Yoga Therapy: The Relationship Between Mind and Body Part 2

Two weeks ago we featured an excerpt from our interview with Dr. Suzanne Nixon, a Lansdowne-based expert in MindBody Therapy, after reading an in Time magazine about how yoga therapy is being used in psychotherapy sessions. Here is some more from that interview.

DDY: I’ve heard from my yoga students, and experienced myself, certain emotions in certain yoga poses – for example, anxiety in forward folds and sadness in pigeon pose. Can you talk about what’s happening in these yoga poses?

SN: Wilheim Reich , often known as the founder of body psychotherapy, developed a theory called character analysis. It was his belief that our experiences, pleasant and unpleasant, shape and form our bodies. Painful emotional experiences influence the way tissues, more specifically muscles, are shaped and formed. For example, an individual may respond to threat in the environment by tensing their stomach muscles. Repeated incidents of threat over time, will then influence the overall patterning of the abdominal muscles. Reich called this phenomenon armoring, and coined the term character structure to mean how an individual’s total body was organized. Furthermore, he identified places in the body that were more vulnerable to certain feelings. The chest area is where we hold sadness and grief, as well as it’s polarity, happiness and love. The shoulders are where we hold our burdens, or where we feel the accumulation of responsibilities. So when posturing, a particular body part is stressed and an internal sensation and corresponding feeling is evoked. This opening may give rise to a felt experience of exposure and vulnerability. This can solicit and activate an emotional response.

To learn more about Dr. Suzanne Nixon and her practice, please visit To learn more about how you can find beginner level yoga classes, or for a tutorial of beginner yoga poses, please visit


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