Wellbeing: Schain Discusses Youth Integrated Movement Therapy

Wellbeing: Schain Discusses Youth Integrated Movement Therapy

Program aims to reduce stress and anxiety.

Yoga courses for teenagers are offered at One Aum Studio.

Yoga courses for teenagers are offered at One Aum Studio. Photo courtesy of Sarah Schain

“I think the reason why I love IMT for whatever age group is that it offers practical skills that they can use when they walk out of my session.” — Sarah Schain, Integrated Movement Therapy-certified yoga therapist

The following is a question-and-answer with Sarah Schain, an Integrated Movement Therapy-certified yoga therapist who recently began a new youth yoga program at One Aum Studio in Potomac Village. IMT uses yoga techniques along with other therapeutic methods to help people make behavior shifts towards optimal well-being.

Why would this program specifically appeal to teens with anxiety, depression, developmental challenges, and problematic issues?

Schain: I think the reason why I love IMT for whatever age group is that it offers practical skills that they can use when they walk out of my session. It’s not like you’re sitting on a couch and we’re talking. There’s learning going on. There’s skill development and skill building going on. If I’m teaching a breath technique, if you’ve got a teen who feels a panic attack coming on, and they know that breath technique, they can practice that and implement that in the moment to ward off a full-on panic attack. Also, any of the breathing or utilizations or whatever’s working for them — if they’re having a hard time focusing, if they’re having a hard time falling asleep, if they’re feeling sluggish in the morning — there are techniques that they can implement immediately in real-time which is what I love about IMT. And if I’m making it fun, if I’m connected with my clients, and they’re enjoying the session, they’re going to use those tools. So I’m literally giving them a toolbox. First session we’re going to open the toolbox, and then every session after they’re going to collect the screwdriver, the hammer, the drill. They’re going to get those tools from me. That’s my job.

A big portion of this is to help limit stress and anxiety because that’s a lot of what teenagers are facing today, right?

Schain: Yes.

So won’t those interested in your youth IMT yoga program have to set aside additional time each week to learn your strategies?

Schain: Absolutely. For kids, I’m usually an hour session. But I can do these things over Skype, over FaceTime. We’re born with these skills. We just lose them over time. If I can strengthen that mind-body connection so everyone’s more in tune with what’s going on with themselves and in their body and with their feelings, then for, call it a 10-hour investment, they’ve got life-long skills that they can go back to forever. I mean let’s face it — being a teenager is hard but life’s a journey.

How do you feel you can accomplish this goal of your program if it involves adding what might seem to those youths like another item on their to-do list sometimes?

Schain: Yes, I totally get it and that’s definitely a big challenge that I have but if I can get them in one time, a lot of them come back because they know they need it. And they like it. And I’m also open to doing two-hour workshops on a Sunday once a semester just to give them a few skills and a few brush-ups. That’s super easy, I’ve done it before. I write a blog and I have an instagram account. And so those are little nuggets that I try and share with the kids. I have teenagers, I know how busy they are. And I know how overwhelmed and over-programmed they are. I also work with athletes for focus, for visualizations, and for energizing. So it’s the opposite of self-calming. IMT can apply to anyone. It’s not limited to yoga therapy prescriptions, like “Oh, your hamstrings are tight so we’re gonna do downward dog for that.” Yes, your hamstrings are tight. Yes, downward dog will help. But there’s a lot more going on there as well.

What does a session look like?

Schain: All of my clients have an intake form which is pretty substantial as far as what’s bringing them here. And I also work with other therapists, doctors, pediatricians, mental health professionals. I do report writing so that I can communicate if someone needs group therapy, for example. With that information, the client will come in and I’ll say, “This is how our one-hour session is going to go. We’ll talk as well as do some yoga stretches and breathing exercises. I might do some Thai yoga massage techniques or a visualization meditation. But whatever we’re doing, my goal is that you leave this room feeling better than when you walked in.” When working with children and teens, my approach would boost the fun factor and include more games. I have a deck of yoga cards, every card has a different yoga position, and we might use that for storytelling, we might use that for card games. So that’s really fun, the kids love that. We do some word-playing games because the person that created this is a speech pathologist. I also have a Bachelor’s degree in speech pathology and a Master’s in audiology. So I take all that language stimulation and that is also included in my therapy sessions. I play a lot of games with the kids and we work on breathing techniques, stretching, and maybe some compressions on the legs. They won’t get a full-on Thai yoga massage, but they really like compressions which is like pushing down in rhythmic fashion, going up and down the arms and legs. And with the older kids, we’re going to maybe explore what’s triggering the anxiety. How does that show up for you in the body? Are you getting enough sleep? We’ll talk about healthy eating and talk about exercise. We’ll look at how their day is structured. Maybe they need time management support, so it’s a broader picture. It’s not limited to yoga. And the other thing that I talk about with teenagers is yoga philosophy. Yoga philosophy has fancy sanskrit terms and definitions, but it can easily be broken down into just American values, like how do you respect your body, keeping your body clean, what do you put effort into during your day, what’s coming out of that effort. So we’ll pull from yoga philosophy important themes to think about and bring into your day. There might be some journaling for the kids to become a little more introspective, self-aware, and build that mind-body connection.

Anything else you want to add?

Schain: A lot of people forget to have fun and be joyful. I find a lot of moms make themselves the last priority. And they don’t take care of themselves. A lot of people think, “Oh but that involves massages and manicures and pedicures.” That’s not true. Self-care means giving yourself some quiet time. Are you filling yourself up? And same with teenagers — teenage girls. Learn about self-care and how to keep yourself fulfilled. If you’ve got gas in your tank, you can help other people. If your gas is empty, you’re not going to get very far obviously.

For more information, Schain can be reached at littleyoga@mac.com or 202-441-0986. For information about classes, people can visit oneaum.com. She has a blog that can be found at theyogafairy.net and an Instagram page called theyogafairy.