Therapy Focus

Lisa Kaley-Isley illuminates yoga as therapy

Resident Yoga Therapy advisor Lisa Kaley-Isley shares her journey from psychologist to yoga therapist and why seeing the light go on in another is the most rewarding moment of all.

What, when and where was your first experience of complementary therapy?
I first heard about yoga therapy at a Yoga Journal conference in Colorado.  I had been taking yoga classes in health clubs and I was looking to deepen and grow my practice so I signed up for the yoga immersion weekend.  I was a practising clinical and health psychologist in a Children’s Hospital at the time and yoga was making a big difference in my physical health and workplace stress coping.  In the market area I met the then US President of Yoga Alliance handing out fliers for the new International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT).  The fliers asked the question “how do you define yoga therapy?”  I was immediately intrigued and struck up a conversation with her asking what is yoga therapy?  She became a good friend and mentor, and now I spend my time introducing others to yoga therapy, teaching and showing how it offers a personalised way to apply the philosophy and practices of yoga in one’s own life.

What made you decide to treat others?
I decided to study psychology early in my teenage years.  I had always been the person that others talked to and I liked listening.  I was also a voracious reader and I preciously read novels that introduced me to human suffering.  In the interpersonal realm I noticed the pain was often linked to an inability to express emotion clearly to another.  I went to the same summer camp for 8 years, including 2 years as a Counselor-in-Training and one year as a camp Counselor.  My CIT Director was in graduate school earning her PhD in Clinical Psychology.  I really admired and wanted to emulate her.  My identification with my CIT Director was the conscious decision that set me on the academic path to study psychology, but what kept me going in that direction was my desire to better understand the mysterious workings of the human mind, feeling honoured by another sharing their intimate thoughts and feelings, and the sense that by listening and being present I could make a positive difference in someone else’s life.

What has influenced your treatments the most?
Watching my yoga therapy teacher Gary Kraftsow work with clients has had a profound impact on how I see and hear the habits, needs, and concerns of the body, breath and mind of an individual.  He and my other two primary yoga teachers, Rod Stryker and Pandit Rajmani Tignunait, have also opened my eyes and taught me so much about how yoga philosophy is meant to be applied in practice so the gains are realised in one’s life.  My 30 years of psychotherapy experience is undoubtably a defining feature in how I listen and respond to the concerns of life, meaning, and relationship that people raise in yoga therapy.  But most influential is my belief that courage and hope are vital ingredients for a happy and fulfilling life.

Describe Holistic in less than 10 words?
Holistic is wholeness: whole person in the context of all that is.

What role do your therapies play in the way you live?
I endeavour to practice what I preach and to apply what I know to myself. When I fall into my habits and patterns, I aim to learn from my own experience and to cultivate compassion for how difficult it is to initiate and maintain conscious changes. We are all here to grow and learn, and I am grateful I have the knowledge and experiences I have had to help me in my own life journey. I was my first client and I’ll be my last.

What do you hope your clients experience when they get treated by you?
I hope that my clients feel more capable of living their lives authentically, more joyfully, less fearfully, with a greater sense of self-efficacy, and with more compassion for themselves and others.  That they feel more capable of managing their lives and directing their lives in the direction they want to go.  We all have stuff to deal with.  When we can learn from it and grow, rather than have it crush us, that’s a real victory.  There are genuinely painful,  scary, and overwhelming moments in our lives, and there is also tedium, emptiness, and loneliness.  I aim to help people deal with whatever comes in a more constructive manner.

What is the most rewarding thing about what you do?
When something shifts in a person during a session so that s/he has an insight and a feeling of something different inside, a light goes on in the person.  It’s a tangible thing we can both feel, and we know that something has changed for the better.  Those are the best moments.  It may be saying something previously unsaid, a recovery of confidence, a feeling of safety, an understanding, whatever it is, it brings with it an increase in light and a release of burden.  

Do you eat ice cream, drink coffee or have any other guilty pleasures?
All of the above!  I am not perfect and I enjoy my food pleasures. 

Lisa Kaley-Isley teaches and mentors on the YogaCampus Yoga Therapy Diploma as well as offering private Yoga Therapy sessions every Wednesday and Friday at our Islington centre. Lisa also teaches weekly Vinyasa with Meditation and Yoga for Teens classes. View Lisa’s teaching schedule online or contact reception to book a Yoga Therapy appointment.

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