INTERVIEW WITH SHAHAR LION
I'm thrilled to be chatting with Shahar Lion on the BC blog today. Shahar is a mother of two, dedicated yoga practitioner and teacher, as well as a holistic clinical therapist. Whether you're a new mom thinking about reaching out to work with a therapist, or looking for some prenatal yoga support- Shahar offers a wonderful blend to her clients.
BC: What's your background and how do you work with client?
SL: I’ve always been curious about therapy and movement. In the mid 90's, I attended a ten day silent meditation retreat called Vipassana, which continues to influence how I work with my clients today. This challenged me to experience the raw relationship between the body and mind and it is this often overlooked relationship that I work with so intimately now. While teaching yoga and prenatal/postnatal yoga for over a decade, I was given feedback that my classes were a bit different from others; my clients said that my classes are “more than a yoga” and that they “got way more then they expected”. Many of my clients reached out to me for emotional support outside of class. The union of movement and therapy happened intuitively in my work, but as it became clear that I was providing something distinct from just yoga I realized that I needed more advanced tools to support my work. For that reason, I got my Certification in Movement Analysis (CMA) from the Laban/Bartenieff Institute of Movement Studies in New York City, which was an intense, year long program that taught me how to observe, analyze and connect through non-verbal communication. That lead me to Movement Therapy - I studied with renowned teachers in the field and completed coursework at Antioch University. I completed my Bachelors in Human Behavior with a major in movement and psychology and got my Masters in clinical social work from New York University. I loved the clinical work and after graduating I completed a three years post graduate training in a Psychoanalytic Institute so I could have a more deep and powerful impact with clients. During that time I also had two babies, which helped me to experience some of the physical and emotional struggles that women often shared with me in class and therapy.
Since my own pregnancies I have not changed the way I work with my clients. In fact, my own pregnancies reinforced and validated the way I worked with my clients for all the years before becoming a mother myself. Experiencing pregnancies, births and motherhood actually confirmed why and how my method is successful for so many women and further impassioned my belief in the work and commitment to my clients.
Interestingly, in contrast to the general ethos of yoga and therapy, my work as a wellness coach can also be concrete as I aim to get my clients moving forward as quickly as possible: directing them to the best resources and advising and creating action plans so they can achieve their goals.
I think one key aspect of my work is that I stay where my client is and listen to what they need, their goals and expectations. I have an expansive “tool box” and a broad range of experience so when I work with each client I am able to draw from diverse methods to most effectively respond to the immediate needs. Navigating pregnancy, a birth plan and motherhood (whether for a woman's first child, second or third) is not easy if she doesn't have the right tools and support team.
BC: What is the biggest joy from your work? What do you love helping people achieve?
SL: My biggest joy is witnessing clients transformations and achieving their goals. Whether through therapy, yoga or both - witnessing the process of growth and successful outcomes from our work together is thrilling. The journey that I take with my clients is physically and/or emotionally difficult at times but helping women to get to a point where they feel comfortable in their own body and mind is pretty amazing. It is also satisfying to help women to save their time, money and sometimes physical pain by connecting them to the resources that they need. Since I have been in the women's health field for so many years I have plenty of resources and I love to collaborate with wonderful physical therapists, doulas, doctors, midwives and other professionals so my clients build their amazing team pretty easily.
BC: How can therapy assist new moms? If a new Mom is having a challenging postpartum experience or transition into parenthood, how can therapy help?
SL: Becoming a mother is a significant time in a woman's life and often can be both exciting and challenging. There are biological, social and psychological adjustments that need to be made. It is completely normal for a new mom to feel vulnerable for the first few weeks but it can last longer and get more intense if not dealt with properly. Each person has their own difficulties depending on their own personal histories and navigating the new terrain depends upon individual personality and support systems. Often parents needs to manage opinions, approaches and judgments that can come from several places, which can leave them confused, helpless and frustrated.
Talking to a professional therapist in a confidential and non judgmental setting is essential to identifying the cause of feelings and to create a clear plan that is simple and easy to get you to where you want to be. The process itself is very empowering, because the mere decision to grant yourself access to support shows strength and readiness to change, which naturally reduces discomfort.
I always say that claiming your own challenges and making decisions for yourself and your family entitles you to be who you are, birthing the way you want and becoming the parent that you want to be with a confident and positive attitude.
BC: What are some signs or indicators that a new mother or father should seek out the help of a therapist?
SL: The signs vary from person to person, it does not have to be a postpartum depression per se. I believe that in order to be the parent that you want to be you need to know yourself and be comfortable with who you are and the decisions that you make. If you feel any sort of insecurity within yourself, I think a therapy is a great way to resolve it. I help people to find their strength and flourish as individuals, parents and couples.
BC: What have you been reading, watching, or listening to lately that you've been enjoying or been inspired by? (Books, blogs, shows, podcasts..)
SL: I love reading psychology books by analysts or therapists who combine body and mind work. For example, I love re-reading Dr. Mark Epstein’s books, which combines Buddhist and western psychology. Lately, I like to listen to The Birth Hour podcast which shows the diverse ways that women end up giving birth. I think it helps to inspire expecting mothers whether they choose medicated or undecided birth and expose women to more options and ways to give birth. I think that this podcast is also important for women who didn't end up birthing the way they wanted or experienced some trauma or postpartum challenges. Longest Shortest Time is also a great podcast that and I enjoy listening to because it covers so many topics related to parenting, motherhood and birth. I also love to listening to Fresh Air with Terry Gross.