HEAL: The Mind-Body Way

By Melissa Aguirre, C-IAYT, E-RYT 500, Yoga Therapist, Author and Educator
Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Designed to generate a clear mind, yoga comes from the sanskrit word “yuj” which means “to yoke” or “to join.” Yoga, at its very essence, is the union of mind, body and spirit. The practice itself bridges the mind and body into one cohesive unit through breath and attention, allowing us to access complete presence. Peace is taking in the moment with equanimity as it is rather than as you “think” it should be. For the common person, yoga offers an entire landscape of mental maintenance to prevent negative feedback loops and neglected mental hygiene.

By understanding how much our perspective either limits or empowers us, we can then understand how subtle mind shifts make such a difference in a person’s quality of life. We know the power of a healthy mind, but we often struggle with conceptualizing sustainable peace and happiness.

The reason this is so challenging for the community and patients alike is because, as Brene Brown quotes the Asaro tribe of Indonesia and Papua New Guinea, “Knowledge is only a rumor until it lives in the muscle.” In other words, unless we can embody peace, it is challenging to sustain it. That is why someone can read an unlimited number of self-help books but still struggle. Many people understand that they are safe or loved but struggle with feeling safe or loved. Furthermore, these tension patterns have been encoded into the body of trauma recovery patients. Therefore, treatment must acknowledge the body to redirect negative feedback loops and disrupt the tension patterns.

Yoga is a technology for repatterning the mind and body. Through neuromuscular facilitation on the yoga mat, clients can release tension patterns in the body, guiding our somatic expression into healthy, functional movement patterns that do not perpetuate suppressed thinking and well-being.

For example, if a body is not exercised, the effects of anxiety are going to be heightened, causing irritability and tension that can lead to reactivity and impulsive behaviors. The yoga practice is a container to release that nervous energy, teaching the body and mind self-regulation practices. Another example: if a client is unable to suppress negative thoughts, a steady, strong yoga practice directs the mind to concentrate on present movement patterns and breathing practices to create new feedback loop patterns that redirect and regulate. With repetition and practice, these neural pathways begin to shift the patient into sustainable self regulation.

Melissa Aguirre, C-IAYT, E-RYT 500

Ultimately, bringing the mind, body and breath into one expression through a breath-centric yoga practice evokes quality present-moment experiences that combat pain, suffering and negativity. These practices build neuroplasticity that creates resilience and self regulation. Yoga is an accessible, cost-effective way to serve mental health in adjunct to other treatment protocols. When we merge the somatic integration with cognitive therapies, healing occurs on an astounding level where patients begin to participate in their healing alliance.

With all the cutting-edge literature being released around the benefits of yoga and mental health for the military, Fort Sam Houston is beginning to integrate opportunities for the military population to learn sustainable health practices, improving mental hygiene and readiness protocols.

For more information about ways to volunteer or get involved with the work Melissa Aguirre and her team are doing to serve the mental health crisis among the military, connect with @milmindbody through Instagram and Facebook or email melmarieyoga@gmail.com. Furthermore, you can learn more about the services offered by MelMarie by visiting melmarieyoga.com.