Image credit: Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy
Ella Isakov, Yoga Editor: There is great respect for Michael Lee in the yoga community. Michael Lee created Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy 30 years ago, and has been bringing awareness of an embodied holistic therapeutic practice to both yoga and mental health communities.
Parvati Magazine: What got you interested in the therapeutic benefits of yoga?
Michael Lee: My personal experience in my early years of my yoga practice showed me the possibilities and benefits that yoga had. I noticed that when I practiced I became less anxious, somewhat happier and less burdened in life. I was in the business of teaching people how to change as an organizational development consultant, and noticed how hard it was for people to change, and here I was doing this yoga practice and noticing myself changing. That’s when I realized this was powerful stuff.
PMAG: Your passion within yoga and therapeutics was in managing stress in everyday life. How can yoga aid in lessening stress?
ML: When dealing with daily stress a lot depends not on what you do, but on how you do it. If you engage your body and engage your breath and be really present to the moment, when you practice in that way the therapeutic benefits begin to emerge. When you practice with awareness and intention and not attached to the outcome, it really becomes a form of mindfulness. You begin to notice things about yourself. By the end of the session you begin to connect what you got in the session to your life, and that’s where the big impact comes in making changes in your life. It is a learned process of being present to yourself, through your body in the moment.
PMAG: You developed your own unique brand of yoga therapy called Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy because you were fascinated by the “transformative power of yoga”. What sets Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy apart from the other styles out there today?
ML: Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy is really a form of embodied mindfulness. It calls people to become the witness to their moment to moment experience, to be fully present to it in their body. Of course the mind can get in the way, but the body can be a great anchor to bring the mind back to the present. If you hold a yoga posture at its edge it is very difficult to be anywhere else than in that moment. Each session seamlessly integrates body and mindfulness together, so you begin to see yourself in another way and begin to make more discerned choices.
PMAG: How can Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy be a tool to help someone get through a challenging time or adapt to change that is causing suffering?
ML: The reality is we all encounter tough times in life. In normal day-to-day life when people suffer, they try to get a quick fix and move on or they stay in the state of depression. These two choices do not serve very well. We need to slow down, be present to what is happening, take it in and be with it, and let ourselves be informed from our real authentic self around the appropriate contextual response to what is happening. It isn’t always the same because everything is always changing, and what worked before may not work this time. Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy actually trains you in this by supporting you to learn this process through your body, and transferring it to your life. The more you engage with the process, the more you can roll with the changes and the suffering that comes up in life and not be brought down by it.
PMAG: More mental health professionals are going through the Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy Training. Do you think this is a sign that therapy is evolving to become more holistic in its approach?
ML: I think it’s a great sign of the times. People are beginning to realize that the body is a partner in life and we might as well take it for the ride. The body is a great instrument of revealing our truth to us if we take time to listen. So it makes sense to include the body in our healing. Therapists are attesting to the fact that our work really does serve, so we are very fortunate that we can serve a lot more people and do our bit to alleviate suffering as much as we can.
Michael Lee, M.A., Dip.Soc.Sci., E-RYT 500 is the Founder of Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy, a leading edge yoga based modality in body-mind therapy with an IAYT Accredited Yoga Therapy Training Program. His conference keynote presentations include the International Yoga Teachers Conference in Singapore. Yoga Journal Conferences, and Family Therapy Networker. Michael is the author of two books, Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy and Turn Stress Into Bliss and a contributing author in the APA published text Movement and Expressive Techniques in Clinical Practice and the recently published Yoga Therapy and Integrative Medicine: Where Ancient Science Meets Modern Medicine. Michael also offers programs for Psychotherapists and professionals wanting to apply an embodied mindfulness approach to therapy.
For more information, please visit pryt.com.