So many of us turn to yoga to help navigate stress, anxiety, depression, and more. But you’re doing yourself a disservice if you rely on your teacher as a mental health counsellor.
When you practice yoga, you may feel an emotional release as you move through the physical postures or let the philosophy sink into your being. It’s why we go to yoga—to feel better! But it’s the practice of yoga, not the teacher, that is largely responsible.
It not that uncommon to start to cry during class or want to stay afterwards to talk through a recent breakup or conflict. Yet it’s a mistake to place the expectation of being someone with all the answers on a yoga teacher. There isn’t the requisite therapeutic relationship, contract, or consistency in a class to help you unpack your feelings, move deeper into their root causes, or fully process stored emotions and memories, even if the teacher is a licensed psychologist.
How to know when yoga isn’t enough
You can find support from yoga without treating your teacher like a psychotherapist. The following are some insights that can help you know how to use yoga as a contributing healing modality, how to identify when you need support beyond the scope of yoga, and how to know when your yoga teacher may be venturing into therapist territory without counseling credentials.
Yoga is not trauama therapy
If yoga is part of your self-care strategy as you work through difficult emotions or memories, seek out a yoga therapist or teacher who is trained and skilled in working with trauma recovery, anxiety, depression, and other emotional and psychological issues.
When you’re looking for someone, make sure you find someone who has trauma or yoga therapy training, but is also kind, welcoming, respectful, curious, genuine, culturally responsive, fully present, and helps you feel seen and heard.
While yoga can complement therapy, a yoga class should never be a substitute for psychotherapeutic treatment—the purview of licensed professionals,” says Parker. Consider any emotional release you experiencing during your practice as a catalyst for pursuing more complete and complex therapy with someone who is trained and licensed.
Listen to your body
Yoga is designed to help us feel more whole, complete, and connected, so it can be a powerful way to learn how to self-regulate or maintain a nervous system response that doesn’t overwhelm you. But if you’re in the wrong class or doing the wrong poses for your situation you may become more agitated.
To keep your nervous system calm, pick a class that matches your personality. Go to a class that resonates with your nervous system.”
Beware of promises
Any yoga teacher who tries to act like a therapist is akin to someone advertising themselves as a bike mechanic when all they really can do is change a flat tire. Without the training or experience to replace a chain or fix a derailleur, that person could very likely make things worse, or at the very least, be ineffective while giving the impression that the damages are repaired.
A teacher’s role is to teach, not treat, even if they’re a mental health professional outside of the context of yoga. If a teacher tries to evaluate or treat a psychological problem that’s a red flag. If a teacher says or does something that doesn’t feel right to you, you’ll feel it in your body. Trust your experience and find another teacher.
Tasha Eichenseher and published on www.yogajournal.com/lifestyle/balance/your-yoga-teacher-is-not-your-therapist/ 20th May 2022