Using Yoga as a therapeutic intervention in my practice
11 October, 2021
Dr Rupal Davé
I’m an intellectual disability psychiatrist who’s always been interested in yoga but I think the notion that I could use it as a treatment started to germinate before I had developed the formal skills. I was in clinics, for example, and people would talk about feeling stressed or having too much anxiety. So, naturally, I would talk about breathing and breathing skills, and we'd also be talking about exercise.
Yoga is not necessarily meant to be vigorous, but it involves stretching and keeping your joints moving and raising your heartbeat a little bit. There's enough exercise in there that it's something that doesn't turn anybody off. I like the fact that you’re being aware of your body and your breathing. And I found it helped me, so I really enjoyed it.
We know with yoga or gentle exercise there's evidence that it supports both physical and mental health. But I wanted to do it safely as well, which is why I went and became a yoga practitioner. I needed to know I could practice it safely and then teach it safely. I began to introduce it in a community group setting.
Then I managed to bring it to an inpatient unit. It was a real opportunity to bring something new and different. It's inspiring working in an inpatient unit because it was all males, most of them were aged 20-30 with several co-morbidities. A lot of them had never even attempted it before. There was one person who had tried it before, and he really enjoyed it. That was helpful for me, so I was excited that he was at least going to give it a go, I had one willing attendee. But some of the others were a bit reticent.
I sold them all the idea of getting outside which seemed to go down well. We started with a short session because I was concerned, they couldn’t concentrate on anything more. We started with just 15 minutes, then we were built up to 20 minutes, then built up to half an hour.
At that point, I could reliably use a sports hall and built that up for 30 minutes. And then I got another member of staff involved, which meant that we were a bit over 60 minutes.
Then I tagged on a bit of football and yoga so that the people that weren't so interested in yoga because that is something new and is strange got the benefit of a different type of exercise plus a sociable aspect of everyone doing it together. And then they could do the football bit, and if they wanted to, they could stay and do yoga for the stretching. I had support from the great multidisciplinary team, so without the team, I couldn't have done it
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