YOGA FOR THE MIND
HELEN BASHFORD YOGA
I am a yoga teacher and yoga therapist based in Shortlands, Bromley.
I offer small group yoga classes and one-to-one yoga therapy. Classes are small (max 8 people), friendly, and take place in my boutique home studio in Shortlands.
Whilst all yoga can be therapeutic, one-to-one yoga therapy may be more accessible for some people; especially those living with mental health or physical conditions. Yoga therapy is a highly individualised and person centred mind body therapy which utilises ancient philosophy and yoga practices, alongside modern day physiology and neuroscience, to help an individual move towards greater health and well being and find relief from pain and suffering,
With an education and career in psychology and mental health, I have a particular interest in yoga as a therapeutic tool for mental health, especially conditions such as anxiety, trauma and PTSD. Yoga is soothing for the nervous system and body, and calming for the mind. A regular practice can significantly help mental health and lead to improvements in areas such as stress, anxiety, depression, trauma/PTSD, bereavement, and insomnia.
As well as teaching from my studio in Shortlands near Beckenham, I also teach a trauma informed yoga class with the charity One in Four. I teach the first team at Bromley FC, and a weekly yoga class at Breeze Yoga in Beckenham. If you are interested in me teaching at your workplace or community group please feel free to get in touch.
How can yoga help me?
Modern day life is all about the rush. Most of us are permanently busy and do not prioritise rest. Our physiology and brain are not designed to cope under these conditions, and without rest we will eventually become burnt out, overwhelmed, depressed, anxious, or ill. Once our systems are overwhelmed it can feel like we are driving with one foot revving on the accelerator and the other foot slamming on the brake. Pain and illness often follow. It is estimated that stress causes or contributes to over 80% of disease.
Yoga is incredibly powerful at counteracting the impact of stress, and giving our body and minds the chance to slow down and restore. Yoga practices can take our body into something known as The Relaxation Response, which is a physiology state in which the body recuperates from the stress of the day. This is not the same state as sleep. Sleep is incredibly important of course, but on its own it is not enough; our bodies and minds also need wakeful rest.
How does yoga help physical health?
Yoga has a wide range of benefits for the body. Yoga can reduce muscular and joint tension, correct postural imbalances, and aid tissue/injury healing. It is clinically proven to regulate and calm the nervous system, reduce cortisol levels, reduce inflammation, and improve immune system functioning. Yoga can reduce pain, and the side effects of treatments such as chemotherapy. Yoga improves flexibility, strength, coordination, and balance and as such can be enormously helpful for conditions such as MS, Parkinson's, and Dyspraxia. Yoga is proven to reduce symptoms of digestive issues such as IBS.
How does yoga help mental health?
Yoga has been shown to help with all known mental health conditions, including anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, addictions, and eating disorders. Yoga can also develop our resilience, and ability to cope with everyday stress and angst. Yoga:
- alters brain chemistry; increasing positive neurotransmitters and reducing those linked to fear and worry
- alters brain activity; decreasing activation in fear networks and increasing activity in areas for reason and logic
- increases communication and coordination between brain regions, bringing more balance to the mind
- incorporates mindfulness which is proven to increase focus & attention, and decrease rumination & anxiety
- releases repressed and pent up emotions
- improves body image and self confidence
- supports other treatments such as talking therapy
- shifts emotional states
- improves sleep, which in turn improves emotional stability
How can yoga help sleep?
Insomnia can be caused by many different things including illness, stress, bereavement, sleep hygiene, lifestyle. However, regardless of the original cause insomnia is characterised by a body and mind stuck on high alert. Anxiety about sleep and a fear of going to bed can often follow. Yoga helps take the body and mind from a state of alert to a state of calm and is proven to:
- reduce time taken to fall asleep
- reduce number of awakenings
- reduce the length of awakenings
- increase total sleep time
How can yoga help chronic pain?
Pain is not solely the consequence of pain messages from body tissues travelling up to the brain. Rather the brain receives sensory information from the tissues about changes in temperature, pressure, or chemical (ie inflammation), and then interprets this information in combination with other sensory and psychological information such as memories, emotions, thoughts and beliefs, nervous system activation. Pain is therefore highly impacted by factors such as poor sleep, memory, fear, anxiety, and stress. That is not to say that pain is all in the mind - it is not, it is a very real, upsetting, and often debilitating experience - but rather that pain and our experience of pain has the potential for change. Yoga can help chronic pain by helping the body and brain move in a way that feels safe, and by increasing our feelings of trust and confidence in our body. By soothing the nervous system, reducing stress, and improving sleep, yoga can be very powerful at helping to reduce pain symptoms, and shifting our experience of pain.
How can yoga help trauma and PTSD?
According to a leading expert on trauma 'the affect size of yoga for PTSD is higher than that for any drug that has been studied'. Yoga is also recommended by most trauma experts as an important part of treatment.
Trauma occurs when, for whatever reason, the body and mind are overwhelmed and the traumatic event exceeds the individual's ability to cope. This can occur during to a one off event such as assault or natural disaster, but may also occur where ongoing traumas add up such as in the case of childhood trauma, domestic abuse, war. What is traumatic to one person may not be traumatic to another, and is very often based on past experiences. Medical procedures, birth, and racial discrimination are also forms of trauma.
Symptoms of trauma are varied and can include anything from flashbacks, insomnia, emotional instability, to intrusive thoughts, suicide ideation, hypervigilance. During trauma the nervous system becomes dysregulated, the body braces and grips, memories become distorted or confused, and emotions may be repressed, The person is often left feeling deeply unsafe in their own body.
Yoga can help trauma by:
- helping the person increase feelings of safety inside their body
- helping the person move their body in a way that feels comfortable
- reducing tension and stress held in the body tissues
- regulating the nervous system
- regulating breathing patterns that may have been disrupted through trauma
- increasing a persons window of tolerance for internal and external stimuli
- improving sleep
- decreasing emotional reactivity
To me, yoga represents the pause. The pause in our day, the pause in our body, and the pause in our mind. It is in this pause that our body and minds can begin to heal.
BRAIN : BODY : MIND : BREATH
Amazing! I was a complete yoga novice before being introduced to Helen, and for the past couple of months have been having a weekly session. My eyes have been opened and my body and mind have become slightly addicted! The stretching, the twisting, the movement, the strength, it's all amazing. The breathing techniques and the way the body reacts to small movements and alterations is awesome. The science behind it is fascinating, and Helen is brilliant at explaining it all and giving small but great tips and suggestions to make your body work and 'switch on'. I love my weekly session, and come out feeling energized, relaxed and my mind and body more alive. Can't thank Helen enough for the way she practices her yoga and passes it on. It is clearly a passion of hers and that shows in the way she passes on her vast knowledge - CM