yomi

On what lies ahead for YOMI

This month we have decided to focus on what is ahead of us. On Insta this month I have tried and describe what goes on in our mind planning for the great opening of our yoga- and psychotherapy center this fall. I've talked about the different pillars we will be built on and how our values shall lead us. I believe you have already got a great picture of what will happen at Raja and YOMI this fall so here I will instead try and describe WHY I am doing this.

WHY open a yoga- and psychotherapy center? Why become a yoga teacher at all? Or a psychologist? I may not be the most fitted person to have any of these titles. I am a person with intensive and explosive temperament. I have easy access to both happiness and anger. I am impulsive and at the same time in need of my own, very well built structure, to manage my many vulnerabilities, like chronic pain and ADHD. I think not being seen as a typical psychologist or yoga instructor was what attracted me to it. Both the interesting people within these topics, from whom I've learned so much, but also the fact that I might be able to expand peoples views on how a yoga instructor or psychologist look like and act. For my own development, I wanted to learn for myself how to relax, be warm and gentle and listen to others with patience. And even though I might be better than many others at this after years of training, other areas might be why some get helped by me. I have noticed that many people describe me as a brave person in therapy and in the yoga room. Someone who can make people laugh. A person who can bring energy or be creative and try something totally new. These things also come in handy many times in therapies or during yoga sessions. 

I often doubt myself as a psychologist and yoga instructor and I know, by own experience, that there are people out there doing this better than me. But I believe in myself enough and am certainly to curious not to try and see if I can make this center a place where people can be free to express their bodies and minds in ways they have never done before. To be calm, brave, fierce, warm, relaxed or whatever they feel like. This center, I hope, will be a place where you should be free, but also safe. Safe that our values will make sure you are treated with respect and free enough to experience what your needs are to be able to feel as good as you can. That is my hope for myself as well as for everyone else. 
- Maria

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On being good enough

You are imperfect, you are wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging.
— Brené Brown

When I went on parental leave I struggled for the first few months with the demands I had on myself to make the most of my time off from work and achieve as much as possible. Behold, seven months of not working! What a glorious opportunity to do all those things I never have time to do: sort through papers, organize the computer, read through all those scientific papers piled up, develop a new YOMI program, hell, develop two new YOMI programs, get back into shape, meditate, read all those books on the reading list, maybe even write a book. Because when will I ever again get the chance to have this many months off work ever again?

You know how plans can seem quite reasonable as long as they are just that: plans for a future you yet haven’t experienced. Enter: reality, everyday life and endless interruptions to the plan. External as well as internal interruptions; baby crying, mind wandering, facebook tempting, news feed upsetting. Sometimes it seems life is nothing more than a long line of interruptions to the plan. Annoying, irritating interruptions we wish to get rid of.

But perhaps the real issue here isn’t how to get rid of the interruptions, but rather how we deal with them. How we act towards ourselves when things don’t go as we had laid them out. And this is where the self observation can get both interesting and painful. How do I react when things don’t go as planned? How do I talk to myself when I lack focus or motivation? How do I talk to others who, perhaps unintentionally, interrupt?

It seems we often tend to blame ourselves, others or even life itself for the things that come in the way of our planned achievements. Like it’s some sort of failure that the plan that is life needs constant revision, rather than the plan being flexible to start with. Like we are failures when we don’t achieve all that we set out to do. Like we are insufficient if we’re not perfect. And with that the struggle goes on.

But if we shift the perspectives and acknowledge that we are imperfect to start with, but that this imperfection doesn’t make us any less worthy, doesn’t make us anything short of being good enough, maybe that’ll make it possible to start viewing the interruptions as a part of the plan, rather than obstacles to it. Perhaps it even enables us to make room for interruptions in the original plan. That it – the plan that is – and we ourselves are good enough without achievements, are good enough whilst just being. That the level of good enough should lie wherever we find ourselves every day. That just where we are, just where life is, is good enough. Wired for struggle but worthy of love and belonging.

YOMI research published – on the art of perseverance

 

2017 started off not only with the birth of a child, but also with the news that our article on the first study on the effects of YOMI Yin got accepted for publication in the peer-reviewed journal Anxiety, Stress and Coping and is now available online: Yin yoga and mindfulness: a five week randomized controlled study evaluating the effects of the YOMI program on stress and worry. Not only is this the first article on YOMI, it is also the first scientific study that has evaluated effects of Yin Yoga, which we're both surprised by and proud of.  

It has been a long process pulling this all together over several years, with plenty of little bumps in the road on our way. Many times it has forced us to remind us about our valued direction; what is important to us when it comes to our work with YOMI and why. To keep putting one foot in front of the other, or rather one reference after the other to slowly reach acknowledgment in a peer-reviewed journal. To persevere in order to reach a goal that has importance. To remind ourselves that the satisfaction after a thorough work process is blissful.

Without getting into a rant about how the scientific publishing world works, sufficient to say that the article won’t be available open access (we are very pro open access, firm believers that the results of research should be available for everyone), simply because we don’t have thousands of dollars to pay the fee. For anyone with access through a university or other academic institution, the article is available here.

We also have a few copies available for those who are very interested in our research, in YOMI and in future studies. If so, please contact us on kontakt@yomi.nu

Our mission for YOMI has always been to have it be a method that has some scientific ground, not relying merely on our own personal experiences of the practice, but also on the more objective evaluation of western science. With that in mind, this article is surely something to celebrate!

Yoga as part of a psychological treatment - a personal reflection

For this week's blog post, YOMI co-founder Maria shares some personal reflections on bringing yoga into the therapy room:

Working as a clinical psychologist and yoga instructor, I early on realized how easily these two fields can connect to one another. I always use my knowledge from one when I’m working with the other. Not so say that one doesn’t have to be careful with what pieces of the yogic tradition you bring into the therapeutic room and how you use these tools.

As a psychologist, working primarily in the primary care, I meet a lot of people who are feeling stressed, worried or who are more severly affected by anxiety or exhaustion. Many of these people have a hard time slowing down, resting without sleeping and letting go of things that bother them, like thoughts, feelings and destructive behaviors.

 Many of the psychological treatments for these conditions include different ways of learning to relax. I find yin yoga to be a great tool for this! Not only because it in itself is a way to relax the mind and body, but also because it is a way for the mind and body to become more connected. Many people who worry, suffer from anxiety or exhaustion experience troublesome physical sensations and – more troublesome –  often fear these, which makes their suffering even worse. Yoga can be a way to, once again, become friends with your own body; learning how not to react to it and its sensations as if it were an enemy or something disconnected from you. Instead, one might learn, what an incredible tool the body can be, alerting you when you are expanding your own perception of what you thought you were able to handle.

 Even if yoga and breath control is not as easy as pressing a button, it certainly does a good job moving you from a place of arousal, to one of relaxation. Working on becoming aware of the breath, slowing it down, has many times been proven, through experiences and science, to be an effective way to induce certain processes in your body while disconnecting others. And maybe this might be why yin yoga is such a powerful tool in stress and worry reduction; it continuously allows the practitioner to work with the breath and body, connecting the mind to all physical sensations in order   to encourage the relaxation response to start. In our program YOMI yin, we explore the effect of psychoeducation, mindfulness and yin yoga, on people who experience stress and worry. A few scientific studies down the line we’ve just submitted a manuscript the we’re hoping will be ready for publication shortly, and then of course shared here on our web page. Until then we will sit down on our mats, gently fold forward, hold the position for 3 to 5 minutes, and breathe. 

Getting to know your autonomic nervous system: how the body fights and flees.

Since we humans in many ways are a product of evolution, one of the main jobs for our bodies and brains over the past million years or so has been to ensure our survival. Part of this has entailed developing a highly effective system that allows us to, say, run from lions or fight against (less intimidating) enemies. In these attempts we have to hand it to evolution to having been fairly successful; developing the part of the autonomic (involuntary) nervous system called the sympathetic nervous system (also called our fight-or-flight-system), which is backed up by the parasympathetic nervous system that on the other hand is responsible for our recovery, relaxation and basically taking it chill once the danger is gone. With these two being part of the autonomic system, they’re usually systems we don’t control voluntarily, but rather ones that switch on and off, and swing between the one and the other, all adapted to what our internal and external circumstances look like. When in sympathetic activation our heart rate increases, breath becomes shallower and faster, the muscles tense and we become hyper aware of what’s going on around us. And on the contrary, parasympathetic activation allows the muscles to relax, heart rate to slow, breath to become deeper and slower, and the body to attend to its repairing functions such as memory retention, the immune and digestive systems. Basically the things that will get us ready for the next time we may need to fight or flight.

Somewhat simplified it goes something like this: Danger appears, sympathetic activation switches on. Danger subsides, parasympathetic activation switches on. We run when lions are present and we rest when lions are absent. So far so good.

Enter: the evolved human brain. Here comes trouble. In numerous ways:

1.     One thing to remember about the brain is that while being a killer at solving advanced, abstract problems, it’s unfortunately less than perfect when it comes to differing between dangers that are real and dangers that are imagined. Hence, both a real lion running towards us and an imagined lion running towards us will activate the sympathetic nervous system. This causes a bit of problem since we’ve developed a language that allows us to imagine all kinds of hypothetical situations whilst being in a context that from the outside looks perfectly fine and safe (e.g. lying in bed and suddenly go into a string oframbling thoughts such as “what if my boss doesn’t like the work I do”, “what if I don’t fall asleep, I’ll be so tired tomorrow, I won’t be able to work”, “why haven’t my partner called yet, what if he was in a car accident, what if he’s dead?!”). And regardless of your cozy pillows, safe neighbourhood and a bedroom with the perfectly adjusted temperature, these thoughts are very likely to trigger your body into sympathetic activation. The brain just isn’t all that good at knowing when danger is real and when it’s imagined. 

2.     Social exclusion is considered a real danger. Even though it may not be associated with immediate danger of death to be excluded from your social sphere, there probably was a time when being left out in the cold was. Remember, our brains have in many ways far from caught up with our current society, especially when it comes to their initial reactions. Therefore any signs of social exclusion, of being disliked or dismissed are interpreted as potential dangers, triggering the sympathetic nervous system. Our perception of our social belonging fairly directly affects our bodies and our perception of the rest of the world. Researchers Zong and Leonardelli even showed in a study that the mere thought of a memory when people have felt socially excluded will influence their perception of the current room’s temperature. Being liked seems to be so important to us that it’s really hard to relax when we think we’re not. (And since the brain is crap at differing between what’s real and not, you can see how these to things in combination is a real haven for the sympathetic nervous system to run wild in).

3.     It may sound as though having a sympathetic nervous system is all bad. It’s not. Remember the lions running towards you. We should all be happy that we have an efficient system that switches on when we need to focus for an exam, jump away from a full speed car or even do something usually pleasant as, say, get married (that’s right, the sympathetic nervous system switches on just as much when the thing we need to prepare for is perceived as positive). And it’s not bad for us to be in sympathetic activation; we can for shorter periods of time manage just fine with less sleep, less food and even less frequent visits to the bathroom (sleeping, eating and pooping are pretty much all bad things to do when a car is about to hit you). The real trouble begins when we get stuck in sympathetic activation. Our bodies and brains aren’t really wired to cope with that. They’re more adapted to having a lion run towards you, but then disappearing (if you were lucky enough not to get eaten, that is), leaving you some space to relax and recover. It seems though that today we have perceived lions running towards us most all the time. Only today we call them deadlines, to-do-lists, social engagements, life goals in need of being achieved and blog posts needing to get written. The tasks never ends, and neither do our thoughts. When we get stuck in fight or flight, the body and brain will eventually start paying the price of not having the opportunity of attending to highly important functions such as memory retention, the digestive system, immune system and reproductive system. After a while it will start to show up as troubles concentrating, remembering, bowel issues and increased illness.

To sum it up: we do need our sympathetic nervous system, but it’s pretty bad for us to get stuck in it – we do need that parasympathetic part of the nervous system to keep us balanced and restored. Luckily, the concept of the autonomic nervous system being completely autonomic isn’t entirely true. There are ways of consciously switching on the parasympathetic nervous system, tapping into the relaxation response, which we’ll dig deeper into in a future blog post.