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I’m sitting on my yoga mat in my living room, listening to my yoga teacher, Sri Hari Moss, as he begins his online class. Today the theme is Yoga for Mental Health. It reminds me of my mentor, teacher, and the founder of Integrative Body Psychotherapy (IBP), the late Dr. Jack Lee Rosenberg. He was also a firm believer in the benefits of yoga. Similar to IBP, the benefits of yoga for mental health are that it integrates the body, mind, emotions, and spirit.

Awareness is Key

Sri Hari references the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, a collection of 196 short verses that serve as a guide to attain wisdom and self-realization through yoga.  Yoga Sutra 1.2: “The restraint of the modifications of the mind-stuff is Yoga.”

Through my IBP lens, this sutra states what I know to be true. The human mind leaps to conclusions about reality based upon what you learn about yourself during early childhood experiences. In other words, without deep awareness of your thinking and emotional patterns, you unconsciously carry forward and recreate your early emotional wounds and trauma.

“Without an examined life you are held hostage to old injuries and faulty thinking. And, you are apt to follow a false trajectory of life and then feel unsatisfied even when reaching your goals.”

Dr. Beverly Kitaen Morse, Co-Developer of IBP states.

One of the key benefits of yoga is that the practice helps you develop an awareness of what you feel in your body. IBP goes a few steps further by integrating your body feeling with your emotional state and unconscious beliefs about yourself. In this way, you develop an awareness of the repetitive emotional patterns that may be playing havoc with you. Once you have an awareness of your emotional patterns and how they show up to disrupt your relationships and life, you can learn to navigate from a place of calm stability, and grow from your experiences.

Uncover Your Core Self

Sri Hari continues with Yoga Sutra 1.3: “Then the Seer (Self) abides in Its own nature.”

The practices of yoga and IBP are devoted to helping you experience a more grounded, rooted sense of stability. When you feel stable inside, your body and mind can relax. You can breathe more fully. You feel more loving, curious, hopeful, and expansive. This is a highly relational and productive way of being. The internal sense of resilience, clarity, and well-being you feel when you are able to “be yourself” is what most people want to feel more of the time. IBP refers to this as your core self state. With IBP’s practices, you learn to live more constantly in this state.

Yet your true nature, or core self, is often hidden beneath layers of negative emotional patterns and false beliefs about who you are. Before you have language, the emotional patterns you learn from your parents set up unconscious belief patterns. These unconscious belief patterns become the foundation for who you believe yourself to be. These patterns follow you throughout your life.

Children of nurturing and emotionally stable parents believe they are wanted and lovable. They carry these feelings about themselves into their adulthood and pass it onto their own children. Conversely, children of less stable, neglectful parents may harbor beliefs that they are somehow inadequate. It is never true that you were inadequate. Only that you may not have received the loving warmth you needed to develop an inner sense of wholeness.

Whatever you’ve learned about yourself, it is possible to clear the emotional and belief patterns that no longer work for you. You can give yourself what your parents, family, and teachers could not. Like clouds parting so that you can see the sun, when you attend to your core self through practices such as yoga and IBP, the true nature of your Seer or Self can be revealed.

The Breath is the King of the Mind

Returning to my living room yoga class, Sri Hari next encourages us to focus on the breath. He quotes B.K.S. Iyengar, founder of Iyengar Yoga.

“The mind is the king of the senses but the BREATH is the king of the mind.”

The yoga practitioner uses breathing to focus the mind on maintaining a calm presence while the body is stressed through various yoga poses. This both heightens and spreads energy throughout the body. Over time, the yoga practitioner develops a capacity to remain calm and energized while facing challenges.

With the goal of providing an efficient and effective approach to relieve emotional pain and suffering, IBP likewise uses various breathing and movement techniques. The end goal is the same as yoga, namely, to teach therapy clients how to maintain a calm, steady presence more constantly, even while confronting an emotional challenge.

Change Your Breath, Enhance Your Body, Mind, & Spirit

Breathing is an automatic function of the body. You don’t have to think about breathing, it just happens. However, during a stressful situation, your breathing automatically becomes rapid and shallow. Your nervous system sends messages to your body to attack or escape. Yet when you’re facing an emotional challenge, attacking or escaping may not be appropriate. One of the benefits of yoga is that it strengthens your ability to breathe more intentionally and fully to remain calm in stressful situations. Conscious, deep, full breaths calm your body and allow you to confront challenges in a productive and centered way.

Like yoga, the breathwork and movement exercises in IBP move you from a stressed out, contracted state to a more relaxed, calm state of expansion. Since you cannot solve an emotional problem in distress, IBP encourages you to change your state of being with breath, presence, and movement exercises. These allow you to return to being present, centered, and grounded. By identifying when you are stressed and then interrupting your distress, you can manage your upsets and live in a more integrated state of wholeness.

The Benefits of Yoga Informed by IBP

To become capable of living in your core self more constantly, the next step is to recognize the old emotional patterns that keep triggering you. Just like the practice of yoga works to help you identify where you are tight in your body, IBP aims to help you identify and repair interruptive patterns in your body, mind, emotions and spirit so that you can enjoy heightened states of energetic aliveness and wellbeing.

Yoga brings awareness to your breath and body. It helps you practice presence and breathing through stress and challenges. Yet you can take this journey one step further and embrace your whole life experience through IBP.

Take Your Yoga Practice One Step Further

The benefits of yoga are immense. Yoga combined with the IBP life practices can take your wellbeing to yet another level. If you’re ready to discover the authentic you beneath the layers of your emotional coping strategies, try my online program, The Core Self Transformation. I created this class as an introduction to understanding your early emotional blueprint and returning to your true nature, a place of body-mind-spirit awareness.

You’ve likely experienced a calm, grounded, balanced, and energized state after practicing yoga. This course will help you sustain these same feelings of energetic wholeness and truly understand the core of who you are. Take the time to focus on yourself. The Core Self Transformation program will help you begin the process of integrating your internal sense of self through your body, mind, emotions, and spirit. There is no greater gift than knowing yourself deeply and profoundly.