Jonathan Simons, Psy.D.
Psychotherapist, Woodland Hills, CA
Benefits of Yoga
Many people have crossed the threshold of my office in the years that I have been practicing psychotherapy and if there is one constant that I have noticed over these years, it´s that nearly all of them have sought my help, at least initially, to ameliorate the symptoms of a particular problem. Sadly, with rare exception, most people are looking for a quick fix and no longer are the masses culturally driven by the prospect of insight and the enriched life of greater depth and understanding.
Also, I see more and more people who are literally afraid of doing the work or making the sacrifices necessary to improve the inner quality of their lives. Their resistance if often staggering. “Who has the time or can make that kind of effort?” they often ask, albeit rhetorically. Besides, buying a new television is easier and getting cheaper every day. However, every now and then, someone gets deeply involved in the therapeutic process and decides to embark on this rewarding path. Professionally, that´s the therapist´s dream.
Perhaps every generation looks back somewhat wistfully at a time when life seemed a little simpler, a bit quieter, more conducive to certain pursuits. Perhaps the yearning is for the unencumbered days of childhood. Nevertheless, it is indisputable that life now moves at an ever quickening pace with staggering bombardment of information and connection, and as a result, our expectations for results and gratification have quickened as well.
Often this clash between wistful reminiscing and the speed of modern life creates a certain ennui that leads to what most of us now call depression. Sadly again, too many are willing to medicate these feelings into temporary exile. I stress here, temporary.
What I have noticed over the years is that literally and figuratively, people are begging for mercy. Their minds are burdened by the pressures, both internal and external, of modern life and their bodies are constricted by being hunched at desks, staring at computer screens, and then crammed into cars trapped on clogged freeways. Is it any wonder that yoga has grown in popularity?
However, like psychotherapy, yoga is now often looked upon as a quick fix. Some even consider this ancient discipline nothing more than a modern exercise fad yielding the perfect yoga butt. But for those able to get beyond their initial resistance, whatever that resistance may be, what lies ahead is a remarkable path of greater openness and greater awareness.
Like children, we can touch our toes again. We can get down on the floor and play in poses just for the fun of it. (Remember Twister?) We can challenge ourselves to try something new and if we fall, know we´ll have another chance to try again. And best of all, we give ourselves time, precious time, dedicated to ourselves for our own enrichment.
Eventually, we realize that we´re no longer begging for mercy because we´re treating ourselves mercifully. Like the western horizon, we see an expanse before us where previously we saw only the limits of our own making.
In my practice, I often ask people to think about the last time they were on an airplane. If you pay attention to the emergency instructions, you´ve been told that if cabin pressure suddenly drops, and if you´re traveling with small children, put your oxygen mask on first before assisting them with theirs. Obviously, one must take care of one´s self before being able to care for another. A ninety minute yoga class may seem like an indulgence, but the benefits are absolutely transcendent and eventually become something that we simply cannot live without.