Yoga Meets Therapy

Jennie Lee (left) leading a class PHOTO COURTESY JENNIE LEE

Jennie Lee (left) leading a class PHOTO COURTESY JENNIE LEE

When she first started teaching yoga in a small East Coast town, Jennie Lee found that many of her students were looking for something more than a workout.

Often, they were also working through emotional or spiritual issues. Lee had been studying spiritual psychology and yoga philosophy, and began to integrate these facets into her classes.

“I started combining this hybrid of work, where people would come in to … use yoga to work through things therapeutically – whether it was moving through the grief of a relationship that was ending, or getting clarity in a job change, or whatever.”

Today, Lee is a yoga therapist who works with clients both locally and nationally on issues that include depression, grief, anxiety, stress and more. She also offers yoga retreats and wrote a book called True Yoga, a guide for integrating the spiritual elements of yoga with the physical.

When she’s not traveling for work, Lee is based locally, and she’s here this month to offer a Yoga & Writing Workshop from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sept. 17 at Open Space Yoga Honolulu. Lee recently chatted with Metro about her work.

Why did you want to get into yoga therapy?

I think things sort of choose us. I personally have gone through a lot of loss and times of depression in my own life, and so I understand those processes, and that is really how I used yoga therapeutically for myself originally. The ancient yoga teachings have strategies for us to deal with everything that is challenging in our lives.

What exactly is “true yoga?”

There are lots of different physical styles of yoga, so there is something for everybody, whether you are in shape or not in shape, or you just want something relaxing or want a really awesome workout. But the physical part of yoga is really just a tiny, tiny bit of what the whole yoga path is … There are lifestyle practices, energy management practices, there are focusing techniques, there are breath techniques, and all of that is moving toward the goal of meditation, and meditation is really the pinnacle of a true yoga practice.

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What can people expect at your upcoming workshop?

Basically I am just overlaying what I call some of the “inner yoga practices” with the methodology of writing so that people can get more inner clarity – tuning into their intuition, really listening to their inner truth, finding their inner voice.

Overall, what is your goal with your work?

I think that we all have the tendency to look out into the world for our happiness, and we go after it in lots of different ways – whether that is through physical accomplishment, or through a work accomplishment, or through a relationship. And what I have come to understand through my study of yoga is that real happiness will never come from anything on the outside – it can only come if we develop a connection to our inner self. And so what my goal is with any client is really to guide them back to a knowing of their own true self, and that is really the point of yoga in my opinion. The journey to that place looks different for each person, but ultimately, that is the goal.