The Benefits of Yoga Therapy
People practicing yoga therapy work with all aspects of health and wellness, from the physical, to the mental, emotional, and even spiritual. Adequate training and mentorship is important for yoga therapists to accomplish this. When it comes to clinical practice, encountering people coping with trauma, stress, PTSD, addiction, mental illness, and other mental health challenges can happen nearly every day. The new supervised clinical practicum offered through the Yoga Therapy RX program at Loyola Marymount University serves to train current and aspiring yoga therapists.
Clinical Program Director Julie Carmen Hoffman MA, LMFT, C-IAYT, ERYT-500, YTRX spoke to LA YOGA about the program.
For more information, visit Yoga Therapy RX for Mental Health
LA YOGA: Why is it so important for yoga therapists working with a population suffering from anxiety, depression, and trauma to complete a clinical practicum?
Julie Carmen: When I go to any type of healthcare professional I want to know they’ve treated patients who have similar symptoms to mine. Up until now, there has not been a local practicum where yoga therapists can gather face to face hours with behavioral health patients and be able to discuss their cases with clinical supervisors.
LA YOGA: Is your course restricted only to Loyola Marymount Yoga Therapy Rx alumni?
Julie Carmen: No, we are carefully reviewing applications from people with a variety of qualifications. For over a decade now Loyola Marymount University has been offering classes, certificates and even a Masters Degree in Yoga Studies overseen by Chris Chapple, PhD.
My clinic grew out of Larry Payne, PhD’s Yoga Therapy Rx that currently has four levels. These includes the Yoga Therapy for Chronic Pain practicum that Dr. Lori Rubenstein Fazzio created at Venice Family Clinic. This new Yoga Therapy for Mental Health practicum was designed as Level V. But now we’re opening registration up to anyone certified or ‘almost certified’ in yoga therapy, from any IAYT accredited school.
LA YOGA: Why are you opening registration up to a wider pool of applicants?
Julie Carmen: We’re looking for a total of six yoga therapists with diverse experiences to make our first cohort cohesive.
Benefits of the Yoga Therapy Mental Health Clinical Practicum
LA YOGA: What else do you hope to accomplish with this clinic?
Julie Carmen: Foremost, to be of service. Venice Family Clinic serves 24,000 people in the Los Angeles area and 73% live below the poverty line. We will be able to offer them one-on-one yoga therapy lifestyle practices that might ease their discomforts. Each yoga therapy student should complete 40-50 supervised hours with patients during the 12-week course.
LA YOGA: What excites you the most about launching a Yoga Therapy for Mental Health clinic?
Julie Carmen: I love the concept of creating a Scope of Practice Manual. For instance, one of the psychopharmacologists will help the students understand ways to interact with patients who bring up questions about medications. It’s definitely outside a yoga therapist’s scope of practice. We will be constructing dialogues that help the yoga therapists explain how adjunctive therapies and lifestyle practices can complement what they’re already doing right.
Yoga Therapy Textbooks for the Mental Health Clinical Practicum
LA YOGA: What textbooks will you be using?
Julie Carmen: One is Principles and Practices of Yoga Health Care. We are lucky enough to have Shirley Telles, MBBS, PhD consult with our students about the Fundamentals of Creating a Clinical Trial in Yoga. We will also read IAYT President Dr Dilip Sarkar’s book.
Our course provides 6 Law and Ethics CEUs. There will also be audio tapes and a manual to help students reflect on the cross section between the Ethical Codes per IAYT.org and the legal and ethical codes enforced by the Board of Behavioral Sciences.
Yoga Therapy for Mental Health Clinical Practicum Guest Teachers
Julie Carmen: Our list of Guest Speakers is overflowing with superstars in their fields:
Shirley Telles, M.B.B.S, M.Phil., Ph.D.: “Introduction to the Fundamentals of Yoga Clinical Trials.” William Resnick, M.D., “Psychopharmacology.”
John Casey, Ph.D. “Patient-Friendly Yoga Philosophy.”
Gerry Grossman, LMFT, “Law and Ethics.”
Mimi Lind, MSW, “Domestic Violence.”
Sabine Hazan, M.D., “Gastroenterology.”
Jewel Simpson, DDS, C-IAYT, “Dental Phobia.”
Randy Olson, Ph.D., “Non-boring Job Interviewing.”
Rebecca Hackett, C-IAYT, RPYT, “Post-Natal Depression.”
JulieCarmen Hoffman, LMFT, C-IAYT, “Scope of Practice.”
Arun Deva, DASc, AYT, C-IAYT “SEVA Trainings for Clinic Staff.”
LA YOGA: How you see the Guest Speakers as being integral to the training?
Julie Carmen: Some of the doctors, such as the gastroenterologist and the holistic dentist have been referring yoga therapy patients to me for years. Because of this, we have a clear understanding about what yoga therapy can and can’t offer. They are excited about our students teaching specific evidence informed yoga therapy practices to clinic patients. Clinic patients will be referred by their social workers for anxiety, depression, or trauma. Yet most patients have overlapping issues that our yoga therapists need to take into consideration. Mainly, our guest physicians will answer supervisory questions and pay attention to potential risks.
Advice for Yoga Therapists working in Mental Health
LA YOGA: Is there a message you’d like to share with yoga therapists who want to work with patients with mental health challenges and cannot take your course?
Julie Carmen: Listening and attuning to patients can be extraordinarily valuable. If you don’t know what to say, it’s best to simply bear witness. Do your personal work, reflect, journal, invest in personal psychotherapy, whatever you need to do to be clear about your intentions. I often refer students who come from families dealing with mental health issues, to the courses offered free by NAMI.org.
LA YOGA: Is the general medical community in Los Angeles open to hiring yoga therapists?
Julie Carmen: Yes, and it’s only changing because the International Association of Yoga Therapists is moving the profession forward responsibly. My main goals for the students in our clinical practicum include helping each student reflect on the population they want to work with and then actively reach out to potential employers in the private and public sectors.
About Yoga Therapy Clinical Practicum Director
Julie Carmen Hoffman is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, a certified Yoga Therapist and Clinical Professor of Yoga Therapy for Mental Health at Loyola Marymount University’s clinical practicum at Venice Family Clinic. She designed and implemented the yoga therapy and drama therapy departments at Passages Dual Diagnosis residential treatment facility (2001-2003). In addition, Julie was a yoga therapist for four years at Monte Nido Eating Disorder Center and contributed a chapter to Carolyn Costin’s Yoga and Eating Disorders, Routeledge, 2016. For thirteen years, Julie taught a popular community yoga class at Exhale Center for Sacred Movement. She has led local retreats since 1999 through her company www.yogatalks.com
Felicia Tomasko has spent more of her life practicing Yoga and Ayurveda than not. She first became introduced to the teachings through the writings of the Transcendentalists, through meditation, and using asana to cross-train for her practice of cross-country running. Between beginning her commitment to Yoga and Ayurveda and today, she earned degrees in environmental biology and anthropology and nursing, and certifications in the practice and teaching of yoga, yoga therapy, and Ayurveda while working in fields including cognitive neuroscience and plant biochemistry. Her commitment to writing is at least as long as her commitment to yoga. Working on everything related to the written word from newspapers to magazines to websites to books, Felicia has been writing and editing professionally since college. In order to feel like a teenager again, Felicia has pulled out her running shoes for regular interval sessions throughout Southern California. Since the very first issue of LA YOGA, Felicia has been part of the team and the growth and development of the Bliss Network.