Whatever you do for work, there is a way to make your yoga practice a part of it. We love talking to people about how they have made this possible. Recently, we sat down for an interview with another Sonoma County native to ask her about how she integrates her yoga practice into her therapy practice. Elizabeth Sockolov is a therapist in Petaluma who specializes in working with teens and young adults. She is a long time meditator and yogi who uses her practices of compassion and awareness in her therapy.
Answer: It’s actually kind of a funny story. When I was in fifth grade I had a math teacher who taught a yoga and meditation class during lunch time. If you went to it you didn’t have to go to PE. I was not a huge fan of gym class as a kid, so I always opted for yoga instead. It was a really gentle stretching and visualization practice but it got me interested. After that I went to yoga classes with my mom on occasion. From that point on it was always a part of my life but not in a huge way. Almost six years ago I met my husband and he reintroduced me to meditation. That was when I started a dedicated yoga and meditation practice.
Answer: There are many elements of yoga that I use when I am in a therapy session with a client. I use breath practice in order to regulate my own feelings and teach clients how to calm themselves down. I use body awareness in order to check in with how my body is feeling and make sure that I am not holding tension anywhere. I also use grounding exercises with my clients in order to help them come into their bodies. I will often ask clients to feel their feet flat on the floor and see if they can put equal pressure on all parts of their feet.
Answer: Yes, of course. I love going to yoga class and learning a new breath technique then teaching it to my clients. Over the years there are a few favorites that I have picked up and now use in therapy. One that I do with clients I call “finger breathing”. I have them hold their hands palms up on their lap. As they breath in, they slide their thumb up their forefinger. As they exhale they slide their thumb back down. They continue doing this moving their thumb up and down each finger.
Another breathing technique I like to teach clients is counting their breaths. This is a really common one that I see many yoga teachers use in classes. Essentially, you have people start by breathing in for one count and out for two, then in for two and out for three, and so on. I have people do this up to eight usually. It helps them make their exhale longer than their inhale which has been shown to engage the parasympathetic nervous system and calm the body down.
Answer: No, there are a few reasons I don’t do yoga with my therapy clients. The first is that I am not a certified yoga teacher. I have a strong yoga practice, but I don’t have any training to actually teach yoga. I also don’t do yoga with my clients because I really think that they are coming to for my expertise as a therapist. If they have an interest in yoga I refer them to some yoga studios or personal teachers that I really like.
Answer: I truly believe that I have become a better therapist because of my yoga practice. I attribute this to bringing yoga into the therapy room both for the client and myself. My personal yoga practice helps me with my own emotional regulation. Many people, including myself, can become overwhelmed when clients are presenting with a lot of heavy content. It is important to self-regulate and demonstrate to clients that you can hold whatever they are bringing in. One great way that I do this is with mindfulness of the body.
Yoga has also made me a better therapist because it is part of my self-care routine. Self-care for therapists is incredibly important. We can tend to be people who take care of everyone but ourselves. It is crucial to have practices that we use to keep ourselves healthy. Yoga is part of that practice for me. When I am going to yoga regularly I feel more energized, focused, and present for my clients.
We are so grateful Elizabeth was able to come and talk to us about yoga and therapy! If you have a yoga practice that you are integrating into your work in some way, we would love to hear about it. You can always email us if you are interested at firstname.lastname@example.org.