Freeing the Mind and Body: How Hypnotherapy and Yoga Help Us Release Old Patterns

by Julie Bolitho

When I was a child, people often asked me that pervasive question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” More often than not, I said I wanted to be a writer. Most adults would politely laugh, and reply with something like, “Oh, that’s nice, but what are you really going to do? You know, for money?”

An indignation grew in me—wait and see, I’ll show you!—and yet, despite studying creative writing and even winning small poetry awards in my early 20s, I found myself writing less as the years progressed and instead teaching literature and writing courses—the practical, sensible way to engage with the medium I loved, and still pay the bills.

Despite having maintained a decade-long yoga practice that stitched my mind, body, and spirit back together, I was a master of self-sabotage in my writing life. Anytime it seemed as if I might succeed in achieving my dreams, I subconsciously found a way to derail it. After I met my husband, an art and fashion photographer with none of these subconscious patterns, I finally recognized that my career had stalled not because I was unlucky, not because I wasn’t talented, not because I didn’t work hard, but because I didn’t believe it was possible and I didn’t believe I had a right to it—a right to shine doing something I loved (chalk it up to my Midwestern upbringing).

I knew what was happening, yet I couldn’t seem to shift the negative patterns through my yoga, meditation, affirmation, or breathing practices. I spent a year attempting to release what held me back, but only felt the tension increase. The more I tried, the more I resisted. 

Finally, I booked a session with a well-respected hypnotherapist in my area. He assured me that I would need no more than three sessions and, though dubious, I played along. Within months, I found myself writing more than I had in years—and getting paid for it.

My experience mirrors the experiences of many. In fact, it’s nearly impossible to find someone who doesn’t harbour subconscious misgivings from childhood. While my doubts manifested as internal discord, others frequently experience these buried beliefs as chronic pain. Yet, so often, the root of chronic pain lies beyond the physical body, despite its physical manifestation.

Kripalu presenter Anne Novak has made it her life’s work to help others move through pain by aligning the mind and body, allowing a return to energetically synchronous states of being. A certified Kundalini Yoga teacher who specializes in the neuroscience of pain, Anne uses multiple modalities in her practice, including physical therapy, energy medicine, and hypnotherapy. She views hypnotherapy as a type of meditation, and uses it to open the subconscious and regress to times of trauma—whether physical or otherwise. In group hypnotherapy sessions, Anne creates a safe space for participants to effectively time-travel through visualization, and acknowledge and confront the traumas that led to chronic pain.

As a young woman, Anne experienced an athletic injury that, as injuries often do, changed the trajectory of her life. Intrigued by the body’s ability to heal, she became a physical therapist. Yet, despite her immense knowledge of body mechanics, she began experiencing unexplainable chronic pain that would flare up unpredictably: Years could go by without sign of it and then, suddenly, it would reappear—for anywhere from days to months. This experience, as well as the chronic pain she witnessed in clients, led her to modalities, like hypnotherapy and Kundalini Yoga, that go beyond what we might call an industrialized approach to the body—the idea that the body is merely a machine we must gas up, oil, and repair when necessary.

“Pain is an emanation of consciousness,” Anne notes. It is not something to be resisted or anesthetized, but something to be deeply aware of. Chronic pain, she says, can be “an amazing teacher and spur us onto a great deal of healing,” as we delve into the murkiness of our internalized beliefs. “Pain is there to move us. At its best, it is protective. It forces us to act.”

Anne is also keen to help people understand that the mind and body influence each other equally: There is not a single highway from mind to body or body to mind. Anne notes, the principle of asana, of simply holding a certain posture, is a means of changing the flow of energy through the body, which impacts the mind as well. This aligns with the famed TED talk by Harvard professor Amy Cuddy, who observed that doing “power poses” before interviews allowed people to perform exponentially better. Likewise, studies show that overexposure to Botox can lead to depression; when people lose the ability to genuinely smile—to crinkle at the corners of the eyes—the happy hormones don’t get released in the brain.

When we begin to align mind and body, powerful transformation can occur. Old guilt, archaic patterns and programs, subconscious victim mentalities—all that blocks us emotionally and physically—can be released. In turn, the body can be freed not only of pain, but also freed to breathe more deeply, to stand taller, to be more open and receptive. Anne stresses that everyone—whether or not they experience chronic physical or emotional stress—can benefit from practices that help us heal mind and body and release old patterns.

As for me, the fears I held about my career were bound deeply with fears I experienced in childhood and a pervasive sense of unworthiness. Hypnotherapy not only allowed me to see the emanation of my self-sabotage, it also gave me the tools to confront it safely. Today, I am nearly finished with my first book, which I intend to be the first of many.

Find out about upcoming programs with Anne Novak at Kripalu.

Julie Bolitho is a Kripalu Yoga teacher from northern Michigan who currently resides in Oxfordshire, England. A Truman Scholar and a published poet and essayist, Julie is currently at work on a memoir.,