Yoga, Costa Rica, and a Therapeutic Idea – This is BIG…
Julie Kaufman, a 2016 Adler alumna, recently came back from a unique, yoga centered training in Costa Rica. As she embarks on her journey opening her own clinic and healing clients through body and movement, our Adler team reached out to hear about how her experiences at Adler Graduate School (AGS) and beyond have helped cultivate her road to fulfillment as a wellness professional.
Adler: Julie, I am thrilled to be able to talk with you on your Adler Graduate School experiences and life since graduation. Can you start by giving our readers some background knowledge about you?
Julie: I would love to. I grew up in Mahtomedi, Minnesota. I was heavily involved in dance and gymnastics. I graduated from Hamline University in 1992, with a B.A. in Psychology and Exercise Physiology. I spent most of my young adult years teaching gymnastics and working for a small non-profit company serving people with developmental, emotional, and physical disabilities. In 2002, life took me down to the Mississippi Gulf Coast where I lived until my return home to Minnesota in 2012. I started graduate school that same year and embraced all that Adler life had to offer. I am currently completing my post-graduate supervision with the world-renowned, Dr. Richard E. Close.
Adler: You heard about AGS through a previous alumna, your cousin. What was it about AGS that made you excited to learn and grow?
Julie: My cousin, Katherine Vasil, spoke so highly of AGS that it was difficult to even think about attending any of the other local graduate schools. But, I knew I had to do my research before making such a big decision. While the other schools all offered great programs, AGS felt like a place where my individual path was honored. I also had the experience of meeting an individual in yoga class who shared she was a therapist. When I told her I was looking at schools, and before I ever mentioned which ones, she encouraged me to check out AGS: not because she attended AGS; but because if she could have done it over again, she would have gone to Adler. I asked; the universe answered!
Adler: What are three words you would use to describe your time spent at Adler Graduate School?
Julie: Connection. Insight. Love.
Adler: Okay, I am excited to have a chance to discuss your recent time spent in Costa Rica. Can you give our readers some context on the program you attended?
Julie: After much research into the many yoga teacher training programs around the world, I chose the Marianne Wells School of Yoga for three reasons: I wanted a full immersion yoga experience; I wanted to step outside my comfort zone and do some solo traveling; and I wanted a program that emphasized not just the physical practice, but the spiritual aspects as well. This decision was perhaps most important for my training as a holistic therapist. While many people think of yoga as just a physical practice of holding poses, it is much more. As stated on my website, yoga has nothing to do with striving for a bikini body, abs, or thigh gap. Rather, it is a way of living. It is a way of integrating and caring for the mind, body, and spirit. It is a practice of surrender, compassion, love, connection, focus, responsibility, and acceptance. Within a therapeutic setting, yoga helps clients learn the difference between discomfort and pain: an imperative aspect of wellness. When we realize we can safely lean into the struggle of discomfort - instead of running from it in fear – we begin to experience our inner truth and power in a more profound way. In essence, what used to derail us, now fuels us.
Adler: What made you want to spend time developing your strength in yoga and a meditational background?
Julie: In 2010, the universe hit me with a devastating loss. I found myself struggling within a heavy existential crisis. It was in that time a dear friend introduced me to the world of mediation and “real” yoga. As my practices intensified, so did my healing. Amidst all the changes going on in my little world, I was able to feel safe and grounded. Fast forward to 2012, I knew I wanted to bring yoga and meditation to my future clients. I just didn’t know how I would make it happen.
Adler: You mentioned the fourth life task and its importance to you. Can you describe the meaning to our readers?
Julie: Oh boy! I geek out over the fourth life task. A little background might help. Throughout my training, the fourth life task had always been presented as a screening style therapy question that focused on general self-care tasks such as exercise, sleep, relaxation, and nutrition. I never gave it much thought; after all, the first three tasks were all the rage. As my master’s project was looming near, I knew I wanted to explore the intrapersonal characteristics involved in helping us manage life’s transitions. My research led me to a 1967, article by Dreikurs and Mosak, The Tasks of Life II: The Fourth Life Task. This article was the article that formally introduced the fourth life task. It had nothing to do with exercise, apples, or zzzzzz’s. Rather, the fourth life task is the task of getting along with oneself. It is how we experience ourselves: how we experience ourselves in relationship to others, how we experience ourselves in relationship to the universe, to our courage, our power, and our truth. I realized that the problems we experience in the other life tasks (social, work, love, and spirituality) are due to our struggles within how we experience ourselves: the fourth life task. Hence, it is the fundamental task of life and where the heart of therapy takes place.
Adler: You have exciting news as a recent graduate. You are opening your own clinic. Can you tell us a little about your business?
Julie: My office is located on Main Street in the historic area of Stillwater, Minnesota. My office consists of two separate therapy areas: one for those who prefer the traditional talk therapy environment and another (the yoga studio) for those who want to incorporate yoga or just a more relaxed, experiential style of therapy. Most of my clients have wanted to meet in the yoga space. I’m guessing it’s because of the two big and cozy bean bag chairs in there. Because I don’t work with insurance companies, I get to structure my practice in a way that best fits my style and the needs of my clients. For example, I’ve always felt a bit encumbered by the 50-minute time restraint. I offer 75 and 90-minute appointments for traditional talk therapy and up to 2-hour sessions for those who want to incorporate yoga, mediation, and/or EMDR.
Adler: How do you plan on incorporating what you learned in Costa Rica to your practice?
Julie: On a foundational level, I encourage all of my clients to begin an at-home wellness practice that includes silent sitting meditation. For those that are interested in incorporating yoga, I provide theory discussion and posture instruction. I strive to teach each client at the pace they need to slowly build a repertoire of postures they can safely practice at home. While I value the role of group yoga classes and the connection and community feeling they can offer, it is my belief that practicing at home can help keep one’s focus on their inner physical, mental, and spiritual experience—especially when they hold the mistaken belief that in order to practice yoga one needs to be flexible, thin, wearing fancy yoga outfits, or have a “yoga body”. Not only are these beliefs the opposite of a genuine yoga practice, they can easily set the stage for feelings of competition, disconnection, and shame.
On another level, yoga can be helpful when working with trauma: both the “big” ones (those that are most easily identifiable), and the more nuanced microtraumas that fester and accumulate over time. This is because unprocessed traumatic experiences (and the shame feelings they induce) are held within the body. Yoga provides a unique nonverbal “roadmap” leading the client and therapist into the space where healing can take place. This process can begin with basic mind-body-spirit awareness and exploration – and when the client is ready – move into the physical practice of yoga. With the physical surrender into the discomfort of a posture that activates trauma energy, there comes a release of emotion. The client might or might not have the words or ability to verbally process the emotions and thoughts that have been brought to the surface. However, through a process of listening to, honoring, and responding to how the body wants to move through the trauma, one can complete the movement that was originally disabled during the fight, flight, or freeze response (and is the essence of Peter Levine’s Somatic Experiencing therapy). The body response is where the trauma experience can be reprocessed with adaptive material. With this completion of movement, the client is able to integrate the adaptive body response with what the mind knows and the spirit feels.
Adler: What are your goals for the coming year(s)?
Julie: I have a tendency to experience feelings of fear as a stop sign. My intention for 2018, is to allow myself to move into my fear by trusting in my truth, strength, and competence. Professionally, my intention is to continue seeking out ways I can provide my clients with individualized experiential forms of therapy. I will be working with other AGS alumni on developing client workshops, therapy groups, and with Dr. Richard Close on academic presentations and professional development workshops.
Adler: Anything else you would like to share about your journey in Adlerian psychology?
Julie: I can’t imagine my life without it.
At Adler Graduate School, we love hearing about the success and journey our graduates have undertaken to further their profession. To learn more about how Adler can inspire you, click here.