Yoga for Healing: Treating PTSD with Lisa Yeager
A couple weeks ago, I shared a bit of my yoga journey and how it helped me recover from depression and anxiety. Yoga was an incredible tool for me that taught me the importance of mindfulness and taking charge of my own mind. It also taught me a lot about healing the traumas throughout my life.
Today, I am so honored to be introducing you to my dear friend and fellow yoga teacher, Lisa Yeager. Lisa's yoga journey is a bit different than mine, having discovered yoga through physical healing and chronic illness. Not only did yoga help her heal physically, but it completely shifted her life.
Lisa decided to become a yoga teacher in her fifties, overcoming major fears and proving to herself that she really is capable of doing anything she wishes. She is now certified to treat trauma through the healing magic of yoga. Her work is very inspiring to me!
Taryn: Lisa, it is such a pleasure to be sharing you with my students today. You are an incredible woman, working to better the world around you each day and it is a joy to have you as a friend. Let's chat yoga!
Tell us a little bit about your yoga journey. How did you find yoga and how did you make the decision to teach?
Lisa: Let’s see, I dabbled in yoga on and off for years as part of a my fitness lifestyle. Years ago, I was doing hardcore aerobics until my rheumatoid arthritis decided to become chronic. I had flare ups during my twenties, but in my early thirties it was chronic, debilitating, and affected my life in every way. Walking, meditation and yoga stretches were extremely helpful. Years later, my life was greatly improved thanks to a new medication to treat my arthritis.
I began my yoga journey purely for fitness after completing shoulder reconstruction surgery. I had always meditated, but the practice of yoga was so much more. It opened the doors to a community of like minded people and a path to bring mindfulness to other parts (if not all) of my life.
Yoga became life. I have never felt better; the peace and joy my practice gave to me is hard to describe unless you have experienced it yourself.
Taryn, you were one of my teachers and I really appreciated your style of teaching. It was a big influence in my decision to become a teacher. You shared so much knowledge that it sparked a desire in me to learn more about yoga. Also, the community aspect was a great attraction for me too!
- This is Lisa kicking butt as one of my students
I needed to shift gears in my life and being a yoga teacher seemed like the right fit, to be able to share and encourage others with health or injury issues became my passion.
Taryn: Aw, thank you Lisa! I have often commented about how much the community of yogis we created in our small town had impacted my life in such an amazing way.
Tell us more about how yoga has impacted your life and health.
Lisa: OH my…..I can’t say enough! The movement, the breath work, the passion, the people! I could go on and on. To me, the most important aspect is the movement combined with mindfulness, especially for health reasons. It does make you feel a lot better! Then, the increased awareness of what I put in and on my body (definitely a health benefit), and the practicing and sharing with others. I learn from my students everyday.
Taryn: Yes! I always feel like the learning goes both ways from yoga teacher and student. It is such a cool experience.
You recently got certified in teaching yoga for PTSD therapy, which I think is amazing by the way. What was the most enlightening to you in your training?
Lisa: This was huge. I went into it thinking of working with veterans, but during the training I realized how many other ways we all suffer from trauma. My biggest "aha" moment was a practice where we released some of our own trauma. Incredible! That's all I can say.
For example, during a therapeutic flow, I was on my belly prepping for locust when I suddenly starting crying and did the best locust of my life! I realized that these prone poses on my belly always gave me a difficult time and I assumed it was because I worried about my lower spine. Nope, it had everything to do with my ex husband. In that moment, I no longer felt any tension in those poses and I was able to let go of what my body was holding onto. Another example was the yoga nidra for trauma release. We participated with a scripted nidra and I expected one specific thing to surface. No, all the feelings surrounding my first husband, our childhood friendship, our 22 years together, our separation and then his untimely death. All these mixed emotions I had locked away in a neat little box in my brain, suddenly came flooding out and now I smile when I think of him. I feel joy when I reminisce. I don’t cry for him anymore.
Another thing I was fascinated by the lecture and practice of pranayama. There are so many benefits we reap from this practice. I was thrilled to see the documented studies with cancer patients and at the VA hospital who were taught breath work. I could expound on this for DAYS!!! LOL
The one thing that stood out the most was how our saliva carries serotonin, the happy hormone. In studies, it was found that the yogic breathing techniques increase salivation, therefore hydrating the mouth. This is very important for chemo patients. They also found that over time, cancer patients and vets being treated for PTSD were feeling more positive after practicing breathwork. Some needed less antidepressants! The increased amount of serotonin was helping. They also charted a decrease in cortisol, the stress hormone, showing that yogic breath decreases stress as well.
I bring this to every class I teach now.
Taryn: I completely relate to this. My personal experience with yoga actually opened the doors to trauma I didn't realize I even had, then gave me the tools to work though it. Especially the breathwork!
Okay, so if someone is going through a traumatic experience themselves or are experiencing symptoms of PTSD, what advice would you give them?
Lisa: Simply - let’s breathe together. Always, JUST BREATH….. Then, depending on how open they were to trying a yoga class, I would suggest trying that. The mind will focus on movement for an hour, the brain will take a break from fight or flight response for an hour, and the final rest will truly be that. You cannot cure trauma in one class, but it is taking care of your brain and body. Taking a break from the cyclical story in your head. Over time, this is healing! And of course, I always remind them that nothing is permanent.
Secondly, if they were open to it, yoga nidra is amazing for trauma release. For those who have yet to enjoy the practice, Yoga Nidra is a guided meditation while the student lies in savasana, either supported or flat, or sitting in a chair. The trauma release meditations are very specific to maintain a feeling of safety and security. Keep in mind, someone coming out of war or physical abuse may not be ready to be that vulnerable lying on the floor. The guided meditation takes the mind to a serene, safe place and slowly lets go of triggers.
Taryn: I know you experienced a bit of fear when considering teacher training because of your age. What would you tell someone who wished to pursue something new despite of the limitations we place upon ourselves?
- Lisa: Hhmmm…...you know that negative self talk we yogis always battle with? Well, I was convinced I would be the oldest, least able person in my training. I went anyway, determined to accomplish my goal. Guess what? There were other 50-year-old's, as well as 21, 25, 35, etc. And you know what else? We were all different, all levels of ability, and yet we formed a tribe, a support system for one another and we still keep in touch. My fears were completely unfounded!
It was another affirmation that the fears in our mind live only in our mind!
Interestingly, within weeks of being certified, I began teaching locally and the studio caters to mature people, so I found my niche. My experiences are helping others! How great is that?!
In this train of thought, I will always remember a hand painted sign at my teacher training: “Do not feed the fears”
Taryn: Oh that's so good! I am constantly telling my students that self doubt is freaking real, and it sucks. But we have to stop believing the lies that fear tells us and always return to love. Hell yes, girl! I am so proud of you.
So Lisa, you are obviously incredible and I want my readers to be able to reach out to you with questions. How can people find you?
Lisa: I would love to hear from them! They can email me at email@example.com, take one of my online classes (via Remote Yogi Tribe), or visit me in Scottsdale, AZ. I teach at Harumi Yoga +. Namaste!
- Getting sweaty at Buti Yoga
Interested in taking one of Lisa's yoga classes? She is one of our wonderful guest teachers for the Remote Yogi Tribe! Our membership is launching on March 27th and you can try out the program totally free. We are offering a two week trial period, giving you the opportunity to connect with me, Lisa, and other amazing teachers.
Learn more about the Remote Yogi Tribe and subscribe to our emails to continue to receive free resources!
Inspired? Me too! Let's thank Lisa for the awesome advice and wisdom she shared! Comment below, ask questions, and let's keep the conversation going.
Keep being amazing and spreading your light!