Art Therapy | Mindfulness | Yoga
What is Mindfulness?
Through an ever-increasing body of research, we are learning more and more about the practice of mindfulness and its numerous health benefits. Yet, what does being mindful really mean? Simply put, mindfulness can be described as awareness, the act of paying attention to the present moment with kindness and non-judgement. Often, this kind of awareness is referred to as healthy attention.
More specifically, mindfulness encompasses a series of mental exercises that help one practice this kind of focused attention to the present in a way that positively shapes how the mind and body function. In other words, we can exercise our minds in much the same way that we can exercise our bodies, strengthening both to perform at their best in any situation but especially when experiencing physical and emotional stress.
Why Practice Mindfulness?
While most research on mindfulness has emerged after the year 2000, individuals across the globe have been engaging in these practices for thousands of years. Mindfulness as we know it in the West today stems from the Vipassana tradition or practice of insight meditation originating from cultures in South Asia. By practicing mindfulness today, you can connect with a long lineage of wisdom on how to be with yourself and in the world in ways that ease the presence of suffering. It is no surprise then that practicing mindfulness has been shown to:
Decrease depression and anxiety
Strengthen the immune system
Increase creativity and problem solving
Increase self-compassion and motivation
Calm the body’s automatic stress response
What is Yoga?
“And yoga is nothing if not breath.”
Derived from the Sanskrit word yuj, yoga simply means "to unite.” With this in mind, we can describe yoga as the practice of uniting the body and the mind through the presence of breath. In other words, when pairing movement of the body with the rhythm of the breath and when focusing the mind’s attention on this movement, you are practicing yoga. No fancy poses required.
Catherine is trained in and facilitates the style of Viniyoga, an approach to yoga that adapts the various methods of these ancient teachings to the unique condition, needs, and interests of each individual. From the work of T. K. V. Desikachar of Madras, India and a long lineage of South Asian culture dating back to before recorded history, Viniyoga as we know it today values function over form. So instead of striving for a “perfect” posture, emphasis is placed on creating different combinations of breath, movement, and meditation to meet the unique and individual needs of the student. Just as each person is different, every practice will be different, making yoga an accessible tool for everybody and every body.
Why Practice Yoga?
Multiple research studies point to the profound impact a regular yoga practice has for health and wellbeing, including:
Reducing stress and anxiety
Increasing muscle strength, tone, and flexibility
Improving cardio and circulatory health
Through the cultivation of a healthy and flexible body, we can also cultivate a healthy and flexible mind, thus uniting all aspects of yourself and taking care of the whole person.
Improving overall mood and energy
What is Art Therapy?
Art therapy is an integrative mental health and human services profession that enriches the lives of individuals, families, and communities through active art-making, creative process, applied psychological theory, and human experience within a psychotherapeutic relationship. Art therapy is facilitated by a professional, master’s level art therapist who can effectively support personal and relational treatment goals as well as community concerns.
That is a lot of very professional sounding language from the American Art Therapy Association (AATA).
Essentially as an art therapist, I guide individuals in their own art making to help them find new ways to cope with whatever challenges they may be facing. No experience with art making? That’s ok. Part of the beauty of art therapy is that it doesn’t matter how your artwork looks when you’re finished. I’ll say that again. It doesn’t matter how your artwork looks.
In an art therapy session, the act of art making itself can be used as a tool for relaxation and stress relief as well as a path to insight. You can learn a lot about yourself from the thoughts and feelings that arise while creating art. In an art therapy session, we can use the art making process as well as the following discussion to bring awareness to experiences in your past that are leading to overwhelming feelings in the present, experiences in your current life that trigger these feelings, as well as what these feelings can tell you about what you need now and how to get these needs met. Bringing awareness to all of these things in a safe, healthy, and compassionate way such as art therapy sets the foundation for immediate healing and growth as well as long-term health and well-being.
Why Practice Art Therapy?
As artists themselves, art therapists know first-hand that creative expression contains an inherent, healing power. This is backed by years of clinical, evidenced-based research with different groups showing that participating in art therapy with an art therapist can help people:
Improve and enhance physical, mental, and emotional well-being
Identify and cultivate personal strengths
Express feelings or ideas that are difficult to put into words
Cope with symptoms of stress and traumatic experiences
- Increase their awareness of self and others
Resolve conflicts and problems
Develop interpersonal skills
Manage unhealthy habits and addictions
- Enhance cognitive abilities
Relieve anxiety, depression, and physical pain
Enjoy the life-affirming pleasures of making art