Yoga Therapy on the Main Line: Why Your Breath is Your Best Friend by Melanie Taylor, LMFT, RYT-500

Yoga Therapy on the Main Line: 

Why Your Breath is Your Best Friend

 By: Melanie Taylor, LMFT, RYT-500

Yoga therapy for anxiety and depression on the Philadelphia Main Line in Bryn Mawr, Ardmore, Villanova and Lower Merion

 What if you could find a friend that would stay by your side always? Someone who’s sole purpose was to make sure you not only stayed alive but also thrived in your life. Someone who knew just what to do to provide you a pick-me-up when depressed or tired or could ease your body and mind when anxious or upset. What if you had access to this friend 24/7 and the only thing this friend needed from you was a willingness to accept their support? 

Well, my friends, I have some exciting news to share. This friend exists, and not only does the friend exist, it exists within you! Its your breath. You see, your breath is both a complicated and conveniently simple process that weaves together the communication between your body and mind. Linked to your nervous system, your breath has the capabilities of keeping you alive, soothing your body and mind and increasing energy. Your breath can let you know how you’re feeling and if you’re relaxed or tense. Think about it… when panic sets into the body and mind, the breath oftentimes responds rapidly, assuming the need to prepare for survival. Your breath may become shorter and choppier or maybe even appear nonexistent and stuck. This same breath, the one coming and going from your lungs, can be trained to deepen and soften during panic, activating your calming nervous system, thus subsiding the panic in both your body and mind.  Or, maybe your nervous system is feeling too subdued, you’re falling asleep at work or feeling unable to pull yourself out of bed to face the day. In these moments, accentuating the inhale can increase energy and focus, even lifting your mood in the moment. Your breath holds a wealth of resources for you. All you have to do is attend to it. Here’s some ways to access its usefulness.

1. A breathing practice to soothe the nervous system: Paced Breathing 

When to use:

To soothe anxiety, panic or restlessness, if you are having difficulty sleeping and/or relaxing, when you feel worked up or frazzled. 

How to use:

When attempting to soothe or relax the nervous system, accentuate the exhale. Paced breathing patterns the breath to increase the length of the exhale to twice as long as the inhale. You will count the breaths in your head. If able, breathe both in and out of your nose. If you need to breathe out of your mouth due to sinus issues, it can help to purse the lips so that the breath is able to stay long and controlled. Let your breath carry deep into your body… allow your stomach to expand on your inhales, and gently contract your stomach in on your exhales. Try the counts of 4 to inhale and 8 to exhale. If this feels difficult or creates more tension in the body, reduce the numbers, just making sure the exhale is 2x as long as the inhale. Our lungs often need time to practice expanding (in our society, we don’t usually use much of our breathing capacity from day-to-day), so be patient and just do what feels comfortable. Remember, this is intended to relax and soothe you. 

Here we go:

It can help to sit upright allowing spaciousness in your chest or lying down (especially if you are using this to help with sleep). Close your eyes if comfortable. If you prefer to have your eyes open, maybe gaze at a soft spot on the floor or in front of you. Now, inhale…2…3…4, Exhale…2…3…4…5…6…7…8, Inhale…2…3…4, Exhale…2…3…4…5…6…7…8, repeat this sequence multiple times. I recommend at least 10 rounds, but as many as you would like until you start to feel soothed, more at ease or fall asleep. 

Contraindications:

The only time to avoid this breath is if you are already relaxed or tired  and do not want to fall asleep of become more relaxed. If this is the case and you are looking for a pick-me-up, try the breath below.

2. A breathing practice to enliven your nervous system: Breath of Joy

When to use:

when tired, depressed, energy depleted, feeling stuck, lacking interest or focus.

How to use:

When attempting to lift your energy, focus or mood, accentuating the inhale wakes up the nervous system. Breath of Joy calls for 3 quick inhales and one large exhale. This breath can be done standing or sitting in a chair. Make sure you have arms-length of space around and above you. 

Here we go:

On your first quick inhale through your nose, swing your arms out in front of you. 

On the second inhale through your nose, swing your arms from in front of you, out to the sides in a “T” position. 

On the third inhale through your nose, swing your arms from the “T” position above your head in a touchdown position. 

Next, exhale forcefully out of your mouth with an audible “Ha” as you fold at the waist and swing your arms down by your legs

Repeat this at least 3 times, more if you like. 

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Contraindications- 

If you have any severe back issues, bulging discs, osteoporosis or hypertension, folding forward or hanging your head upside down is usually not safe. Good news, you can still do this breath! Just make sure to avoid folding over and instead swing your arms down by your side while exhaling a “Ha” forcefully.  

If you are interested in learning more about how to balance your mind and body through your breath and other yoga techniques, consider yoga therapy. To learn more about how to get connected with a yoga therapist, give us a call at 484-784-6244 for a free 15-minute consultation.   

Bryn Mawr Trauma Therapy: 3 Things to Consider When Searching for a Trauma Specialist

  1. Do you want to learn skills or go deep?

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Before searching for a trauma specialist in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, you may want to consider what, exactly you are looking for.  Do you want to learn skills to help you tolerate the trauma memories?  Or would you prefer to engage in deeper therapeutic work to get underneath the trauma so that it can heal at the core?  

Skills such as DBT Skills are extremely helpful for daily life.  

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DBT has 4 tenants: distress tolerance, interpersonal effectiveness, emotion regulation and mindfulness.  These skills are essential when doing trauma work for PTSD and for many other difficulties such as anxiety, depression, anger management, eating disorders, self-harm and addiction.  

If you’d prefer to get underneath the trauma, you will need a therapist who can help you with skills to stabilize and one who is able to help you heal at the root of the problem. 

These skills are the building blocks that will allow you to be able to function and tolerate uncomfortable memories and emotions as you dive deeper into the healing work.  

2. Which Therapeutic Models Do you Prefer?

When looking for a trauma specialist in Bryn Mawr, you’ll also want to take the time to find out the model or theory that the therapist uses to help navigate your therapy.  If you’re looking for a safe space to process and talk things out make sure you find a counselor who is great at talk therapy. If you are looking for evidence based interventions to help you DO something with the traumatic material, you may want to investigate something like EMDR.  If you want to work more from the body or a creative place, you may want to look for an art therapist, a yoga therapist or an experiential or psycho-dramatic therapist.  Ideally, you’ll find a therapist who is able to choose a therapeutic tool from a large tool belt with many choices.  

3. What is your commitment level to healing?

Successful therapy is mostly about your commitment to healing.  Your counselor may ask you to consider abstaining from addictive substances, behaviors or eating disordered behaviors, especially while you’re engaged in trauma work. If you’re doing drugs, engaging in self harm or throwing up your food while you’re trying to heal from PTSD, it can side-track the process. Instead of taking the time in between sessions to allow your psyche to continue to process and digest the trauma, engaging in behaviors can numb the emotions and make it less likely that you will process and be ready for your next session.  When you commit to your own healing process, it means you are willing to look at all aspects of your life and work towards shifting the things that no longer serve you.  

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Commitment to healing also means consistency.  

If you engage in therapy every week, it creates synergistic momentum as opposed to dropping in only when you’re experiencing anxiety or depressive symptoms. Committing to consistent therapy will help you heal faster and more completely.  What is your level of commitment to healing from a traumatic past?

If you’re looking for a trauma specialist near Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania and need some helping finding the right person for you, please feel free to give us a call at 484-784-6244 for a free 15 minute initial consultation.  We are happy to help you find the right trauma therapist for you.

Anger Management: 3 Ways to Channel Your Rage

Anger Management on the Philadelphia Main Line in Bryn Mawr

Anger is a tricky emotion, especially in our society.  We get messages that anger is “bad” and that we should never show it.  While we certainly don’t want to take our anger out sideways on innocent bystanders and we don’t want to rage at people we have anger towards, anger isn’t a “bad” emotion to be pushed away and shamed for. It is healthy to acknowledge, honor and express our anger as long as we’re not hurting anyone in the process.  Here are three ways to channel your anger:

 

1.  Acknowledge: 

Mindfully check in with your body and notice where the anger lives.  You may notice that when you’re angry, you clench your jaw. Many of us store anger in our jaws. Perhaps when you get heated, you feel your face flush.  Do you notice that you make a fist?  Or are you more someone who feels ashamed for having anger, so it’s stuffed down and manifests itself in an upset stomach or feelings of self-loathing?  However your anger manifests itself, the first step towards freedom is to acknowledge that you are, in fact, angry, even if you’re not quite sure why.

2.  Honor:

Trying to put the judgment aside, see if you can think back to when you first started noticing the anger.  Sometimes people believe that the key to anger management is to push the anger away and try to ignore it.  But, I’m of the belief system that what we resist, persists.  So if you want to get free of your rage and really learn anger management, try allowing yourself to be angry without doing anything about it, just noticing it in your body.

3.  Expression:

Anger Management on the Main Line of Philadelphia in Bryn Mawr.

Here are some skills you can try for expression of your anger.  Take what you like and leave the rest:

  • Journal about the anger
  • Write a ‘do not send’ letter to the person or thing you’re angry at
  • Sweat it out - Go for a run or engage in another form of physical exercise
  • Vent to a friend, therapist or another safe person not involved in the situation 
  • Rip up a phone book
  • Punch a punching bag
  • Create some art expressing your anger
  • Write out the story of what happened, then rewrite it with what you wish would have happened
  • Practice progressive relaxation
  • Learn assertive communication skills and directly address the issue with the person or situation

For more help with anger management, contact us here.  

What else do you find helpful for anger management?  Write your responses here:

 

5 Ways To Be A Better Listener: Communication Through DBT Skills

DBT for Communication

by Megan Delp, MFT

Psychotherapy and Couples' Counseling through DBT and communication skills on the Main Line of Philadelphia in Bryn Mawr and West Chester.

The Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (or DBT) tenant called Interpersonal Effectiveness teaches us how to be a more effective communicator through learned to be a better listener.  We have always known that progress depends on the ability to communicate effectively.  The most effective communication does not begin with what a person says, but how well they hear the person they are communicating with. Only by listening effectively can you respond appropriately inany situation.

Throughout all forms of communication (reading, seeing, speaking, listening), we spend 40% of that time listening.  And yet, we get less training in listening than in any other kind of communication. All throughout childhood, we are taught how to speak, how to read, but very little time is spent on learning how to listen.  Learning to listen is difficult, but worth it.

For instance:

  • You can not NOT communicate.  We're communicating verbally or nonverbally all the time.

  • Whenever contact is made, some form of communication does occur.

  • The true meaning of something is not in the words we use, it's in how people interpret the words.

  • Yet the meanings cannot be transferred. We can't just put a computer file directly in someone's head. We can only send the words. So listening becomes a critical skill if we are going to fully understand the meaning someone is trying to send us.

We have the ability to listen in many different ways - it is important to be able to distinguish how we are approaching our communication so that we are prepared to handle it effectively.

The Five Listening Approaches are:

1. Appreciative:

People are more likely to listen if you feel inspired by what you are hearing or if you are enjoying yourself. You’re not necessarily interested in the details when you are using Appreciative Listening, rather you are more focused on the impression of the experience.

2. Empathic:

This style is often a sounding-board to others. A person would offer support to the person they are listening to.  They focus specifically on the feelings revealed by the person they are listening to. If you are often approached by people who need to confide or vent about something, you will know that's your typical approach to listening!  This style is much more focused on offering compassion.

3. Comprehensive:

A comprehensive listener can recognize key details between one message and another even when the speaker is less than organized. They can also recognize when someone doesn't understand what is being said and can re-explain clearly in their own words.

4. Discerning:

This approach of listening wants to get all the information and may take detailed notes.  Distractions can be very disturbing when using this listening approach. An example would be when other people are talking in class and you are trying to get all the notes.

5. Evaluative:

When listening with an evaluative approach, the listener will not automatically accept what is being said as true just because an expert says it. If they disagree, they will simply stop listening. They will also be more doubtful if the speaker is too passionate about their topic. This approach can be helpful when evaluating something and making a decision about it.

It can be highly useful to adapt your listening approach to the needs of the situation.  For example, if a close friend is sharing their difficulties with you, you would want to be empathic and not evaluative.  You have probably had the experience of someone giving you unsolicited advice when you really just wanted them to empathize with you!  The opposite can also be true. When you recognize the correct listening approach in any situation, and use the appropriate listening approach, you can build better relationships, make the correct decisions and use your interpersonal effectiveness skills.  It all starts with learning how to listen!

 Megan Delp, MFTI

Megan Delp, MFTI

Megan is a pre-licensed Marriage and Family Therapist specializing in couples counseling and individual therapy for those struggling with depression, anxiety and relationship issues.  Megan practices with Spilove Psychotherapy in West Chester, Pennsylvania and on the Main Line of Philadelphia in Bryn Mawr.  For more information or to schedule a free 15 minute phone consultation, contact us here.

 

5 Things You need to know before you start counseling

So, you’ve decided to start counseling and you’re ready to go.  Perhaps you’ve never done therapy before or maybe you’re looking to take a new approach.  Here are some things you need to know before you start counseling.

1.  Finding a therapist that you feel safe with is most important. 

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You can line up a bunch of great therapists, but if they’re not the best fit for you, you’re not going to do the intense, deep work you’re looking to do.  The role of a therapist is to be a guide through your journey, reflect back to you what we see and help you to overcome obstacles towards meeting your goals.  If you don’t click with your therapist or don’t feel safe enough to trust them, reaching your goals with them is unlikely.  Your therapist should be someone you can relax around and speak freely without fear of being judged.  Trust and safety are of paramount importance when you’re looking to do deep work on things like eating disorders, trauma, PTSD, couples’ work or issues specific to the LGBTQIA community.

2.  Specialties mean that there’s been special training in a particular issue. 

Our training in graduate school and doctoral programs very rarely provides training for specific diagnoses like PTSD, eating disorders or addictions.  So when a therapist decides to have a particular specialty, we need to seek out training geared specifically towards these issues.  If you notice that a therapist you’re interested in has indicated that we specialize in a particular area, you might want to ask us what sorts of training we’ve done to qualify us as an expert.  This will give you a better idea of how equipped we are to help you with your specific struggle.

3.  When you hire a therapist, you are paying for a space that is yours, for you.

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I’ve heard people say that therapy is like paying someone to be your friend.  This is actually not true.  When you hire a therapist and you pay money, what you are paying for is a safe, neutral, objective space and time where you can do your work.  It is an energy exchange.  You are not paying your therapist to care about you, you are paying for an hour in a room that is completely and totally about you and no one else.  In friendships, there’s a give and take, there’s a social obligation to ask how they are and be a support to them.  In a relationship with your therapist, you are taking time for yourself only and receiving support that is not reciprocated emotionally, only financially.  This dynamic can be extremely healing and empowering and for many, it is the only time and space where healing can truly take place.

4.  The more consistently you go, the more effective therapy is.

Sometimes, in an attempt to save money or save time, people want to schedule therapy sessions every other week or once per month.  While there’s nothing particularly wrong with scheduling like this, you may want to rethink the frequency and consistency of your therapy schedule.  You don’t have to be in therapy forever.  You can establish and work towards specific measurable goals with your therapist and see regular progress.  However, progress is more difficult to measure when you attend therapy inconsistently.  You may be having symptoms of PTSD, for example, and when several weeks go by without working on those particular symptoms, it is more difficult to get traction.  If you’re struggling with binging and purging and you go every week, you can check in with your therapist about the particular triggers and behaviors that may have lead to your binge and purge.  Don’t take my word for it, check it out for yourself.  Set a goal with your counselor and try going weekly, write down your progress and notice the differences between your weekly sessions over a period of at least 3 months versus bi-weekly or monthly progress over a 3-month period.  You may be surprised with the results.

5.  Therapy happens in stages.

Sometimes we think that as soon as we set foot in the door of a therapy office, we will be “cured” immediately or within a few sessions.  The reality is that there’s a therapeutic process which happens in stages.  The first stage is joining with your therapist or learning to trust them.  When we meet a new friend, we don’t usually tell them our deepest darkest right off the bat, it takes time and trust building to get to a place where we know they are a good friend.  A similar concept is applied in therapy.  Depending on the client, the level and amount of trauma and defenses, this stage can take anywhere from about a month to sometimes a year or even more.  Safety, trust and a therapeutic bond, known as a therapeutic alliance, is formed in order for the therapist to really know and understand the client and for the client to feel safe enough to open up and do their work. 

The second stage is where the work is done.  Since there’s now an underlying foundation established between therapist and client, the second stage is about vulnerability.  There is an unpacking, uncovering, examining and exploring the process that happens with the client and their trauma or their history.  This stage is where people see their patterns and make shifts and changes in their thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors.  The second stage of the therapeutic process is where clients reach their goals.

The third stage may or may not be part of the therapeutic process, dependent upon the client’s preference.  This stage is for maintenance.  The client continues therapy but perhaps doesn’t come every week any longer.  They use their therapist to check in with, get help with issues as they arise and review the goals and behaviors they established during the second stage.  Some people choose to forego this step and skip to the fourth stage.

The fourth stage of counseling is a closure process.  After attaining goals in the second stage, and maintaining new behaviors and thought processes in the fourth stage, this last and final stage is a review of accomplishments, work together and closure of the therapeutic relationship.  If the client chooses to end counseling, this practice of review and closure can be especially healing for those who have experienced traumatic grief or loss.  Saying goodbye in a healthy way, honoring the relationship without suddenly cutting it off is a beneficial process to learn about emotional maturity and sophistication. 

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I hope these tips have been helpful.  Please feel free to comment below with any other tips or feedback you have on this topic.  If you’d like to speak further about starting counseling or have any other questions about some of the things I’ve mentioned, please contact me at TiffanySpilove@yahoo.com or call 610-314-8402.  I wish you luck in your endeavors and look forward to hearing from you soon!!