I had the privilege of conducting an interview with our new morning yoga instructor, Shanika Pichey. Shanika showcases an immense amount of passion for yoga, receiving her 200hr YTT and 500hr RYT as well as training in IASTM (Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization), Assisted Stretching, and Reiki. With Shanika joining the CAS family, I wanted to delve a little deeper into the benefits and journey of yoga as it pertains to mental health.
Because yoga is now becoming a big part of Carolina Assessment Services, with two classes every week, it’s important to understand how yoga can assist with positive mental health outside of your clinicians office. I think Shanika’s insight throughout this interview provides a perfect picture of the power that yoga can hold in your mental health journey.
Being that Shanika is going to guide every student in their journey, I first asked; What is your main approach when teaching yoga?
Shanika: “My main approach when teaching yoga is to be versatile. It’s never a one size fits all situation. I’m very focused on looking at each student so I can tweak my teaching to focus on their needs. In class, it’s important to keep ailments or concerns students may bring to you at the forefront of your mind. It’s also important to be aware of what each student can do or feels comfortable doing. If they have fear in their eyes, they’re breathing too hard, or even have a questionable look on their face, that can tell me a lot. And even on the flip side, if you notice a student can go a bit more complex with a pose, you can begin to identify the strengths and weaknesses of that student.”
What aspects of wellness do you think yoga can build and have you seen this first hand?
Shanika: “I always go back to what I learned on my very first day of my 200 hour training, which is that yoga is syncretism and yoga goes with everything. Personally, when I’m teaching yoga it’s not just about the physical aspect, but also about breathing and where your mind is. I’m very huge on telling people to focus on your breath. If your mind starts to wonder you may fumble out of a pose, do something wrong, or have negative thoughts, but if you come back to your breath, you will be much more centered. I’ve personally seen this with students who started class with a restrictive mindset, assuming that poses will be too difficult, but months later they’re doing more than they ever thought they were capable of. This is the power of breath. It’s also important to note, it doesn’t matter how deep you can go in a pose or how fancy it is, it’s just about finding that stillness within yourself. Asana in yoga literally stands for “to sit with” so being able to sit with a moment and your own breath is very important.”
What part can yoga play in building positive mental health?
Shanika: “One thing I love about yoga is that you learn to know your body better than anyone, making you more introspective. Yoga can really teach you to take a moment instead of acting impulsively, which allows you to handle situations better, be more empathetic, and manage anxiety. There are 8 limbs of yoga, and I talk a lot about the yamas and niyamas, which both cover how you treat yourself and how you treat others. Yoga also covers how you take care of your body based on your own needs (dosha). It’s important to remember yoga isn’t just physical; it includes meditation, reflection, stretching, etc. A little fun fact os that yoga actually means to come together, so it covers a whole umbrella. All of these different aspects can assist your mental health by not only strengthening the relationship with yourself, but with the world.”
What have you learned from being a yoga instructor and what inspired you?
Shanika: “At first, I was really interested in the physical aspect, with thoughts like “oh my god, our bodies can actually do that, that’s amazing!” And I’m still amazed by what I can do with my body, but with my training I learned that the physical aspect barely scratches the surface. From the moment I wake up I’m practicing yoga. I take a deep breath in and notice which nostril feels more blocked, if it’s my right nostril I step out of bed with my right foot. I wash my face with cold water, I scrape my tongue. All of that may seem crazy, but it has come from yoga. I take better care of myself and have learned to let go of my ego, doubt and the worry about what the person next to me is doing. I know now that no one will look the same every day. No one is perfect. The people you see on social media practicing insane poses just captured a perfect moment in time and most likely fell right afterwards…. trust me I know. It’s never that easy.”
Wow! After just four questions, we’ve learned so much. Yoga really is a magical practice, and I’m so happy that we’re now able to offer classes at CAS. The final thought Shanika wanted me to leave you all with is, “It’s important to have trust in not only yourself, but your teacher. I want you to know that you can trust me to guide you in the right way and I will always be open to your concerns and commentary.” And with that, we hope you can come and join us for our classes every Tuesday and Thursday. I’ve linked the sign up below for our classes this coming week.
This blog was written by Lilly Hart, a recent graduate of the University of South Carolina. She currently has her bachelor of arts degree in psychology, with a minor in counseling. She has a deep passion for mental health awareness and plans to further her career in graduate school. She is now the new Administrative Assistant and Community Outreach Coordinator at Carolina Assessment Services, LLC, and can’t wait to produce new and insightful content for our readers.
If there are any other topics you’d be interesting in learning about, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are always appreciative of new ideas to delve into on the blog!