Our series on speakers at the Instill conference in November now turns to Dr Lisa Greenspan, who is a chartered counselling psychologist. We interviewed her about her experience using yoga in her work.
Could you tell us about your experience?
I studied Imagework many years ago, using the inner image to work with people to help make changes in their lives. Following this I went on to study psychotherapy and became a counselling psychologist specialising in trauma work with adults and children/ adolescents. At UCL I studied mindfulness with children and adolescents and then following two years of yoga practice and clinical work using mindfulness, I undertook the Teen Yoga training. Since last summer I have been using therapeutic yoga in private practice and through the psychotherapy organisation LAPIS where I am clinical lead. I have run anxiety workshops in schools and chair yoga/meditation sessions in groups such as a group for parents of disabled children living in institutions and the Blind Society.
What do you enjoy most about this work?
I enjoy the feeling I have following a session using mindfulness and yoga training or therapy, one of having worked hard but also of extreme relaxation and well-being. If I am relaxed following the sessions I know I have been present for the clients and my body has calm nervous systems. This is something I keep in mind during all of my therapeutic work.
What have you learned from working in this field?
Working with children and young people has allowed me to become very aware of the prime role the body and movement have in our emotional life. What better teachers than those who live in their bodies without the interference of analysing thoughts and feelings that come into play once the neocortex is fully integrated, in adulthood. The neuroscience tells us how closely related our sense of self is to our interoceptive sense, and that this is the key to our full integration of mind body and emotions. I am grateful for the lesson from my young clients.
What do you think are the most important issues right now in this area?
I am receiving more referrals than ever from parents who are being failed by the health service. I think that entering schools the way Teen Yoga is doing, and finding other innovative ways to reach young people is fundamental to the population’s future mental health.
How would you present your work to parents and teachers who are wondering about the work you do?
In my experience there’s no replacement for getting adults to participate in order to understand the benefits of yoga and mindfulness. I encourage parents and teachers to participate by attending trainings, downloading apps and playing them out loud in the house so their children can be passive participants if they won’t engage themselves. It is great role modelling for young people to see their parents and teachers getting onto the mat and connecting with their breath, and calm parents who can approach their children with open hearts make for calm children.