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The Benefits of a Spiritual Practice

Why I Recommend Yoga to My Clients

Sr Jamie BrownSister Jamie Brown

As a Holistic Wellness and Pastoral Counselor, whenever a client comes to me for counseling, whether online at ProvenTherapy.com, or here in person at Lothlorien House, I will nearly always recommend a spiritual practice.  I encourage yoga and other meditative practices not only for people specifically seeking spiritual guidance, but for everyone in general, regardless of the reason they came to me for counseling.

Now, I’m not talking about the gymnastic contortionist exercise that is popularly called “yoga” in the west, which consists of trying to force your body into a variety of strange and difficult poses; not that I have anything against it, and there may even be some physical benefits to doing the exercise, but it’s not really “yoga” per se.  In the classical sense, yoga is a spiritual practice of which the physical poses are just one aspect.  Yoga literally means “yoke” or “union” –  union with the Divine, or unity within oneself, body/mind/soul.  The particular type of yoga that I teach can be done by anyone, even the wheelchair-bound.  It involves a specific breathing technique coordinated with gentle arm movements.  More athletic students can combine this with the difficult poses if they wish, but it’s not necessary.  The breath is the key.

 anjali mudra You may well ask, what on earth does this have to do with therapy?  Everything, really!  My purpose as a counselor is to help you find clarity, wholeness and inner peace.  Certainly part of that process involves communication between us during our sessions, where I give you a safe place to share your concerns, ask questions that will shed light on the situation, help you gain insight, offer useful feedback, encouragement, and so forth.  That is why you attend therapy.  But, an equally important, if not more important part of the process, is what you do on your own, because ultimately you must find wholeness within yourself.  And that is where your spiritual practice comes in.
There are many different approaches; I favor the method shared above due to its being the simplest as well as the most powerful technique I have ever found.  Various other forms of meditation can also be used such as simply “following the breath,” gazing at a candle or spiritual image, visualization, or chanting mantra, the rosary, the Jesus Prayer, etc.  What they all have in common is helping the mind to settle down so we can find that peaceful place in the center of our being, the place where we are whole, where we know that we are loved, where ultimately we can experience a deep, abiding joy that is not contingent on external circumstances.  When we spend time in that Center on a daily basis, even just a few minutes each morning, healing takes place, anxiety is relieved, and we feel refreshed and strengthened to face the challenges in our life – whatever those particular challenges may be.  Natarajasana
 

tree pose

So, for example, if you come to me for marriage counseling I will advise you to do yoga, because in order to have a healthy relationship, there must be two reasonably whole people involved!  When each partner attends to their own spiritual practice, this will facilitate their ability to be good partners in the relationship.  In addition, more advanced yogic practices which are very enjoyable can be done together as a couple to promote sexual and emotional intimacy, as well as to rekindle the spark of romance.Some clients will object, “But, I’m not religious/ spiritual,” or else they are just not interested in learning a formal discipline.  That is ok, and they can still obtain similar benefits by doing something that appeals to them personally.
An example would be gardening, which is very therapeutic, getting one’s hands in the soil, planting the seeds, tending the plants, and enjoying the resulting flowers and/or vegetables.  Others enjoy walking in the woods or a garden labyrinth, or on the beach, or surfing.  This interaction with nature is spiritual in its own right.  The important thing is to have some consistent activity, whatever it may be, that allows you to make time for yourself and your own thoughts, where the world does not intrude and you can enjoy your own company, undistracted, and cultivate that inner silence and bliss.
Often clients will feel guilty at first when they try to take this time for themselves!  We, especially women, have been conditioned by society to feel that we must please everyone else and meet their demands, even if it requires neglecting ourselves.  We have been taught that spending time alone doing meditation, yoga or our own personal ritual is a selfish indulgence, a luxury that we cannot afford when others require our attention.  Some people even take a sense of pride in the martyrdom of self-neglect. backbend
 But, making time for our spiritual practice is not selfish.  We must understand that if we don’t nurture ourself, we will have nothing left to give to others.  When we make a daily practice of tapping into that center of peace, love and joy within, we will be healthier and more effective in our efforts, in harmony with ourself and others, which will in turn benefit the people around us as well.  And it is my pleasure to help you learn how to do that.