Small trauma-informed yoga groups: spaces available

Hi everyone 🙂

Because there has been such a keen interest in my trauma-informed yoga (TIY) classes, both individual and group, I am opening another small TIY group. The group is almost full, if you would like to reserve a place, please contact me directly.

The group will only facilitate a maximum of four people. Location is 3 Belsay Road, Kenilworth.

If the group is full by the time you contact me, I will waitlist you for the next group which should be opening soon.

Please note that because of the sensitive nature of this work, anyone joining a TIY group must have 1-3 individual assessment sessions with me first. Individual sessions can continue until the person is ready to join the group.

There are no strength, flexibility or fitness requirements. The classes are at your own pace. The TIY groups can be seen as a body-based version of group talk therapy. While we do not spend much – or any – time talking, we are learning to be with one another, to synchronise with our own bodies and the bodies of others, and to eventually feel more supported and calm in the presence of others. All this while exploring important aspects of ourselves in and through our bodies.

Cost:

Individual session: R790, hour long.

Group session: R350, hour long. (Group sessions can be discounted if paid upfront for the month. The cost for a month is R1000, one class per week, if paid upfront. However, I encourage each person to try a few classes until they feel ready to commit to the monthly payment.)

Contact by clicking here or Whatsapp 0834129768

It Begins With The Body

People who come into therapy have often (arguably always) been traumatised. This may be an overt traumatic incident or more subtle and complex traumas over a period of time. Often, the trauma is in childhood and possibly outside of our ability to recall or consciously work with. Sometimes, we repress traumatic memories, even in adulthood. Trauma blocks our connection with ourselves by disrupting the connection between our minds and bodies and disallowing connection between various parts of ourselves. This means fragmentation is always around the corner and estrangement from one’s own self may become a familiar experience.

The body is where we begin. The body holds an immense amount of knowledge and tries to communicate with us all the time. However, we are frequently so shut off to our body’s intelligence, that we live in a conceptual, intellectual, ego-consciousness state of being. As if everything that exists and is of import in our journey is upward of the neck. This is untrue.

Our bodies hold vast wisdom and memory, storing information from nourishing and meaningful events but also storing trauma, holding it for us until we can look at it. Until we are able to bring our mind and body together – to engage the trauma on a bodily level – trauma held in the body may manifest all kinds of symptoms such as diagnosable illness, inexplicable symptoms, depression, anxiety, rage, fear, tight muscles, postural difficulties, sexual problems, addictions, loss of confidence and more. So many people coming into body-based therapy cannot feel their bodies, and definitely cannot feel their feelings in their bodies.

This is a slow process of learning to reclaim the body, to become aware of it’s existence, what it actually is, and to form a relationship with it. To learn to listen to it and allow the inner dialogue between mind and body to continue unimpeded by blocks.

For individuals who have suffered trauma, the body can be a frightening place. A place to escape from – not to. The body may have let us down or even turned against us, and coming into relationship with it may be overwhelming. However, verbal dialogue without the complement of coming into one’s own body can stay simply conceptual. However, verbal psychotherapy with body-based, non-verbal therapies can also be of great assistance to those are are trying to come home to their bodies and take control – a way to conceptually and emotionally process the increasing awareness of the body.

Breathing, trauma-informed yoga, cold water therapy and similar practices, when facilitated professionally, are non-invasive yet powerful ways of coming into the body.

The body is where we begin. If you are interested in body-based therapy or body-based therapy complementing psychotherapy – a brilliant combination of processing styles – please click here.

Yoga classes: private and semi-private

yoga girl cape town

Having acquired my yoga teachers training more out of an interest in developing a deeper personal yoga practice, I find myself absolutely loving teaching small classes and private students. I am always amazed at how individuals with little to no yoga experience can develop strength and flexibility so quickly with regular practice.

One of my favourite parts of teaching is encouraging people to show themselves love and compassion, listening to their bodies and doing what feels right for them. This is all about embodied self-care and self-compassion, as well as learning to regulate or calm our systems through movement and intentionality.

Another favourite part of teaching, almost paradoxically, is encouraging others toward their ‘edge’, a place of discomfort that they are able to push through and past. In yoga we really strengthen the mind-body connection. In conjunction with integrative therapy, yoga creates a fuller, more holistic way of developing, emerging and being in the world.

Classes on offer currently are held in the Conservatory at Roodenburg House, 74 Campground Road, Rondebosch, Cape Town.

Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 7:30 – 9 am, yoga including meditation and optional cold water therapy. Tuesday and Thursday from 5-6pm, yoga.

Classes are small, so booking is essential. Class rate depends on how many yogis are in the class. Morning classes usually between R200-R300, afternoon classes are currently 1-3 persons, and cost is between R300-R350; enquire for individual/private class rate. Please contact me to book a mat.

A Brief Rationale for an Integrative Approach

Music therapist integrative therapy Cape Town  Melissa Ellse
Integrative Therapy in Cape Town with Melissa Ellse

We are all unique 🌟

An integrative therapeutic approach draws thoughtfully from various theories, methods and techniques based on the individual’s strengths, needs and concerns.


There is no one-size-fits-all. It simply does not exist. Every single encounter we have with one another is both meaningful and unique. This is because we are human and beautifully complex.


I’ve learned this first hand in my own therapeutic processes, which is why I strive to be integrative, intuitive and informed in my approach. And my approach will probably not work for everyone, because we are all unique 🌟 and that is truly wonderful.

To find out more, click here.

Are substance-free psychedelic experiences possible?

psychedelic experience guidance cape town south africa spiritual awakening music therapy

Short answer: yes.

Longer answer: I have encountered surprisingly many people (older, younger and from all walks of life) who want to experience something of the the mind-manifesting nature of psychedelics without taking a substance. Some people are averse to the idea of substance-induced altered states of consciousness from pre-conceived ideas about “drugs”, some cannot explore any mind altering substances because of medications or psychological predispositions. Some don’t want to get entangled in something that is not legal. Some simply don’t like the idea of ingesting anything that affects their consciousness so profoundly. Some prefer to be in control. Some are fearful. These are all valid concerns.

Yet still, such individuals seek a transcendent (possibly spiritual) encounter that is different to everyday, waking life and that offers up something deeper, possibly holding more meaning, truth and authenticity than their ‘ordinary’ reality. In my experience, these individuals are usually on a voyage of self-exploration, igniting creativity, navigating a life transition and/or discovering meaning in life. My hope-filled and honest response is always yes, there certainly are ways to enter altered states of consciousness without any substances or plant medicines.

Psychedelic literally means ‘mind-manifesting’ or ‘mind-expanding’, the Greek root is psyche (mind, soul) dêlos (manifest, visible). Meditation is one avenue to such experiences, yet this usually takes a great deal of practice before potentially experiencing anything of a psychedelic nature. Still, I highly recommend a steady meditation practice for many, many reasons which I won’t address here. To get started with a meditation practice, the following apps are very useful: https://wakingup.com/ or https://www.headspace.com/.

I work with music and deep relaxation into an altered state of consciousness, eliciting imagery in the mind’s eye that allows the ‘traveller’ transcendent, even psychedelic-type experiences. However, the ‘traveller’ also retains complete personal control and is able to effortlessly emerge from the experience at any point. No substances or plant medicines are used and they do not need to be in order for the process to be effective. Guided Imagery and Music is a technique developed by Helen Bonny after working alongside the renown psychedelic researcher Stanislov Grof in LSD trials of the sixties. Bonny developed a “non-drug, psychedelic technique of music-listening for psychotherapeutic ends.”

This music-listening technique takes place in a 1.5 hour session, the traveller comfortably lying on a couch in an undisturbed, safe and comfortable setting (such as a therapist’s room). During the session, the guide will talk with the client/traveller and work toward setting an intention for the journey. A specific music program that relates directly to the traveller’s mental set and intention – a music program designed to elicit imagery, emotions, memories and even sensations – is selected by the guide. The traveller is taken through a deepening relaxation induction and reminded of their intention. When the selected music plays, the traveller journeys with the music in this deepened, relaxed and in fact altered state of consciousness.

Imagery, storylines and emotions may appear, sometimes sensations and memories, all emerging from the unconscious mind and guided by the music. During this process, the traveller is always free to ‘come out’ of the experience, should they want to. This is unlike a substance-based psychedelic experience, such as a psilocybin journey, where one is locked into the journey until the substance/medicine wears off. The guide asks questions and helps to deepen and intensify the experience. Afterward, the traveller makes marks on paper (creates a mandala), which is a creative output that helps to solidify and integrate the journey and is used for verbally processing the experience.

Guided Imagery and Music sessions are usually conducted once a week over a period of time, as personal narratives, archetypal material and images from the unconscious are developed and worked with.

If you are interested in exploring your consciousness through an alternative, experiential and substance-free way, click here. Offered in Cape Town, South Africa.

Note: BMGIM guides require extensive and rigorous training. I am currently in advanced training in the Bonny Method of Guided Imagery and Music.

Hallmarks of a Mystical Experience

William James, in The Varieties of Religious Experience, delineated four major hallmarks of what might be described as a mystical experience.

  1. Ineffability: the individual just can’t put words to the experience, verbal description does not – cannot – do it justice or even begin to portray the authority, significance or nature of the event.
  2. Noetic Quality: the experience appears extremely significant and important for to the individual and it carries a kind of deep authority, inner knowing and personal truth.
  3. Transiency: the mystical state is not sustained as in it’s peak, but fragments, traces, parts, a felt sense and innate knowing – these do persist and are subject to ongoing development, meaning that the insights/wisdom/truths can deepen in richness and significance over time.
  4. Passivity: it is not by the individual’s active will or direction that the mystical experience occurs. Rather, the individual will is suspended for a time and it is as if the individual is ‘moved’ by something larger than him or herself (such as a higher power).

Clearly, this describes an experience that is quite enormous, powerful and outside of ordinary life experience. This is something that is remembered, owned, held tightly and nurtured. Something that becomes precious, guiding and indeed transformative in one’s life. A deep truth, knowing, reality or beauty may be revealed that is intrinsic to something ordinary, everyday and obvious. The experience of such states can be immensely powerful and transformative in one’s personal journey as well as for collective wellbeing. Does such a state have to have anything to do with religion?

It is possible but uncommon to enter such an altered state of consciousness without intention in everyday life, perhaps but not necessarily while listening to music or being in a sacred or natural space. However, there are various ways to prime for such an experience. For example, one way is through a meditation practice, another through Guided Imagery and Music, and another is through facilitated breathwork. Another increasingly acceptable and accessible way is through the use of sacred plant medicine, such as magic mushrooms (psilocybin) and ayahuasca which through their psychedelic (that is ‘mind-manifesting’) properties may occasion such mystical experiences. While mystical states and religion can seem confusingly intermingled, they are not the same thing. There are many religious people who have never had a mystical experience of this nature, while there are stalwart atheists who have. It is a human experience, not owned by any denomination, school of thought, medical practice or form of therapy. It is true that such experiences may absorb a kind of religious quality, depending on many factors such as the individual’s life experience, the place the experience occurs and even the music playing during the event.

Have you ever experienced an altered state, a mystical state or a spiritual state that relates to James’ conception?

For more information about altered states of consciousness, psychedelic integration, guided imagery and music, mind expansion, transformation and mystical states, please contact me to find out more.

References:

Griffiths, Roland & Richards, William & Mccann, Una & Jesse, Robert. (2006). Psilocybin Can Occasion Mystical-Type Experiences Having Substantial and Sustained Personal Meaning and Spiritual Significance. Psychopharmacology. 187. 268-283. 10.1007/s00213-006-0457-5.

James, W. (1902), The varieties of religious experience. New York: Longmans, Green & Co.

Pollan, M. (2018). How to change your mind: What the new science of psychedelics teaches us about consciousness, dying, addiction, depression, and transcendence. New York: Penguin Press.

Peddling Blossoms

The Full Circle Peddling Blossoms - blessing poem

Give up what you do not want, now.
Give up what you do not need.
Strip down; strip yourself down to bare, raw, bone essentials.


Beg the wind to blow away the excess and then plead for it to take away even more –
yes, even that which you thought you could not live without.
Strip down to the Imperishable I,
the Eternal Essence,
the bone-deep, soul-deep brutal burning that no fierce gale can sweep away.


And when you are only a kernel, a seed, a bare, tiny fraction of the earth, your very existence will call out with pure, raw potential
and you will be heard.
You will be heard by the mountain, by the river and by the sky.
You will be heard by the smallest creature, by the widest expanse and by the deepest, chasmic depth.


You will be allowed passage into fertile ground, granted the right to flow, to go
where previously you were too large and cumbersome to tread.
The immensity of your promise in this world will be borne within your humbled and holy frame,
Borne through the long season, the longest night and the darkness of the dirt that you must endure.


And then, as it should be, and as it is, you shall begin to expand, upward and downward, inward and outward, rooted in life-giving, life-promising earth,
rising true toward the sun,
renewed and blessed.
You will be blessed.

Intention Setting for 2020

Now available: Creative INTENTION SETTING 2 hour session in preparation for and contemplation of 2020. Choose awareness and intention as you embrace your potential and invite prosperity. This is a tried and trusted process with the powerful effect of consciously and unconsciously guiding you toward your goals and desires. Mark the passage from one year to the next in order to step more fully into your potential.

Mixed creative media (pastels, collage etc.), intentional use of music-listening to stimulate the process and verbal reflection and contemplation. All materials provided. No ‘creative’ experience necessary.

Available for adults or teens. Individual or group bookings available in Cape Town.

To book, click here.