Did you know yoga is an excellent addition to family therapy? Yoga can significantly improve your personal physical, emotional, and mental well-being – something that can benefit all members of the family. And when the family is working together towards a common goal, it only brings everyone closer. Here’s why you should consider yoga family therapy.
What is Family Therapy
Family therapy works to reduce stress and conflict within the family unit by improving understanding and relations between everyone. It focuses less on the individual, and more on the system of interactions within the whole family. Note that family can also include anyone who plays a long-term supportive role to the family.
Family therapy can be just as beneficial as individual therapy because it helps improve communication. This can help solve issues within the family, promote understanding of each other’s feelings, and create a positive home environment.
When is Family Therapy Helpful?
Family therapy is helpful for a whole range of issues. Here are a few:
- When a family member is struggling with addiction
- Adjusting to new challenges such as medical problems
- Improving communication
- Reducing conflict
- When a child is struggling in school
- An unexpected loss of a family member
- Adjustment to new family members
- Trauma that impacts the entire family or a family member
- Domestic violence
- Parental conflicts
Family therapy is a different process for each family because you and your therapist develop the best plan based on your family’s needs. Some options could be talk therapy with everyone or specific individuals of the family, or group activities, which could include yoga.
So, before I get into why yoga family therapy is something to consider, it’s helpful to understand what yoga is.
What is Yoga?
Yoga is a comprehensive system targeting physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. Developed 5,000 years ago in India, yoga combines movement (asanas), breathing techniques (pranayama), and a style of living that work towards balancing body and mind. By pairing movement with breath, you connect your mind with your body, increasing mental balance and clarity.
Hatha yoga is what commonly comes to mind when people think of yoga, which is a system of postures and breathing techniques taught in studios or gyms. However, Hatha yoga is only a small aspect of the larger system of yoga, which is an approach to life. Adopting a yogic lifestyle is a very individualized journey, with much change noticed through personal experience, not learned from books or lectures – because you do yoga.
Yoga is an active process in which you engage with the world, both external and internal, to connect and create harmony. When you engage, you become an active participant instead of passively allowing things to happen to you. You become present in the moment, experiencing what your body is feeling, what your mind is thinking, and what emotions you are facing. You begin to understand yourself on a whole new level, and soon, how you effect the world and how others relate to you.
Yoga really can be for everybody, despite a misconception that most can’t do yoga because they aren’t “healthy” or “flexible” enough. Yoga isn’t about the physical practice, but about connecting with the process of mindfully participating in life. It is affordable and accessible for anyone, with the option of modifying poses to your ability, resulting in positive impacts on physical and mental health.
Yoga promotes good mental and physical health, working from wherever you currently are in your journey. It is not focused on correcting a deficit or treating poor health. So, with proper guidance, yoga, in its many forms, is appropriate for anyone.
Here’s how yoga or yoga family therapy can supplement your mental health journey:
Yoga for Depression and Anxiety
Studies have shown a regular yoga practice can help reduce depression and anxiety symptoms through subtle changes both physically and mentally.
The physical portion of yoga helps combat depression and anxiety by reducing stress hormones in the body, like cortisol and adrenaline, and increasing GABA activity, which improves your mood. These chemical changes help you to be present in the moment and relaxed. When relaxed, you are more able to stay with your thoughts and feelings in a non-judgmental way, not working to escape or suppress them.
And by staying with your thoughts and practicing mindfulness, you can focus on your current experience, not ruminating on the past or worry about the future. When you aren’t consumed by what you can’t control (that is, the past and future), you recognize thoughts and emotions are temporary events and not permanent staples of your life.
Obsessive or repetitive thoughts are harmful to your mental health and can contribute to anxiety and depression. Yoga and mindfulness create positive changes in body chemistry and break the perpetual, ruminating cycle, improving your mental health.
Yoga for Relationships
Adopting a consistent yoga practice can improve relationships through personal transformation, increased social interaction, improved coping mechanisms, and spiritual transcendence.
Your interpersonal relationships can improve because of an internal shift in perspective that occurs. Yoga improves your present moment focus and ability to stay mindful. By being mindful, you are more aware of your inner world, and ultimately, more aware of how the outer world affects you and how you affect the world. Your empathy for the experience of the other increases.
Yoga for Well-being
An individual’s well-being is your sense of happiness and gratitude, satisfaction with life, and having meaning and purpose. Personal well-being is not the absence of difficulties in life, but an awareness of the positives experienced in life.
Studies have shown adopting a yogic lifestyle improves life satisfaction, boosts vitality, and promotes increased satisfaction and meaning in life.
“Change your posture and you change the way you breathe. Change your breathing and you change your nervous system. This is one of the great lessons of yoga: Everything is connected…”
Yoga Family Therapy
Yoga isn’t a cure. It isn’t magically going to fix everything in your life. However, with time, it will make you feel more complete and connected. It will create new thought patterns, improve your self-worth, and allow you to place faith in your ability or the universe when things are difficult. You recognize that life is good, even if the moment is not.
Practicing yoga begins to alter your inner landscape, offering a broader perspective than you previously had. Thoughts or actions that seemed so important and demanded so much of your time and attention may not be as important when you see the bigger picture. You may never have been able to see the bigger picture because you were always focused on a detail.
And when the family is fragmenting, family yoga can help everyone stay connected, strengthening your family bond. Because the Sanskrit translation for yoga literally is “union”. It’s a process that not only unites the different parts of you but also unites you with those around you. Families who incorporate yogic philosophies stay united because they are working towards living a balanced life together, empowered to tackle life’s challenges with poise.
When you combine yoga and therapy, it can also enhance your family’s healing journey. You each individually work on your inner landscape while engaging in an activity together. Personal transformation combined with family bonding time leads to a closer family unit. Your family gains a common healing language and purpose.
Looking for options and support to solve a family conflict? Contact one of our qualified therapists in Glen Ellyn or Jefferson Park or join one of our yoga and meditation groups. Life Care Wellness can work with you to develop a plan to support all members and work towards solutions for your family.
Jean Tschampa, PharmD, LCPC, CADC, C-IAYT, BCC
Jean Tschampa is a co-owner and principal therapist at Life Care Wellness, a group psychotherapy practice in Glen Ellyn and Chicago (Jefferson Park neighborhood), Illinois. She specializes in wellness, life transition, anxiety, and addiction treatment, and is a Board Certified Coach, as well as professional counselor. As a registered pharmacist, Jean can also provide medication therapy management for those experiencing issues with medication.