Morgan Yakus’s practice focuses on and is dedicated to teaching clients tools they can use every day to help retrain the brain, such as self-hypnosis, NLP techniques, tapping and pattern interruption; these tools help to alleviate and shift stress and blocks they may be experiencing in their lives.
ALISON HERSEL: Hi Morgan. Thank you for sitting down with us! Let’s start with how you got here. Can you tell me a little bit about why you started studying hypnosis? You were in fashion for 20 years, and I’m curious about that transition. What was going on in your life at the time?
MORGAN YAKUS: It’s my pleasure. I grew up in Brooklyn and Los Angeles. My mom and her husband are Buddhist and were always exploring nutrition and wellness, which influenced my interests and desire to help people. My dad was a recording engineer in the music business, and I was fortunate enough to see some incredible records being made. It gave me a look through a door into a magical world, especially at a young age, and it influenced my aesthetics and love for music. My dad engineered most of Stevie Nick’s solo albums—she was one of my earliest fashion icons! I then ended up in fashion for 20 years. In my career there, I was fortunate enough to work in many aspects of the industry: runway shows in New York and Europe, press for Gucci, vintage inspirations for many well-known designers, styling on Lauryn Hill’s Miseducation tour, and later, co-founding the store No.6 in New York City’s Little Italy. But while I enjoyed success in fashion, the esoteric realm of wellness remained in the fabric of my life due to my childhood exposure. And so, I'd always remained interested in furthering my study and practice of different modalities in the healing arts.
MY HOPE IS THAT PEOPLE CAN ENJOY THE TRANCE STATE AND EXPERIENCE THE AMAZINGNESS OF THEIR OWN MIND.
A pivotal moment in my path came when I was traveling through South East Asia and Australia for thirteen months in my late 20’s. My experiences there brought some perspectives and priorities into focus. I knew at some point close to my 40's that I would change careers and help people; I just didn't know how it would happen or what it would look like. If you told me I was going to be a hypnotist, I would have laughed. It was all a surprise when about seven years ago I fell down the stairs in my apartment building, which then lead me to different ways of healing. Six months later, I had an herbal tonic that changed everything.
When I had my first past life regression—it was a profound experience. Becoming more curious, I read quite a few books, and that’s when I decided to study and become certified in Past Life Regression with Dr. Brian Weiss, who wrote the book, Many Lives Many Masters. Through present life hypnosis sessions, I experienced changes, which I had been trying to unlock for a long time. I'm also a trained holistic health coach and have trained with Ron Teeguarden on Chinese herbs. Looking back, each event and training led from one place to the next, and every moment has led up to now.
The work I am doing now has changed my life profoundly, and through hypnosis and NLP, I can help others in a deep and unexpected way. I'm still studying, learning, and changing. My hope is that people can enjoy the trance state and experience the amazingness of their own mind.
AH: I love that! Can you share how hypnosis is different from meditation?
MY: Hypnosis and meditation both share relaxed states, such as the Alpha and Theta state, both creating a heightened feeling of focus, which are natural states of being. Typically, meditation is mindfully observing your thoughts and working towards a quiet mind and stillness. Hypnosis can be compared to interactive guided meditation—I call it active meditation. It is a deep state of relaxation, and a heightened state of focus, which is a natural state of mind (Theta state), all the while actively reframing. It is designed as a short cut to communicate with the subconscious mind using images, sounds, and feelings.
AH: What are some common misconceptions about hypnosis?
MY: Unfortunately, there are so many!
- You are not in control: false
- You will go "under": false
- You will do or say something ridiculous: false
- You cannot be hypnotized: false (everyone is in hypnosis, all throughout the day)
Hypnosis goes back as far as ancient Egypt and Greece and was used in the sleeping temples to help people heal. These temples were originally regarded as a healing place to access a trance-like state of meditation, optimal for reaching higher states of consciousness. Inside the sleep temples, participants would chant, dream, meditate, and listen, finding cures, solutions, and reprieve from a variety of ailments. Hypnosis is a state of focus known as the “Theta state.” You experience this state every night before you go to sleep. It is the state of consciousness in which many people report receiving insights.
HYPNOSIS CAN BE COMPARED TO INTERACTIVE GUIDED MEDITATION—I CALL IT ACTIVE MEDITATION. IT IS A DEEP STATE OF RELAXATION, AND A HEIGHTENED STATE OF FOCUS, WHICH IS A NATURAL STATE OF MIND.
AH: When I experienced your self-hypnosis class, you were very focused on empowering your students to develop self-sustaining tools, which is an interesting approach. Why is this so important to you?
MY: Supporting clients in creating tools they can use on their own is one of my main messages. I want my clients to know how they can do it on their own, and once you understand, it's pretty simple. It's just that most people were never taught how to do it. Also, much of the information we have now on the efficacy of this practice is pretty new. It’s only within the last 20 to 30 years that brain scanning technology, tests, and studies are confirming the value in this type of practice. The research I look at is based on neuroscience and how the brain actually works. Before these studies, when people were practicing hypnosis, they were still changing their neural networks, but they didn’t know the science behind why their practice was helping them.
AH: Yes, there is so much benefit to this practice, and it’s incredible to see the new research supporting it. For me to go deeply into my practice, I need to feel safe or be in a safe space. What are your thoughts on what is “safe space?”
MY: It's a couple of things. First, it's the actual space. For example, a safe space for one person could be a concert—it's all about the context of what’s happening in that space. Specifically, for my work, I like to create a quiet space where people feel a relaxed energy or vibration as soon as they come through the door. When I set up a space for a workshop, for example, I like to clear it energetically. I have a little small bowl, which I use as a bell, which usually clears out a lot. I also like to use sage spray, so I'll use sage essential oil with some water, or I’ll use rosemary orange, which is really nice. Then, I’ll arrange the room in a specific way. I try to keep everything in alignment so that it feels good when people walk in. Usually though, because the brain is always trying to assess risk and take in information, it does take time for people to shift into that space of feeling more comfortable. In order for you to feel safe, your brain has to come to that conclusion.
YOU’RE IN HYPNOSIS WHEN YOU ARE WATCHING A MOVIE, TV, WRITING, OR LOOKING AT YOUR PHONE. WHEN YOU SEE PEOPLE INTENTLY ON THEIR PHONES WALKING DOWN THE STREET, AND THEY ALMOST BUMP INTO YOU—YUP, THAT’S HYPNOSIS.
So ultimately, safe space depends on each person that's in the room, and each set of experiences that each person has had up until that point, and what makes it safe for them. Universally, when somebody feels that the space does not have an agenda other than to help them, that can be really healing. Also, studies have shown that that music is helpful because it stimulates dopamine in the brain. There are all different kinds of music, so it just depends on what kind of environment you're creating.
AH: I've just recently tapped into the enormous power of sound. What’s been interesting for me is that it's one thing to do it intentionally, but even just moving through the day, music can create safe space for me no matter where I am. What are some of your favorite playlists or tracks to listen to?
MY: I really love Brian Eno—I think he’s amazing. I also like Deuter. I think they have ten different records of all different kinds of ambient music. I find it very easy to listen to. There is an album featuring Tibetan bowls that I like and some reiki albums as well. I like music that is simple, and I know that it's out of style, but I really like Pandora stations. I use Spotify, too, but there's one station called Calm Meditation. There's also a Deuter station that I listen to.
When I do any writing, such as journaling or active meditation, where I'm trying to go into a specific space, I'll usually play Native American flutes. I really love that, and I feel like the drumming kind of starts to balance my brain and creates a space where I can focus and work with more intention.
AH: Safe space and music are critical components to going into any meditative practice, but one of the concepts I think a lot of us struggle with is “stories” that can play like tracks in our mind, sometimes distracting us from our practice. How should one interact with old stories that come up?
MY: During hypnosis, you can access your own neural networks and neurons, letting your subconscious know that it no longer needs a specific habit, and therefore not repeating those thoughts and feelings anymore. You can communicate to yourself what you would like to create instead, and this creates neuroplasticity, which is the process where your neurons rewire themselves. The work continues to take place over time and creates a reframe, as well as perhaps widening the view. Eventually, clients find themselves living in this new pattern, which is further supported when you consciously work over time to reframe your thinking around a particular issue. Through this cognitive work, neural networks change, resulting in a different, healthier response to a particular situation.
AH: What is the role of narrative and story in the healing process from your perspective?
MY: In my work, I utilize varying techniques such as self-hypnosis, NLP, spontaneous visualization, and past life regression, to empower clients. I show my clients practical techniques that can result in a healthier mind-body balance, helping the client find out more information about what is blocking them so they can move through it. Hypnosis can change the relationship to your perspective, therefore creating another view and options you may not have noticed before. In my experience, most people's brains are airing on the negative side. This is usually to protect them, based on an event that happened in the past or a future event that hasn't happened yet.
DURING HYPNOSIS, YOU CAN ACCESS YOUR OWN NEURAL NETWORKS AND NEURONS, LETTING YOUR SUBCONSCIOUS KNOW THAT IT NO LONGER NEEDS A SPECIFIC HABIT, AND THEREFORE NOT REPEATING THOSE THOUGHTS AND FEELINGS ANYMORE.
Most people have become really good at creating negative thoughts and images, which the body and mind usually follow. Therefore, they get stuck in a pattern, and the brain is responding by creating negative feelings. They never actually see themselves doing the positive thing they would like to achieve. In my work, I encourage clients to take note of what they are referencing—if it is audio, visual, or a combination. The take away is when you are showing your brain positive images and talking to yourself positively, the body will follow. Positive feelings and actions will occur. When the negative story arises, interrupt these thoughts and images with something new, which will begin to create neuroplasticity. Therefore, you will manifest what you desire by showing your brain what you would like to create. Then, play the opposite game and create the positive opposite with audio and an image, beginning to see things positively over something negative. From there, it’s most likely that your brain will start a new pattern.
AH: You support both private and group practice. With a trend towards group healing classes, do you think there is a dilution of the practice of hypnosis, or can meaningful practice be achieved in any container?
MY: A meaningful practice can be achieved in any container—it’s the view from which you see it. I believe it’s important to find the class and modality that speaks to you, and my goal is to educate and show people how hypnosis and the Theta state can be used to create the changes they desire, no matter what setting we are in. We are always in control of our thoughts and actions when we are in communication with our conscious and subconscious, and I like the idea of a quantum leap, which is essentially a sequence of small changes which prompt a bigger leap to occur. However you choose to enter your practice, the most important thing is that you are consistent in order to achieve those leaps.
AH: What do you see as the pros and cons of group work versus one on one or self-practice?
MY: All of these have pros—I don't believe in cons related to this work. When you cook in the kitchen, you have different tools, containers, and courses—it’s the same idea.
A MEANINGFUL PRACTICE CAN BE ACHIEVED IN ANY CONTAINER—IT’S THE VIEW FROM WHICH YOU SEE IT.
What can be great about group work is the collective energy of the people in the room supporting each other to synthesize a shift together: the power can be in one and or multiples. I often get emails from clients after the workshops in which they share how powerful the group experience felt and notes on their transformation. With one-on-one work, I can dive deeper with the client into the story, coaching them and have a conversation with them during the hypnosis experience. Lastly, self-practice remains a great way to keep up the work and make daily changes in real-time.
AH: A big obstacle for me in my own practice is integrating the idea that self-care is actually self-love. It’s a big feat that many of us have to overcome. What are your thoughts on this and what are your daily self-care rituals?
MY: I teach self-care classes, and I think the thing people really need to know is that it is okay to say “no.” A huge part of self-care is having boundaries and exercising those boundaries. Ultimately, sometimes you have to hit rock bottom to do self-care. You need to feel the pain in order to change your relationship to self-care.
My daily self-care rituals include walking, self-meditation, getting enough sleep, drinking my morning herbal tonic drink, using flower essences, stretching, and connecting with friends. A big part of it for me is making sure I'm sleeping well, ate the right things.
AH: What is a tool you can recommend for mitigating stress and angst in any setting?
MY: In my experience, if someone is stuck or stressed, it’s because they are thinking about the past or writing a story about the future. They are not in the present moment. Interruption can be the best tool, and that can be done with simple techniques such as NLP, breath exercise, visualization, or self-hypnosis. Pattern interruption is the best option in any situation for stopping a negative pattern, loop, or thought. Interrupt yourself right away by creating the opposite positive audio, image, or movie: Take a walk around the block, drink some water, and/or take five deep breaths. While you’re doing that, create the positive version of the image or audio in your mind. Any of the below can be used as a pattern interruption:
- TURN YOUR NEGATIVE IMAGE INTO A FUNNY CARTOON. For example, if there is a person that makes you uncomfortable, turn them into a silly cartoon—this will shrink down and dissolve your discomfort. Just the idea of it can make you laugh/lighten up, and your brain will reference the person differently next time.
- CREATE A POSITIVE OUTCOME IN YOUR MIND. If you’re nervous about a future situation, see yourself going through the situation in an optimal state with a positive outcome. If there is an activity or task that feels daunting, imagine completing the task with a positive state. This activity gives your brain a visual to follow.
- STAY CURRENT. Stay in the present and respond from where you are at that moment. Don't visit negative past situations, as that will bring up old neural networks and cause stress. Only design positive future scenarios. You haven't arrived in the future yet, so might as well design something positive.
- POSITIVE SELF-TALK. Tell your brain the positive version of what you would like it to do. Most likely, if you’re feeling negative or stressed, then you have been creating negative thoughts. Talk to yourself in the same way in which you would talk to friends, family members, or a partner.
- QUESTION YOURSELF. Ask what you might need at that moment to have a shift into a happier place. Usually, your mind will present an answer.
- SELF-MEDITATION. Try an active meditation, like this one, to show your mind what you would like to create.
- DANCE TO YOUR FAVORITE SONG. Dancing, even five minutes, can create a positive shift in the body, bringing in a new perspective. Plus, exercise is always good!
AH: Those are all really simple ideas that can really support those “quantum leaps.” What about when you are in pain? How do you see hypnosis being a tool for reducing the suffering of pain?
MY: Personally, I don't like to be in pain for too long! It’s probably my Libra sign that likes to keep everything in balance. I try to move through the moment and understand more about why I might be experiencing the pain.
I try to follow the thoughts down the rabbit hole and see what is at the bottom and then work with that feeling, emotion: visual or audio. I try not to stay in it too long because it keeps me from doing my job and helping other people, so I bring in practices like massage, reiki, writing, and sleep to shift my perspective so I can then see that "thing" from another angle. I’ve noticed that when I experience pain, the more I tell myself that I am experiencing it, the more I perpetuate the state. So I remind myself that I am not my thoughts, I shouldn't believe every thought I have, and that I am also not my past and that I am in the present.
IF SOMEONE IS STUCK OR STRESSED, IT’S BECAUSE THEY ARE THINKING ABOUT THE PAST OR WRITING A STORY ABOUT THE FUTURE. THEY ARE NOT IN THE PRESENT MOMENT. INTERRUPTION CAN BE THE BEST TOOL.
Hypnosis is effective for pain, which can be on the physical, mental, and spiritual level. It can create an alternative view, an opening to dialogue with the self or others about changing the pain from a "thing," that hadn't been moving, into something that is changing.
AH: I love that you see pain as purposeful and that it’s about shifting perspectives. Given your own experience with pain, and your exposure to various modalities, how do you feel about integrative practice? What are the top five modalities that have most impact you?
MY: In my experience integrative practitioners who have a holistic approach are the best types of practitioners because they have a dynamic toolbox to work with. I practice integrative hypnosis, which gives me more flexibility to support the client in bringing about change, but the practices that have personally impacted me the most are acupuncture, herbalism, massage, Reiki, and astrology.
AH: Thank you so much for sharing so much with us. You’re bicoastal and always on the go, so what is the best way for our readership to connect with you and your work?
MY: My practice is between New York City and Los Angeles, as well as working with clients one-on-one via Skype in the U.S. and other parts of the world. Also, I hold monthly workshops in both cities. Thanks to modern technology, wherever a client, is I can help them design the changes and outcomes they desire.
Visit Morgan’s website for more information about her work and how to get a hold of her.