holistic psychotherapy

Therapeutic Yoga

Yoga Therapy for Mind & Body

What is Yoga?

When we're talking about yoga, we're speaking of a complete system, created 1000s of years ago with the purpose of achieving mental, physical and and spiritual well being. Yoga is a system of practices that help us achieve that state of consciousness. The term comes from sanskrit meaning yoke - the connector between horse and cart - and represents the connection between mind, body, energy, and spirit. Yoga then, is really a state of consciousness, not a state of doing.

Most people think of yoga as postures and breath work, and hatha yoga is the form with which they are most familiar. Postures and breath work are one aspect of yoga, one means of achieving those goals.

Jason's approach is based on the understanding that healing happens when we're able to cultivate our connection to present moment experience. The body is a convenient vehicle for for practicing that connection.

Jason uses therapeutic yoga to cultivate our awareness of whatever is part of our present experience, without judgement, and without attachment. Jason guides the use of yoga postures with the intention is to bring awareness to what we are experiencing. The goal when doing a yoga posture is to notice the sensations you experience, what your mind is doing, what is going on around you.

We can't easily relax a muscle by wanting to do so. But yoga can assist in naturally relieving tension and muscle tightness - and in turn, each musclular relaxation is tied to some stress in the mind which is also relaxed or released.

"We wear our experience."

What is Assisted Yoga?

In assisted yoga the practitioner supports the person postures - withoug forcing the stretch beyond the point of natural "edge." This makes yoga easier because the person doesn't have to try to, for example, hold their leg up against gravity for a specific posture. Note, this means support, not forcing further stretch. This means working with patient to find each person's "zone" - the point where we feel a challenge, but don't tense up to armor oneself against too much stretch. The edge is not the point of pain, but just before it.

Chi Gung

Another form of yoga is Chi gung, also known as Qi Gong. Chi gung is a Chinese practice for moving energy. The principle is that the physiology has an energetic aspect, in which channels provide a flow of energy throughout the body. These are the same channels, or meridians, as are utilized in acupuncture. Chi Gung consists of simple movements which encourage the free flow of energy through the body.

For example, someone might experience pain in their back, or Jason might notice a disconnect between the upper and lower part of body. He'll teach the patient an integrative chi gung technique to assist with this condition.

Guided Meditation as Therapy

Guided meditation is a way of helping patients focus into present moment experience. The process of guiding removes the effort from the patient's experience - effortless because someone else says do this, do this, and the patient doesn't try to relax, and so the process is effortless. Sometimes a guided journey might innocently engage the imagination. It might become a spontaneous journey into one's imagination, which can help unfold what we are struggling with.

Summary - Using Yoga in Psychotherapy

Jason takes the position, as a psychotherapist, that one's present moment experience is fertile for working out emotional issues. The body can be an easy vehicle for bringing people into their present moment expereince. Even if Jason and a patient are just sitting in chairs talking, he encourages people to notice what's going on in the body. Memories are stored in different places in the body, sometimes causing sensations. The potential benefit is that if one notices these sensation, unfoldment and release of the accompanying stress can occur naturally and comfortably.

This client's summary does a good job of describing how therapeutic yoga can be helpful.

"Jason Kanter is the complete package. He brings depth of soul, generosity of spirit, nuanced intelligence, keen perception, compassion, emotional honesty, humor, and the integrity of a gifted, mindful healer to every individualized yoga therapy session. Hence, he inspires me to try to do the same.

"Finally, after many years of frustrating yoga classes with well-intentioned teachers, I found Jason. His skilled instruction has opened my eyes and heart to yoga as a process of continually finding my way, rather than judging myself for not getting to the mat more often or being unable to achieve certain idealized poses in one size-fits-all classes. I know whichever movement or position I take on under his personal supervision, I am emotionally and physically safe, carefully aligned and not at risk of injury. I don't get lost in the back of a crowded class.

"Jason makes sure that I pay attention to my own body, my own breath, my own feelings, guiding me in the yoga way, providing a safe, encouraging, and sacred (but not self-righteous) environment to explore, relax and heal. He structures each session according to what is concerning me ("Today I want to work on grounding."), or what goals I have ("I'm feeling stuck and need to move forward.").

"Unlike traditional talking therapy, Jason's yoga therapy gives me more than insights (though he provides plenty of those). He helps me identify what my body is experiencing as I feel specific emotions then teaches me the appropriate tools to heal myself.

"Accordingly he brings a wealth of knowledge and a wide array of methods in the mind-body process that are tailored to my individual needs on any given day:

  • Yoga
  • Assisted yoga
  • Chi gung
  • Psychotherapy
  • Guided meditation
  • Breathing techniques
  • Body work, including: Cranial-sacral work, Energy balancing, Chakra therapy, and Thai massage
"He seamlessly integrates all this into generous 90-minute sessions. And because Jason is an MSW, his healing is reimbursed by some insurance plans."

-- Richard K., New York City, June, 2012