The Therapy for Black Girls Podcast is a weekly conversation with Dr. Joy Harden Bradford, a licensed Psychologist in Atlanta, Georgia, about all things mental health, personal development, and all the small decisions we can make to become the best possible versions of ourselves.
It’s important to note that healing looks different for all of us and that each of us might find different things helpful. Joining us today to chat about how healing can happen through sound meditation and breathwork is LeNaya Smith Crawford, LMFT. LeNaya and I chatted about the definition of holistic healing, how things like sound meditation and breathwork work can support healing, how to find someone appropriately trained to offer these services, and she shares a special sound bath just for our community.
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Executive Producers: Dennison Bradford & Maya Cole Howard
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Session 236: Healing Through Sound Meditation & Breathwork
Dr. Joy: Hey, y'all! Thanks so much for joining me for Session 236 of the Therapy for Black Girls podcast. We'll get right into the episode after a word from our sponsors.
Dr. Joy: It's important to note that healing looks different for all of us and that each of us might find different things helpful. Joining us to chat about how healing can happen through sound meditation and breathwork is LeNaya Smith Crawford. LeNaya is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, holistic healer, wellness expert and entrepreneur. She earned her bachelor's degree in psychology from Spelman College and her Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy with a certification in trauma therapy.
In addition to her degrees, she's an advanced certified yoga breathwork and meditation guide, sound healer, international teacher and speaker. She specializes in holistic mental health and healing which she defines as the return to wholeness through the blending of practices of the mind, body and spirit. LeNaya and I chatted about the definition of holistic healing, how things like sound meditation and breathwork can support healing, how to find someone appropriately trained to offer these services, and she shares a special sound bath just for our community. If there's something that resonates with you while enjoying our conversation, please share it with us on social media using the hashtag #TBGinSession. Here is our conversation.
Dr. Joy: What are we talking about when we talk about holistic healing, especially when it comes to mental health?
LeNaya: I have started to use holistic healing and holistic mental health interchangeably, but essentially what it means is that we are tuning into all aspects of ourselves. We are honoring that we are multifaceted and that in order for us to truly heal, we have to be able to integrate all layers of self–our physical, our emotional, our energetic, our thoughts and our spiritual aspects– to create the safe container for healing.
Dr. Joy: Got it. Some of the things that you use as a part of your practice are both breathwork and sound healing. Can you tell us a little bit about how you have developed these wellness practices as a part of your life, and like how they've been beneficial to you?
LeNaya: Yeah, absolutely. I have always loved things like meditation and yoga and breathwork, and I've always understood how necessary they were for healing and for our mental health, so much so that I completed my yoga and meditation teacher certification while I was finishing up my master's. While I was in grad school, I think you can also maybe relate to this... Graduate school is probably one of the most stressful times in a professional’s life and so I really was able to lean into the power of breathwork and yoga and meditation and ultimately sound healing while I was going through that really stressful period. I started to notice my colleagues and my peers were on the verge of straight burnout, and I had a sense of calmness about me, and it was at that point I really realized that things like breathwork and yoga and sound healing are really necessary for us, particularly in the most stressful times. With that realization from my personal practice, I wanted to integrate it with my work as a therapist.
And so I definitely tried to do it on my own or I tried to ask my supervisors for guidance as far as integration goes, and back then it really wasn't... I'm saying back then like it was forever ago but it was almost five years ago. But we've seen how much this whole like concept of holistic mental health and holistic healing has really taken off in the last I would say five years. My supervisors looked at me like, huh? Like girl, just refer them out to a meditation teacher, just refer them out. We don't do that as therapists! And so that was ultimately the beginning of my journey of integrating these practices into the therapy room and in the mental health space.
Dr. Joy: I really appreciate you sharing that because I do feel like the people who are training now and in the future will have a very different experience of grad school than it sounds like we both had. Because it feels like we have learned so much more about like how all of these things are integrated but our training isn't typically integrated in that way. A lot of people have the same kind of story like you around like going back to get certified in yoga and meditation to supplement or complement what they do in the therapy room. And so can you talk about how you have brought both of those things together, and how things like breathwork and sound healing can actually complement traditional therapy?
LeNaya: Yes, this is one of my favorite things to talk about. And to your point, we don't get this training in our master's program and still now it's not really a part of the curriculum. And so that's one of the reasons I created The Holistic Therapist Academy, which is essentially to teach therapists and mental health professionals how to ethically integrate and confidently facilitate trauma informed yoga, breathwork and sound healing, to help clients heal from anxiety, depression and trauma.
When you think about the major diagnoses, anxiety, depression and trauma are really the top three that many of our clients face and a lot of society goes through. And so breathwork and sound healing is so beneficial for those diagnoses and just like stress overall. And so when we talk about this feeling of stress (when we talk about being in our fight, flight or freeze), breathwork and sound meditation and sound healing ultimately help us to calm our nervous system. Our nervous system, we have our parasympathetic and sympathetic, our sympathetic...
And I know you know this but for the audience, the sympathetic nervous system is our seat of fight, flight, freeze, and there's many other responses. But that's essentially our bodies knowing that we're in danger. That is when the bear comes out in the forest and we have to freeze, or we're in danger, we're experiencing anxiety, depression, or trauma triggers. What breathwork and sound healing does, it allows us to move from this sympathetic–this feeling of fright or this feeling of anxiousness–to our parasympathetic, our seat of rest, digest, our seat of safety ultimately. These practices help us be able to manually get there without necessarily having to go to a class or having to engage in conversation.
These are tangible tools that our clients and ourselves we can use to get out of the stress and the anxiousness of life and into that calm zone of rest, digest and safety. That's essentially why practices like breathwork and sound healing are super complements. They're necessary complements to therapy because it gives our clients another tangible way to get into that seat of safety and prime condition for healing.
Dr. Joy: I think also in some ways it feels like this might work a little quicker than some of the ways that traditional talk therapy works. Like some of that processing and talking through the stuff like that is still really important, but the breathwork and stuff like that feels like something somebody could practice almost immediately and see pretty good results sooner than like with just talk therapy.
LeNaya: Absolutely. And so I think that's like a major point. We always talk about you meet with your therapist once a week, but even that once a week is not enough to combat everything that happens outside of the therapy room. As therapists and psychologists, we're always trying to give our clients coping skills but these holistic coping skills, like you said, work much quicker. If our client is starting to feel their anxiety increase or a trauma trigger is starting to come up for them, there are specific breathing techniques that they can do to calm themselves down quicker. There are specific sound healing techniques that they can do to reach that level of safety. And so to your point, these are quick and tangible ways to ultimately help, not just our clients, ourselves. Because I engage in breathwork every day to keep the stress and anxiety down on a personal level as well.
Dr. Joy: Yeah, and who couldn't have used some of this in the past like 18 months? When you talk about the chronic stress, some of this I think could be really helpful for people to just continue to soothe and take care of themselves.
LeNaya: Absolutely, because that's the name of the game. We want to create a healthier and happier society and the more that we can tap into these holistic practices, I think the easier it'll be for us to get there.
Dr. Joy: Mm hmm. We have had the pleasure of having you join us over in the Sister Circle for a sound bath healing. I would love for you to just talk a little bit more about what a sound bath is and where this practice comes from.
LeNaya: Yes, absolutely. Sound healing, sound meditation, sound baths, all essentially the same thing–using the power of sound to help people relax and heal. Sound healing is based on the precedence of resonance. Resonance essentially says that when something is vibrating at a certain frequency, when something gets near it, they start to vibrate at the same frequency, they start to get in tune with one another. I like to use the example of a guitar. When you strum the string of a guitar, the string starts to vibrate. And then all of a sudden, the wooden piece of the guitar starts to vibrate as well. That's an example of resonance. Or to resonate, when you're resonating with someone, it means that you all are in tune with one another, you're on the same page you’re on the same wavelength. That's the same concept in sound healing and sound meditation.
Typically, in sound baths, sound meditation, you are using quartz crystal sound bowls and these bowls are tied and tuned to specific chakras in the body. Chakras are different energy points that we have in our bodies. We have seven foundational chakras that range from the base of our spine to the crown of our head, and so these foundational chakras are also actually tied to actual systems in the body. Like think of your reproductive system and other systems in the body.
When you engage in a sound healing session or a sound bath, the facilitator is using different bowls tuned to different chakras. Depending on what you're working on or what the goal is of the sound meditation or sound bath session, they'll make sure that they play specific instruments and bowls that are tied to the chakras and ultimately help to clear out any blockages or clear out anything that may be coming up for you. That's essentially sound healing. It is instruments and bowls that are tied directly to chakras in the body, that ultimately help us do certain things.
I'll give an example of a chakra. The root chakra which is also our first chakra to develop–that is our seat of safety, that is our seat of trusting and knowing. That's usually the chakra that many of our clients have issue with because when you think about someone that's coming into therapy or coming into any type of healing practice, they're ultimately coming in a place of feeling unsafe. That's a hallmark of trauma and trauma responses, is not feeling safe, not feeling grounded. We use that term a lot when we talk about anxiety or feeling grounded so your root chakra would be something you would work with for those types of concerns. We might utilize your bowl, your root chakra bowl, even more in that particular sound healing session. It's really, really cool stuff.
Another cool thing about sound healing and sound baths are they help our brainwaves to slow down. They get us into a certain wavelength that allows us to get into this deep sense of relaxation, that allows the vibrations to do their thing. If you're a meditator, you understand what we're talking about, it's like that slowness that comes where you really have space between your thoughts. Typically, where our brainwaves are active and they're moving really fast and so we're moving from one thought to the next, when you engage in sound baths, you're slowing those brainwaves down, creating more space and time between the thoughts, and then ultimately allowing yourself to relax and really feel into the moment. That's a little bit about sound baths and how they work.
And I'll also address this too, because I get this question all the time. What is the difference between sound healing, sound bath and sound meditation? A sound bath is essentially a group offering. We're engaging in a sound healing or a sound meditation session in a group, that is a sound bath. Sound healing is essentially where you're using the sound to heal the body, so someone's coming to you with different symptoms or concerns and so they're specifically coming to clear out blockages to help them heal. And then sound meditation is using the power of sound to meditate and to get into that deep relaxive state. Those are the differences between the three.
Dr. Joy: Got it, thank you for that distinction. Are there specific kinds of stressors or experiences that sound baths or sound meditations help to alleviate or can it just be for anything, basically? You mentioned that some of the wavelengths help you to slow down, but I'm wondering like for somebody who's in a more depressive state, you wouldn't necessarily want them to slow down. They maybe want to be more energized or whatever. Are there wavelengths or sounds that would help to do that as well?
LeNaya: Absolutely. Really, really great question. Sound baths are really helpful for anxiety and trauma responses so I ultimately recommend them for those, so anxiety, trauma responses. And also, communication concerns and relationships, so your connections. Those are the things that sound baths are really helpful for. And to your point, if someone was in a depressed state, you wouldn't want their thoughts to slow down, you wouldn't want them to be even more in a relaxed state. When we talk about depression, we're thinking about lack of energy, losing interest, so on and so forth.
And so with that point, that's also why it's important for us as therapists who want to engage in this holistic therapy realm to know and be trained in the differences. Because I could be thinking sound healing is good for anything, right? Space between the thought, amen, like let me do that. But when you have the understanding that, okay, someone who's depressed may not want to engage in a sound bath, they might need to do more of an energizing breathwork practice. Someone who is really anxious, they're in a heightened anxious state, they would benefit more from a sound bath as opposed to a couple of yoga poses or some breathing exercises. So, yes, you definitely want to know what diagnoses you're working with when you are engaged in sound healing practices. Hopefully that answers your question.
Dr. Joy: Yeah, that is super helpful. See, this is because I don't have training in this area so I'm glad I just stumbled upon that question. But that reminds me of something you said earlier around like the ethics of this. I think sometimes people see stuff like this and sometimes you don't know what you don't know and you don't necessarily know how you could end up harming people with the knowledge that you don't have. And so I think sometimes people think, oh, I can just put on this sound meditation track and have people do this stuff but there is all this science and like knowing differentials and like how to match whatever holistic modality you're offering to whatever the client is coming in with.
LeNaya: Yes, exactly. And so that's a huge part in this particular field. You have folks that say, well, it's unethical. Or yeah, I tell my clients to breathe all the time so I'm a holistic therapist. And while that's great that you offer those things to your clients, you definitely need training. And so that's, again, why I created The Holistic Therapist Academy because I see it all the time. Oh, yeah, as long as you tell your client to take a deep breath in and a deep breath out, that's going to help them with their anxiety, depression and trauma. And that's usually where if I see that, I step in and say, well, actually, there are certain breathing exercises that work better for anxiety versus depression and there are certain poses that you would never put a person that was coming to you for trauma in, that you would put someone that's coming to you for depression in. I echo those sentiments–training, training, training is essential. Even if you have your 200-hour yoga teacher training as a therapist, you have to understand how to ethically integrate this work and know what poses, what breathing exercises, what sound healing techniques go specifically to the different diagnoses you might see in your therapy room.
Dr. Joy: Got it. More from my conversation with LeNaya after the break.
Dr. Joy: Would sound healing be something that you suggest somebody do at home, or would you only want to do this like with a trained professional?
LeNaya: I believe that these practices can be interchangeable. I definitely think that as you want to use these practices, particularly sound healing for your personal healing and growth, I do recommend that you go to someone that can at least tell you, okay, these are the chakras maybe you should focus in on. Or at least get the experience of being led in a sound bath before trying to do it on your own. But I do think that it's something that you can definitely do on your own and the more that we can educate our clients and just people in general about the power of the chakras and the power of vibrational healing, the easier it'll be for them to use these practices at home.
Dr. Joy: Got it. I wonder if you can give us a little example of like an intake session for a sound healing looks like. Let's say I came to you and said I'm struggling with some assertiveness issues, or communication like you mentioned–what kinds of questions would you ask me in that initial session and like how would you decide what kinds of sounds or bowls to play?
LeNaya: Yeah, great question. Because I do this as integrative work, the intake looks pretty similar to a traditional therapy intake. We want to know your goals, we want to know what's happening, we want to know why you're here for therapy and what your prognosis looks like and so then it's about which techniques to use depending on what's coming up for you. Let's say you're coming to see me for communication issues. You notice that on the job or in relationships it's hard for you to speak up. Of course, you know, we'll build rapport, we'll do more emotional and thought body processing. But then when it comes to the sound healing part of our work together, we'll really focus in on your root chakras so you feel safe and then we'll also tap into the throat chakra.
Your throat chakra is your seat of communication and it's also your seat of understanding. When folks are finding it hard to speak up in relationships, at work, they're noticing that they're dimming their light, they’re not taking up as much space as they could, then that's a clear indication that there's probably some blockage in the throat chakra area. And so the sound session or the sound healing part of our therapy session, we would primarily focus on the throat chakra. That's kind of an example of how you would do that. Does that answer your question?
Dr. Joy: Yeah, it does. I'm just really curious, do people typically come to you because they find your website and they think like, oh, I want to try this? Or do people come to you for your more traditional talk therapy and then you maybe ask or like talk to them about introducing some of the sound healing or maybe breathwork into the practice?
LeNaya: People come to me wanting the integrative approach. They want to be able to process their thoughts but they also want to be able to engage in different practices like the sounds, the baths, the breathwork and the yoga. They kind of know that of the bat, it's like pretty clear on my website that this is what I do, it's in the informed consent, it's all of that. And then depending on where they are in their journey, and that's something that I think is really important for anyone who is wanting to engage in this holistic route, is to know that it's always about meeting your client where they are. And sometimes you may never pull out one of these techniques or sometimes it's just welcoming them into the room with a meditation or a breathwork practice. It's really also about tuning your sessions to your clients so it's all about making sure it works with whatever your client is bringing to you.
Dr. Joy: Got it. Let's dive more into the breathwork. What is breathwork? I think you hear it and you're like, okay, it must be something involving breathing. But what does actual breathwork look like?
LeNaya: Breathwork is the intentional use and constriction of the breath. Breathing is one of the things that we do naturally, it's one of the things that we pretty much don't have to think about and we're grateful for that. But breathwork is being intentional about your breathing and the constriction of the breath. It’s more than just, okay, I'm inhaling, I'm exhaling. It's about certain patterns or certain constrictions that you do to ultimately help with symptoms like anxiety, depressive symptoms, trauma responses, burnouts, things like that.
Dr. Joy: Got it. You've already kind of woven in some of these examples. You talked about there may be different kinds of breathwork used for something like anxiety versus depression. Can you talk about like some of the differences?
LeNaya: Yes, absolutely. In breathwork, trauma responses and anxious symptoms, they're pretty much not looked at the same but they're looked at similarly because we know anxiety can be a symptom of trauma or trauma triggers. When you think about someone who is going through an anxious moment or who may be having a trauma response, the biggest hallmark is grounding and safety. We always talk about when your clients are experiencing these heightened levels of emotions, let's ground them down, let's get them into the present moment, let's get them into their bodies. If we're dealing with symptoms like that, our breathwork is going to be longer, it's going to be slower, and we're really going to focus primarily on the exhales.
Because one of the things that's important for us to note is that when we're breathing or engaging in breathwork practices, when our exhale is longer than our inhale, it allows our nervous system to come back to center a lot quicker. We talked about the power that these practices have on our nervous system earlier in our talk today, but that's like a quick rule of thumb. If your exhale is longer than your inhale, it gets your nervous system balanced quicker, so that's like a quick tidbit that you would use with someone who's experiencing anxiety or a trauma response.
Someone who is experiencing depression, the symptoms look way different than they do when a client is anxious. We're thinking about low energy, a lack of interest, isolation and things like that and so your breathwork practice for someone with depressive symptoms is going to look quicker. It's going to be energy provoking, it's going to look a lot different than it looks when you're working with a client who's experienced anxiety and trauma. That's kind of the difference in the breathwork for those diagnoses.
Dr. Joy: Got it. During the pandemic and after George Floyd was killed and Breonna Taylor was murdered, we saw a lot of digital spaces for and by black women that used a lot of breathwork. You saw a lot of like groups that popped up around this. Can you talk about why something like breathwork is particularly suited to help to manage some of these concerns?
LeNaya: Yes, absolutely. When we think about racial trauma, so we think about witnessing these murders and knowing the historical context of what's happening when we go through these unfortunate events and these times together, we think about being in that flight or freeze mode. We think about being in this state of unsafety, of being on high alert, being in a state of like anxious thoughts. And so breathwork, like we said before, it helps us be able to move out of that sympathetic, move out of that fight, flight or freeze, move out of this feeling of like unsafety, into feeling safe in our bodies.
I think the greatest gift that any of us can give ourselves is to feel safe in our bodies, safe being ourselves, safe being who God created us to be, and breathwork is a really tangible tool to help us do that. I think that's one of the reasons why so many breathwork circles came up around that time. And I'm so excited to see that more breathwork practices and more sound healing practices are coming up because ultimately these are natural ways for us to feel safe in our bodies and to essentially come back home to ourselves.
Dr. Joy: Mm hmm. You mentioned that only within the last five years have we seen more interest in this space and some of these practices, and I would say that even shorter than that have we seen more black women kind of claiming space with some of these practices. Can you talk about some of the barriers that exist for black women coming into some of these spaces?
LeNaya: Yes. And that is the truth, being honest and transparent. The wellness industry has really been monopolized by white women and now that more black women are understanding that, “oh my gosh, yes, I'm worthy of rest, I'm worthy of self-care, I'm worthy of the time it takes to nourish my soul,” that we're starting to see more of us engage in these practices and then starting to be the leaders in this movement. And so it's really interesting because for someone like me, I kind of look around and I'm like, wow, there really aren't that many black women who do these integrative practices and that lead these things and train people on this work, so that means that most of my teachers were white women. And so I think that one of the barriers is there's not a whole lot of teachers, at least in this space, that look like us. And so that's a barrier–when we're less motivated, I think, or less likely to see ourselves in a space if we've never seen someone that looks like us in that space. And that's true for most professions so I think that's a barrier.
And then, too, I think ultimately us understanding that we're worthy of rest and worthy of these practices. I'm sure you've heard this plenty of times. Us as black women, we are like designed to be overachievers, we're designed to be super women, we're designed to have it all together. And by the end of the day, once we've checked everything off the to do list and made sure everyone's needs are met, then there's really not that much time for ourselves to engage in these practices. I think that the more that paradigm shifts–that we are worthy of these practices, we're worthy of the rest–that we'll start to see more of a change in this field.
And if I'm honest, I'm hoping to train more therapists so that there are more of us in this field. I'm excited about The Holistic Therapist Academy because we've already started Cohort 1 and we have several therapists, most of them are black women and women of color, who are then going to be able to bring these integrative practices to their communities, and we’ll be able to see more of us in this integrative space.
Dr. Joy: What information or advice do you have for anyone listening or tuning into our conversation who's wanting to get started with more holistic practices? Where is a good holistic healing 101? Where might they get started? Not a therapist, but just general people listening.
LeNaya: I think it's about finding the practices that work for you and I would say don't be scared of it. I think that we still have a lot of misconception about things like breathwork, meditation and sound healing or even yoga, and I would say don't be scared of it. Know that these practices were designed to help you live your best life. They were designed to help you find a deep sense of relaxation and to give you the space and time to come back home to yourselves. So that would be my first thing.
And then give it a try. Be open. Now, the first time you engage in breathwork or go to a yoga class or go to a sound meditation, you may not be like, okay, this is going to be life changing. Nine times out of 10 know if you're consistent with the practice, you'll start to see the shift so consistency would be my next thing. And so, yeah, those are my top two things. Don't be scared of it, these practices were designed to help you. And two, give it a try. Go on YouTube, type in, you know, breathwork practices. Follow folks on Instagram or Facebook or whatever social media platform that you're engaged in, that engage in these practices and go for it. Get consistent. Go find your local studio, your local yoga studios, meditation studios, and see what events they have. Just be open and give it a try.
Dr. Joy: And for people who are maybe looking for like practitioners to work with in breathwork or maybe sound healing, what kinds of questions should they be asking? What kinds of like credentials should they be looking for to make sure that they are working with someone who has been properly trained?
LeNaya: Definitely ask where did you have formal training? Someone could essentially start playing sound bowls and call themselves a sound healer. There's no regulation. There's regulation for therapists and counselors but there's not regulation for the term healer, so definitely asking about their training, their experience. What other types of clients have they worked with? What symptoms have they worked with? What are their success rates? I think those are important questions to ask.
And also, too, maybe you go to one of their group offerings. Many breathwork facilitators and sound healers and therapists that do this integrative work, they usually offer something in the public. A public sound bath, a public breathwork class. So maybe you attend one of their group settings to get a sense of how they do the work, see if they resonate with you, that's something that I would suggest as well.
Honestly, I'm going to say this transparently. I think that having someone like a therapist, a therapist who also was trained in this work, to me is invaluable because you have a person that understands how to safely hold you in a space when things come up. If any trauma triggers, anxiety triggers or anything triggers you overall, you have someone that knows how to guide you in that process, if that comes up for you within the sound meditation and the breathwork practices. That's another reason, Dr. Joy, why I am so passionate about having more therapists have these tools, because we've spent years, years of our lives learning how to hold and create safe spaces for people so it feels easier for us to integrate these practices.
Dr. Joy: Got it. More from my conversation with LeNaya after the break.
Dr. Joy: I'm wondering if you could just talk a little bit about sometimes like what kinds of triggers will come up for people, and what could happen if you're not tended to carefully. Because I don't think we always know what happens, like I don't know that people always know when they have been triggered.
LeNaya: Yes, yes, yes, yes. And that's the thing, right, knowing when they're triggered and what to say and how to help them. Whoever you're going to see–yoga, meditation, breathwork–make sure they have training in trauma, make sure they have trauma informed training, because this will ultimately help them when people start to get triggered and to not trigger the people in the room. That's another thing to look for.
I'll give an example of something that came up recently. I was leading a sound meditation session, a sound bath, it was a group sound bath, and one of the participants came up to me after. I will say after all my sound baths, I leave time at the end for processing because when you engage in a sound bath, things may come up for you. You might notice pictures, visions, memories, you might notice your temperature gets hotter or cold, you might get thirsty, you might have some involuntary bodily movements. A lot can actually come up in a sound bath so I always start with that disclaimer. And anyone who is deciding to engage in a sound bath, know that these bodily things may come up, these memories may come up for you, and it's totally fine. It's a part of the process or it can be a part of the process.
So she came up to me knowing that I was a therapist and she said that she had a couple of memories. It's like memories that she knew were real but she had suppressed for a long time and so we kind of processed just a little bit. It was pretty clear that something traumatic had happened in her childhood that she had pushed down to the surface. And so I let her know that this is definitely a childhood memory, this is definitely a trauma response coming up for you, and I recommended that she tell her therapist about this and also kind of explore things of trauma in her life. And so because I have the training as a therapist and I knew that this was a part of trauma responses, we know that the folks that have experienced trauma, they tend to push down certain memories. Dissociation, we push down memories because we want to keep ourselves safe. But if I didn't know that, I would have been like, “Oh, okay. Well maybe in your next meditation, try to recall that memory again.”
Now, if I had done that, we know what happens to people that recall traumatic memories before they're ready to process it. That's a huge trigger and I could have sent her down a whole spiral if I had said that. But because I knew this was a trauma response and said, listen, something must have happened in your childhood. And she kind of gave me the nod that, yeah, there was something that happened. And I said, listen, this is something you might want to process with your therapist this week, this is probably a traumatic memory coming up for you. And so she was able to get the help that she needed because I understood those symptoms. That's an example of why I think it's important for us to have that training as well.
Dr. Joy: Are there any people or any particular concerns who, like, sound healing or breathwork would be contraindicated for? Like if I'm struggling with this, maybe I don't want to engage in sound healing.
LeNaya: Yes. I definitely feel that if you're someone who is like deep, deep in their depression, I wouldn't recommend going to a sound bath session. I would probably recommend engaging in like an individual session because then the practitioner can curate the sound bath for you and tap into the chakras that may be blocked. I would give that disclaimer.
And also, I would say being aware. Like if you know you're in like the depths of your healing and you're easily triggered... and we know what our triggers are. If you know that you're easily triggered and you're not quite sure if the practitioner is trauma informed, that's also something that I would say. Like making sure your practitioner has some sort of trauma informed training. And most practitioners put that in their bio, that's a really important training to have.
But ultimately, outside of that, I'd say that anyone can come to a sound bath session, see how it feels for them, and ultimately connect with the practitioner. If anything came up for you in the sound bath session, definitely take a moment to bring it up to the practitioner. Hopefully, that practitioner can refer you to some resources or can be a resource for you.
Dr. Joy: Thank you so much for that. What are some of the resources that you find yourself recommending over and over again, for anybody who wants to get started learning more about like some of the stuff you’ve share today?
LeNaya: If they want to learn more about it, I’ve definitely got to plug my training, The Holistic Therapist Academy. I created this because it was a training that I wished was around when I was going through the process of becoming a therapist. I've done the years of trial and error so that those who are interested in this integrative work don't have to, and so it's a full spectrum program. We talk about how to ethically integrate trauma informed yoga, breathwork, meditation and sound healing into your work with clients. We talk about how to be trauma informed, we talk about ethical considerations and we talk about how to do no harm. Which techniques go to which diagnoses. If you’re a therapist or mental health professional interested in learning how to do the integrative work, I would definitely tell you to go to my website and check out The Holistic Therapist Academy because I curated it for you.
And then if you're someone who's interested in just, you know, little trainings here or there or want to get started in a breathwork practice, maybe you seek out breathwork facilitator training or find a yoga teacher training that also incorporates breathwork and meditation. Ultimately, training. I am a big proponent, Dr. Joy, if you can't tell, I'm a big proponent of training. I believe that these ancient practices, we were designed to use them and they're intuitive but we've got to get some training in there to do no harm, not only to ourselves, but to our clients.
Dr. Joy: You do not suggest people just going to YouTube and like searching for a breathwork?
LeNaya: See, now this is where it's like that two-edged sword. Where it's like you never want to tell someone no, this practice, don't just go and google. I would say that, yes, if you want to kind of try it out, go on Google, go on YouTube, find a breathwork practice. But if this is something that you want to lead people in or if you want to be able to help yourself... Okay, I'm going through an anxiety provoking moment, what's a good breathwork exercise that I can use? Things like that. If you want to be intelligent and skillful in how you engage in these practices, I definitely highly recommend getting training in them. And even just intro trainings if you're just wanting to do it on your own. So it's a “yes and,” it's a “both and.”
Dr. Joy: Got it. Don't just stop necessarily with YouTube, maybe take it a little further.
LeNaya: Yes, definitely.
Dr. Joy: Got it. Tell us where we can find you, LeNaya. What is your website as well as any social media handles you'd like to share?
LeNaya: You can find me on my website, TheHolisticMFT.com and it is LeNaya S. Crawford on all social media platforms. You can connect with me on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Yeah, so that's where you can connect with me. If you're interested in maybe getting started in your sound healing or yoga breathwork practice, our yoga studio Seviin Yoga, we offer both in person classes and virtually if you're not in the Atlanta area.
Dr. Joy: Perfect. Thank you so much. We will definitely include all of that in our show notes. And make sure you stay tuned after the credits because LeNaya has a special offering she will be giving to you for tuning into the show today. And there will be a form in the show notes for an additional treat, so make sure you add your email address there if you'd like to get some other goodies from her as well.
LeNaya: Yes, yes, I'm excited to gift the audience with their own full sound bath and breathwork sessions.
Dr. Joy: Perfect. Well, thank you so much for joining us today LeNaya. I really appreciate it.
LeNaya: Yeah, thanks for having me, Dr. Joy. It was a pleasure.
Dr. Joy: I'm so glad LeNaya was able to share her expertise with us today. To learn more about her work or to receive a free sound bath and breathwork practice, visit the show notes at TherapyForBlackGirls.com/session236. And don't forget to text two of your girls and tell them to check out the episode as well. If you're looking for a therapist in your area, be sure to check out our therapist directory at TherapyForBlackGirls.com/directory.
And if you want to continue digging into this topic or just be in community with other sisters, come on over and join us in the Sister Circle. It's our cozy corner of the internet designed just for black women. You can join us at Community.TherapyForBlackGirls.com. Thank y’all so much for joining me again this week. I look forward to continuing this conversation with you all real soon. Take good care.
LeNaya: As we get ready for today's meditation, we'll also engage in even breaths. So you'll inhale through your nose for a count of four and then exhale through your mouth for a counter four as well. As you begin our sound healing meditation, I'll count you through the breaths a few times, and then you'll be free to engage in that breathwork practice while the vibrations do their thing.
Alright, so wherever you are, find a really comfortable position, finding a position that feels most comfortable for you. And as you begin to feel into the position you chose, I invite you to find a point of connection on your body. So maybe placing a hand over your heart, maybe placing the other hand over your belly, maybe pressing both hands into heart center or even allowing your hands to rest against your thighs.
And from here, I invite you to close your eyes if that feels safe for you. Or maybe keeping a low gaze, staring down at the tip of your nose.
And so with your eyes closed or with a low gaze, take a moment to really feel yourself in your body. Beginning to notice any sensations or feelings that may be coming up for you here. And then really begin to tune into your breath.
Beginning to notice your natural pattern of breathing, noticing how the breath flows in and out without the need to constrict or control.
So as you begin to tune into your natural pattern of breathing, take a moment to affirm–I am still.
And as you allow that affirmation to sink in, let's begin our breathwork practice. First taking a deep breath in through the nose. Open mouth, sigh it out.
Inhaling through the nose for a count of one, two, three, four. Exhale. One, two, three, four. Inhale. One, two, three, four. Exhale. One, two, three, four. Inhale. One, two, three, four. Exhale. One, two, three, four. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale.
Continue to engage in this breathwork pattern on your own as you allow the vibrations to wash over you. Continuing to focus on your breath. To remember the affirmation, I am still. I take time to connect with my body and breath. I am calm and move with a sense of peace and harmony. Stress and anxiety roll way. I am worry-free. When I am still, I find beautiful and necessary rest. Rest that is an act of resistance, rest that is an act of self-care. I am still.
Breathe that in. Exhale anything that comes against that truth. And as you continue to engage in your even breaths, remember that connecting with your body and your breath is an act of self and soul care and that you are worthy of the time it takes to nourish your soul.
Take a deep breath in through the nose, hold the breath at the top, sip in just a little bit more air. Open mouth, sigh it out. And slowly blinking your eyes opened if they were closed, taking a moment to allow that feeling of stillness to wash over you and to bring that stillness and that breath with you throughout your days and throughout your weeks. And remember that you are worthy of the time it takes to nourish your soul. Thank you so much and I'll see you all again soon.