Social Work Programs

December 2, 2013

Meditation, Yoga and Breathing for Depression and Anxiety

Filed under: continuing ed requirements,Uncategorized — admin @ 1:33 pm

I give local workshops on using meditation, yoga and breathing for stress, anxiety and depression and have created an online, home study course that mental health professionals and nurses can use use to gain 3 CEU credits. You can read about the online course here. I have a number of case studies with clients where I illustrate the sequences of poses, breaths and meditations that were used in our sessions. It is so wonderful to see someone grow, gain insights and make changes from states of anger, sadness or agitation into deeper harmony and inner peace. Social workers in Florida need to get 30 CEU credits by March 31, 2015 to renew their licenses. Check your own state for requirements and the online, home study course is approved by various boards in the country.

I find that clients often will quickly say that breathing or meditation doesn’t work because their minds are always spinning various emotions and thoughts. I think a lot of people have tried taking deep breaths and then give up. Please don’t give up if you or clients didn’t have initial success taking a few deep breaths.

Many people do better initially learning to do a segmented breath or alternate nostril breathing. I think this may be because when someone learns a new breath that is unfamiliar, they aren’t occupied in the usual stream of thoughts and emotions. Just trying to take deep breaths is too similar to one’s normal pattern.

There are many variations of segmented breathing, but one that I find clients like is to take four sniffs in, retain for the count of four, exhale out in four short sniffs. Then hold it out for the count of four. Segmented breathing is used in many traditions including hatha, kundalini and sivananda yoga. My training and certification is in kundalini yoga. When you do this segmented breath, it is useful to sit with the eyes closed and keep the shoulders relaxed so they aren’t raised. Also, using a mantra can help the mind to stay with the practice rather than to get re-absorbed in negative inner dialogues.

The “mantras” many people use are often negative thoughts that are repeated such as, “I’ll fail at this too, just like everything else”. I ask people to watch during the day to see what their common phrases are that are repeated. People are surprised to see how often they may tell themselves something that lowers their energy and creates daily discouragement.

With the segmented breath, one mantra used in kundalini yoga are the four sounds , Sa Ta Na Ma. These represent the cycle of life and work well with this meditation. But english phrases can be used such as Let Go, repeated twice in each phase of the meditation.

Doing this for three to five minutes helps calm the mind, increase oxygen and create new balance. When people are depressed, often the amount of oxygen is less during the breath and the breathing is constricted. With anxiety, there is a lot of times an irregular breathing pattern. Catching the posture as well to notice slumping or tightening the chest or shoulders is helpful. When you catch something, don’t get self-critical, but just begin again.

I had a client last year that had a deep moment of insight when she realized that she was telling herself when she noticed her shoulders moving up towards her ears, “I can’t even breathe right, I do everything wrong”. What she realized was that she remembered her mom asking her to cut wrapping paper for a Christmas gift and the line came out jagged. Her mom said to her, “You can’t even cut a straight line”. My client was 11 years old at the time and during our session she realized how much she internalized those kind of comments made to her from her childhood.

During meditations, we can get insights into long-term patterns as well as a taste of something outside of our usual boundaries of thinking. Whether you are looking for continuing education credits of just want to learn ways to reduce anxiety, stress and depression, check out my blog for tips and take a look at the new home study course. And if you are in Florida, I’ll be doing a live workshop on February 28th on Meditation, Breathing and Yoga for Anxiety .

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