can become more plastic. I try not to use “plastic” because only me and you understand that, you know what I mean? Such a weird word. So, more changeable. And it turns out…and then you go back into yoga land. But often, I’m saying things like, “Tranquility states and meditation, what you’re almost feeling, is the state in which you can change brain chemistry and neural pathways.”

So you would think that the way to not eat cookies at night is to put a note on your fridge saying, or your cabinet door, saying, “Don’t eat cookies,” right? But it’s not. So everything you’ve been trying to do to stop your patterning, you’re working against yourself. You’re wasting your time because all of the science now is saying people don’t do that. But what people do is, for instance, meditate for 20 minutes a day, and they are able to actualize change. So it moves, you know, you’ve changed your brain so now that you can actually do what you want to do.

 

Introducing Meditation to Beginners [A Yoga Therapist’s How and Why]

In this 5 minute segment taken from a Breathing Deeply Yoga Therapy class, Brandt shares a few thoughts on how (and why) a Yoga Therapist might introduce meditation to a client. There are so many possibilities, right?

The Money Question: What Should A Yoga Therapist Charge?

Brandt in a video discussing Yoga Therapist salary

In this segment, Brandt discusses hourly rates and a yoga therapist salary for both a private Yoga Therapy practice and a Yoga Therapy clinic.

Transcription

Brandt Passalaqua: So, what was your question? You were asking about rates?

Student: Yes, how do you guys decide to set your yoga therapy rate.

Brandt: You have two options, but for private rates, I would look at what acupuncturists charge, massage therapists charge, and psychotherapists charge, because, you know, like in New York City, people get $120, or $150, or $200 an hour. You know what I mean?

Student: Yes.

Brandt: Two hours away, where I live, people get $90. If I went an hour and a half from my house to Vermont, people are probably more likely to get $75, as you are getting further away from the cities.

Student: Okay.

Brandt: But, I would look at it that way. And the other option is something I’m working on now, is doing it in a different style – like a clinic style – where it depends on how much money you need, but where you set up a Yoga Therapy clinic or a couple of clinic days, and you do shorter appointments and charge less. So, I’m going to be giving everyone protocols for that because I’m working on that right now, sort of ironing that out. It’s also a good way to get into the community. So, a lot of other alternative medical professionals work that way, where you have for example two days a week of regular office hours and you charge your full rate, let’s say that’s $90 an hour, and then you have a Yoga Therapy clinic day where people can come for half an hour for $30 for example, so you’re working with both sets of populations. So, that would be another way to think about it.

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Helping Clients Localize Pain

In this segment, taken from a Breathing Deeply Yoga Therapy Program Q&A, Brandt shares techniques for helping clients specifically identify areas of pain.

Using The Joint Freeing Series To Relieve Suffering

In this segment, Brandt explains how the Joint Freeing Series, which is often applied to physical conditions, can also work for mental conditions by balancing vata energy.

The Ethical Yoga Therapist: Choosing Which Client Conditions To Address

In this candid moment, Brandt discusses with his students how Yoga Therapists want to let their clients decide what conditions should be addressed.

As a Yoga Therapist, it’s unethical to push someone to do something even if you think it’s in their best interests…The only way to know if you are of service to someone is to help them with what they want help with. Not with what you want them to do.” —Brandt

Insomnia: Vata Or Pitta Imbalance? [The Path Of The Yoga Therapist]

Listen in as Brandt discusses how insomnia, like many conditions, might look like a vata imbalance, but there is often a pitta imbalance at the root of the issue.

 

Transcription

Brandt: I’ve seen a  lot of people with insomnia with pitta imbalance. So that’s very typical

Student: It seems kind of vata to me

Brandt: why? 

Student: Just because they’re very scattered and can’t settle 

Brandt: Ya but what I’ve found just in practice is that it’s a sort of controlling your energy issue. So often you’ll see this a lot in our course, but often Pitta always almost, Pitta imbalances, overactive pitta will imbalance vata. So it looks like a vata issue and all the vata pacifying practices help the person but the real solution is actually getting their pitta under control. 

Student: um Hmm

Brandt: So that’s not every person who has insomnia. But that’s often. And you just see that over and over again where basically you do tones of vata balancing practices and the person’s like 30% better and you’re like oh good but then it stops. And that’s because you have to address you know the sort of analogy that’s always used is like pitta’s fire right and it moves the air above it right 

Student: Right

Brandt: so we have that issue. So that’s what I’ve seen and that might be to be honest I suspect that’s kind of a Western problem. Because there’s a lot of pitta imbalance in the West just cause the way we live and overactivity. So that’s why I’ve seen it over and over again. But I’ve seen other things you know but I see why you’d say that’s like disorganization 

Student: Um Hmm

Brandt: Insomnia, but often that’s coming from something deeper. So it’s always interesting to me how you know how when you work that way we often do things that you wouldn’t suspect like you’re doing something like you’re sensitizing the person to themselves so there’s a big piece of work there where you’re getting the person to feel their own heat and to leave it in their belly 

Student: Hmm

Brandt: and that’s really hard for people. So it’s a big education for them. It basically forces them to get in touch with their energy and where it is right? While they’re doing things that we do that in asana, we do that in pranayama, you’ll see as you go forward but um and that solves a lot of problems. 

Student: Um Hmm

Brandt: It’s even one of my sort of favourite parts of yoga therapy *laughing* this like solving the Pitta problem.

Yoga Therapy For Trauma [Empowering Change]

In this video segment taken from a BDYT Q&A session, Brandt discusses how a Yoga Therapist can hold space for a client to process a traumatic experience.

Kathy: What about people that have maybe been burying their…you know, something terrible happened and they’ve just been buried.

Brandt: Yeah, it’s trauma. Yeah, this happens all the time.

Kathy: So how do they safely let it, kind of, move through them if it’s been retraumatizing them for years.

Brandt: Yeah. I mean, people have different ways of looking at that but I think that’s why people need help, because they need somebody else to hold space that’s safe for them, which is where we come in. Right?

Kathy: And you think breathwork is the strongest way to help people with that?

Brandt: No. I mean, it usually comes into play. But what’s important is that they sort of…I mean, I think people, when they let the balloon out slowly, are able to handle it, right? So they have, sort of lots and lots of mini sort of recognitions, breakdowns, experiences. Even if they’re intense but they’re not the whole thing and they are completely clear that they’re in an environment where they’re being helped. You know what I mean? Where they’re safe. Even if it doesn’t feel like that to them. So just that… I mean, there’s a lot of…it’s interesting because massage therapists talk about this a lot because people have big experiences on their massage table, but they’re not purposely doing any kind of trauma work, right? They’re just sort of holding a space for the person where they can sort of physically let out their trauma. But they’re not doing any particular techniques or you know what I mean.

But in the massage community, there’s a lot of talk of that because people, massage therapists, experience this and they talk about how to just sort of hold this space and keep it super safe. And so we do that except we give people practices to not only experience these things and sort of let them out as you’re saying, but then also re-ground themselves. Because that’s what gives you confidence, right? You have an experience, you relive a trauma, and then you do a practice that re-grounds you. So you might not feel awesome… but you feel like, “Oh wow, I experienced that.” Because the experience of the trauma, right, is not that. The experience of the trauma is you experience the trauma and then it was bad from then on. There’s no point where you got re-grounded. So now you’re creating a new storyline where I experience the trauma or re-experience the trauma on some level and now I’m okay, like, I can take care of myself. That’s hugely healing, as you can imagine.

Get Out Of Pain: Muscles Vs. Fascia [Yoga Therapy Insights]

In this segment of a Yoga Therapy Program Q&A session, Brandt Passalacqua, founder of Breathing Deeply Yoga Therapy, discusses why exercises that strengthen muscles and promote muscular balance should be prioritized over simply reshaping fascia.

Yoga Therapy For High Blood Pressure

High Blood Pressure affects 1 in 3 adults in the United States and puts them at greater risk for heart disease and stroke. Here are a few ways yoga therapy can be useful for helping manage high blood pressure.

Benefits of yoga to lower blood pressure

  • Yoga can make muscles more pliable which may correlate to less arterial stiffness. A study in the American Journal of Physiology found that a simple sit and reach test in people over 40 could indicate arterial stiffness. So it is a possibility that more flexibility could correlate with less stiffness in the arteries.
  • Reduced stress levels and associated hormone levels help lower blood pressure. Numerous studies have found that doing yoga poses for high blood pressure reduces cortisol (stress hormone levels). Asana, pranayama, and meditation all have the ability to shift stress levels and tone the parasympathetic nervous system.
  • Yoga has been shown not only to reduce blood pressure levels, it also helps to reduce blood glucose, cholesterol, and body weight. These are the major factors for risk of heart attack and strokes.

These results have been noted in yoga studies using various yoga techniques.

How can a Yoga Therapist help reduce blood pressure

A qualified Yoga Therapist can individualize a practice for their clients—the key to providing the right kind of yoga is to help with specific conditions. (Some yoga poses are contraindicated for high blood pressure for example, some inversions or poses that put pressure on abdomen raising bp.)

To achieve the optimal stress-reducing benefits of yoga, practices should be custom tailored to your personal makeup. In the Breathing Deeply Yoga Therapy model, we assess clients and offer specific asana, breathing, and meditation practices to best address a client’s stressors on all levels in order to bring the system back into balance. For instance, while meditation, in general, is good for reducing blood pressure, a Breathing Deeply Yoga Therapist would assign a particular meditation practice that matches the symptoms and Ayurvedic imbalances. In this way, clients achieve greater results as reducing their blood pressure than a generalized approach to their condition.

I have seen many clients improve their blood pressure numbers with yoga therapy, as well as, personally reaping the benefits of reducing my own blood pressure with practice. I encourage anyone struggling with this condition to reach out to us or to a well-qualified Yoga Therapist to begin the process of learning how to reduce their blood pressure and take control of their health.

As always, please use yoga therapy in conjunction with western health care. We are stronger together.

Om Shanti,

Brandt Passalaqua

Director and Lead Teacher – Breathing Deeply

Interested in yoga therapy and helping others? Apply now to join our next class of aspiring Yoga Therapist.

A Yoga Therapist’s Personal Practice [And Why It’s Important]

In this video clip, Brandt discusses the importance of a Yoga Therapist’s personal yoga practice, and why it’s a good idea to regularly schedule practices that are not part of their normal routine.

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