“As well as running drop in yoga and mindfulness classes, I deliver the Yoga Therapy for the Mind 8 Week Course for Stress, Anxiety and Depression at the School of Life and TriYoga in London,” says Veena. “I also work privately with clients as a yoga therapist for mental health and deliver yoga and mindfulness within the NHS.”
Veena’s NHS work is within the Anxiety Disorders Residential Unit at the Bethlem Royal Hospital and Snowsfield Adolescent Mental Health Unit at the Maudsley, both of which are part of South London and Maudsley NHS Trust. “I’m also an Assistant Therapist at the Anxiety Unit. I was drawn to this work through a combination of me using yoga as a tool to manage my own stress whilst alongside that developing an academic interest in stress. From an academic and experiential standpoint, I am very interested in looking at the human stress response and how we can better manage that.
“Before becoming a yoga therapist for mental health, I’d worked in a very fast paced industry – fashion – as a buyer. I experienced chronic and acute stress myself and saw others around me struggling with the same.”
Veena’s biggest highlights of this work are also her most challenging aspects. “My work in the Adolescent Mental Health Unit and Anxiety Units are perhaps the most challenging environments I’m in. These are people with very acute conditions so although I have to be at my most sensitive to particular needs and capabilities, I also have this opportunity to challenge people’s perceptions through yoga and mindfulness practise, so I’m able to be creative with how we work together.
“The people in Snowsfield and the Anxiety Unit are experiencing so much disruption to their life as a result of their mental health disorder that coming to a residential/inpatient unit is required, even though for some it means putting their life on hold for a significant amount of time. Some people stay on the Anxiety Unit for 5 months so that gives you an indication of just how much their quality of life has been affected. Most residents on the unit are there to challenge OCD [Obsessive Compulsive Disorder] or BDD [Body Dysmorphic Disorder] though from time to time there will be residents there working with other anxiety disorders such as GAD [Generalised Anxiety Disorder], Social Anxiety, Health Anxiety or PTSD.
“I’ve been teaching yoga at the Anxiety Unit for 18 months and at the Adolescent Mental Health Unit for 3 months. At the Mental Health Unit, we only had 3 months’ funding but the feedback has been so good they’re keeping me on which I’m very happy about.”
Veena is very interested in research. “I hope that we can get yoga therapy, as a profession, regulated and keep moving forward with the research, that we’re able to get ourselves recognised, through authorities such as NICE (National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence); not just as a therapy that might be optional as helpful but as part of the primary aspect to someone’s care.”
She, with The Minded Institute founder, Heather Mason, and Dr Bernardi et al, have done some research of their own. Click here to read more about it. “It was great!” says Veena. “We’d not gone over there with a clear idea in mind of doing a research study with Dr Bernardi there and then but he was so enthused by what he saw with the Ujjayi breath, we really felt there was something worth investigating. For someone who’s been researching this area of slow breathing for a long time, it was very, very exciting to see him so interested in the responses of experienced Ujjayi breathers, me and Heather.” The results for the Ujjayi novices were less clear.
“I feel very lucky and very privileged to be working in this area at this time. Whilst it can be frustrating that it isn’t a regulated profession at presentand we haven’t yet got enough research, I’m very excited about the fact that we are very much headed in the right direction and to be part of something that is so cutting edge.”
Find out more about Veena’s 8 Week Courses and yoga and mindfulness drop in classes as well as private yoga therapy sessions here.