Yoga and OT

In occupational therapy, the first practice model we learnt (CMOP-E) comprises the 3 key parts of OT: Person, Environment, & Occupation. In this context, occupation is all the activities we do daily, for self-care, productivity, or leisure. OTs help people by teaching new skills, adapting the environment, or modifying valued activities, all to enable people to be as independent as possible in their daily lives. Guess what is at the centre of the model as the core component of the person – Spirituality! – which refers to the essence of the person and the meaning that people attribute to what they do, which drives their motivation. We learnt that engaging in meaningful and purposeful activities in life was essential for overall good health and well-being. It made me think about what activity I was doing that met these criteria – and yoga was the first thing that came to mind. Yoga is meaningful to me as I experience a sense of strength, balance, and calm when I do yoga, which motivates me to continue attending weekly classes to not only feel this calming sensation, but also develop my yoga practice.

During the 200hr Yoga TTC, we learnt that Asanas (poses) and Pranayama (breaths) are tools and techniques used for the outcome of Yoga (union). In yoga, there is a holistic view of the person, in terms of mind, body and spirit, all of which – in union – contribute to overall good health and well-being. There are similarities between yoga practices and therapeutic interventions we learn, especially for mental health. For example, we use the Inhale 4: Hold 2: Exhale 6 second breathing technique for anxiety, joint warm ups and stretches to maintain physical function, and relaxation sessions which include progressive muscle relaxation and mindfulness/meditation. The holistic view of the person is also a core part of OT practice and I feel I have a better appreciation of this now, after more in-depth learning about breathing techniques, postures, and meditation in yoga practice.

– Ari (200hr YTTC, 2018) 

Yoga and CBT

Starting a short, simple routine first thing in the morning is something I’ve always wanted to do, but I only ever ended up drinking 2 glasses of water daily when I wake up, and doing some stretching. During 200hr Yoga TTC, we learnt the Tirisula 5-Step Rejuvenation to do every morning. I must admit I do steps 1-3 and then I do my own stretching, especially opening up the shoulder and hip joints where I feel most stiff in the mornings. However, it enabled me to finally kick-start a morning routine, and as it only takes 30 days for something to become a habit, I am the better for it, and of course I will get to completing all 5 steps every morning!

Just before starting this course, I completed an online course about the Essentials of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT), something I’ve become interested in since learning about it at uni. CBT is used to help shift thoughts and behaviours to more positive and productive ones. A key concept of CBT is “people get better by making small changes in their thinking and behaviour everyday” and as someone who practices or teaches yoga, I think it is important to remind ourselves and our students of this. Common thoughts I have are “I have no time” or “I’m too tired” which leads to not doing yoga as often as I’d like to. Now I keep reminding myself I’m doing a beneficial thing that has long-term positive effects, and when I do complete the morning routine I tell myself “it’s good that I did that today” – as suggested in CBT to build a sense of self-efficacy. I will continue to do this as I increase the yoga practice to include asanas in my morning routine once this 200hr Yoga TTC ends!

– Ari (200hr YTTC, 2018) 

Yoga and Life

This was the year I knew I was going to do things I’ve been thinking about but never did, to feel the sense of loving life again like when I was a kid. Two things I always wanted to do were tour Europe and do a yoga teacher course, and this year I took the opportunity thanks to good timing with my uni break and a family wedding in London.

I did a Topdeck tour after the family wedding, travelling on my own for the first time, from Barcelona to Rome for 11 days, through 6 cities. Turns out most of the 40 people on the tour were also living in Australia, and I wasn’t the only one travelling on my own! Between each city was an 8 hour driving day spent on the coach, with rest stops every 2 hours. I knew they would play an arrival song every time we stopped, and I wondered what ours would be. I was fast asleep on the first driving day, and woke up to the sound of whistling coming through the speakers. It was the start of the arrival song, “Love Life” (by John Mamman in French/English). The song instantly became a favourite, as it was the reason I booked the tour, and I needed those lyrics this year more than ever. (Coincidence, or a sign from the universe? haha) I knew I was in the right place at the right time. Each time I heard the song, I felt more at ease, and felt that I was actually starting to love life again, because I was just enjoying living in the moment.

I am now completing the 200hr Yoga TTC in my hometown where I was first introduced to yoga at the age of 11 by my mum. During the course, we learnt about taking care of ourselves through our daily routines, actions, thoughts, even the food we eat. I feel happy learning so much more about yoga, which has been one of the few consistent things in my life. Yoga has kept me sane and grounded throughout my time at school, and now uni, soon to be throughout my career too. “Always find time for the things that make you feel happy to be alive” – the quote on my phone’s lock screen. It is absolutely true – the Topdeck tour and Yoga TTC are the best things I’ve done in Season 24 of my life. So, if you’re reading this and thinking about doing something but have been putting it off, just go for it!

– Ari (200hr YTTC, 2018) 

Yoga and listening to yourself

Often in yoga classes, I observe people trying to complete the advanced version of yoga poses, even though they struggle in an easier option and in doing so, place their body in an awkward posture or fall over completely. On the other hand, I am overly conscious about my body’s limits in terms of strength and flexibility. I always move into the easy option of the pose first, even if I’ve done it countless times, as my mind and body are not the same every day. I think this comes from having good yoga instructors who always remind me that it is not about getting to the advanced level of a pose and suffering in pain there, no. It is about listening to your body, going only as far as you can, aligning your body in the correct posture, maintaining awareness of breathing, and enjoying being comfortable in a pose. It is also important to focus on yourself during the poses, and not compare yourself to those around you in class.

During the 200hr Yoga TTC, we learnt about Patanjali’s sutras for Asanas – 2.46 being “sthira sukham asanam” which means “steady, comfortable posture”. I think as a yoga teacher it is very important to emphasise this to students, especially beginners who have never done yoga before, though gentle reminders throughout the class that they should be able to smile during an asana and not be suffering in pain. This directs the mindset of how postures should feel, and enable the students to carry this on as they develop their yoga practice over time, to strengthen the connection between mind and body by listening within. I still continue to remind myself to relax into each pose, not just the ones I like because I can do them well.

– Ari (200hr YTTC, 2018)