Q: I've recently joined a yoga class and notice how much lighter and happier I feel afterward. I'm wondering if there are aspects of yoga that I can offer in my office to help my clients.
A: Many yoga strategies appropriate for a clinical setting can help your clients manage their moods more effectively at home and increase their sense of self-efficacy. Some yoga techniques can help you and your client right there in the session. Ancient yogis didn't have fMRI's or CAT scans, and yet, using the laboratory of their bodies and minds, they developed a system to help us sustain a more balanced state of being. A qualified yoga teacher or yoga therapist can teach your client many mood-managing practices that don't belong in the consultation room, but you yourself can use certain yogic tools without becoming a yoga teacher.
Let's start with the breath. Yoga teaches us that the breath is a pretty good indicator of mood. Often when people are depressed, they're breathing so shallowly that they may not be getting enough oxygen to the brain. Oxygen and glucose are two main building blocks for neurotransmitters, so if the shoulders are slumped and the breathing is coming from the upper chest, the brain may not be getting the components it needs to create the biochemistry of well-being.
Imagine that your client is slumped on the couch and saying little. You might invite her to sit up straighter, place her right hand on her belly, and breathe…