Panacea

I wish I could tell you that after twenty years of yoga and meditation, sacred study and self study that I am less anxious, less afraid, more self loving, more loving period, more patient, more kind, less aggravated and aggravating. I wish I could tell you that yoga saved me, or my marriage or healed my attachment wounds and performed a kind of miracle.

And I also wish I could tell you that psychotherapy alone has done all of the above too.

I wish I could pinpoint one teacher, one healer, one therapist, one relationship that made all the difference.

Psychotherapy alone did not heal my eating disorder or my rampant emotional intolerance. Yoga alone was no panacea for my outsides or my insides.

I've been at this yoga thing for twenty years. And the therapy part I've been in as a client for twenty five years. If either one was going to have made me radically different it would have done so by now.

For me Yoga and Psychotherapy have been like two very important, consistent relationships in my life allowing for do-overs in important developmental and relational moments of my life. They have afforded me second chances at a relationship to my self, to my body, to my emotions, to my psyche and to my place amongst the people. Part of these do-overs have come from the practice of asana in and of itself. Some of them have come through the transmission of a teaching or myth. Some of them have come through an intervention or technique in the therapeutic context and most have come through the direct relationship between me and the clinician or teacher.

Part of the reason I began yoga was because I was deeply unhappy, suicidal, emaciated and really didn't think therapy was worth shit. I was way too smart and manipulative for that and I, like many adolescents with eating disorders, knew how to play the game. But I remained ever committed to my own insanity.

I went to yoga because inside I knew I was going down a dark road to annihilation. It's not that my therapist was bad or didn't say or do the right things. I just couldn't receive her fully and I couldn't let her see my whole self.

The yoga began to chip away at that a little bit. I began to see myself with more honesty. It didn't immediately yield the self compassion so many teachers talk about or preach. For me, it simply yielded honesty. That honesty translated into the therapy room, and I began to speak with more honesty. And it was that same honesty that fostered the relating, attunement and ultimately the healing I so needed.

The yoga also gave me the somatic tools talk therapy wasn't at that time. Of course now, somatic Psychotherapy and somatic approaches to therapy are becoming ever more wildly popular. But twenty years ago, yoga was a place I could gain those somatic techniques and then use them as resources and skills in life and therapy. And all that I couldn't verbally process, say or share in therapy I could put down, into and through my body into my practice. So the yoga became a ground for me to channel all the stuff from therapy into a felt sense.

Yoga also brought to the surface, through that honesty, so much pain, so much latent material. It brought more fuel for the therapeutic context. Things long buried rose up. Emotions and patterns needing renegotiation were so obvious on the mat. Therapy was a way to work through it. So I took what arose on my mat and brought it to therapy.

I also need to say that those moments of healing and transformation--the moments that really re-wire our patterning--have not always come from the mat or the couch.

The birth of my daughter was a huge do-over. Breastfeeding her for two years and nine months a huge do-over. Watching my parents bond with her, a huge healing for my inner child.

Every time she drives me nuts and I react, I get to see my unconscious patterns made obvious.

Sometimes I go to yoga feeling lost and horrible as a mommy. And I get to think about my own body for ninety minutes and it’s incredibly relieving. I do feel better and more available to her after that practice.

Sometimes I go to therapy and I tediously and slowly break apart those unconscious patterns so that in the moment of reactivity I can foster more choice.

For me, marriage is another an intense cauldron of healing. I am activated all the time by my partner. And I get to watch all the ways I project how he might respond or behave and I get to be surprised that I am wrong in my assumption. I also get to feel disappointed. I get to feel abandoned and alone, and I get to feel repair and union. I get to feel love and I get to give love and I get to know its repercussions. It’s really all right there in my relationship to him.

In yoga we talk about Samskaras. Patterns of bheavior, tendency, expectation, reaction. They are imprints in our soma. The practices are intended to change these. But we are also deeply relational creatures. Healing cannot happen in isolation. We need the mirror of the other and the chance for a do-over that comes by living. Therapy can do this. It can give us a person and perfect situation to see our patterns and our wounds and see how we impact another. We get new options.

This is why I know, with every cell of my being that yoga and psychotherapy are a divine union. And I know they can teach each other. You cannot heal samskaras with sheer tapas alone. And you can’t heal in the presence of another if you lay flaccid and complacent.

We need life to heal as much as life has caused us pain.

So I can't say yoga healed me or frankly, that any therapist did either. I can say that both in their partnership have helped me deal with the consequences of being myself in a way that makes me more honest and available.

I think both work.

And for me, I need them both.

Both beg my honesty and vulnerability.

I lastly want to share that I have personally had a lot of success and relief from the plants and the realm of nature. Being in nature for periods of time have gotten me out of dark times. Homeopathic remedies have given me enough mental clarity and space to do the other work. CBD has been an answer for chemical challenges nothing else but medication can touch. These are realities for me. And I bet, for some of you. No shame in that. Seriously. If the practices were going to work in that way--they would be working. And they might be working on other layers and parts but you still might need the support of the plants.

And we always need the support of our loved ones and our communities.

There is no heal-all. There is no magic pill. There is no one way to do this. There is no right way to be whole. The road is long. Often slow. Sometimes we get a leap. And those are always fun. But mostly we sort of trudge along in the nuances of our patterns and we look for the cracks and subtitles of change. We follow the bread crumbs back home. Sometimes we get to reside there for longer than a moment or two which is always nice.

I am more in love with yoga than ever before.

Livia Cohen-Shapiro