Yoga Therapy is a supportive therapeutic approach to various medical and mental health conditions, as well as lifestyle challenges. It is a holistic approach to health and wellbeing. And, you guessed it, it involves yoga.
Traditionally, yoga is more than just the postures (or asanas) like you may see displayed in social media posts or in ads for local studios. It is an internal “workout” as much as it is an external one. I’m sure you’ve heard of (or at least I’m guessing you have) meditation and breathing exercises that are associated with yoga. But what does it all mean? How can aspects of yoga be used in a therapeutic way? First, let me give a comprehensive overview of yoga therapy. Then we can get a little more into the answer to that question.
What is Yoga Therapy?
Therapeutically, yoga is personalized to each client, as well as, to each condition or situation. As therapists, we take an evidence-based approach to treatment. We refer to research studies that have tested yoga techniques with medical conditions. Tools used for sessions include traditional yoga practices of asanas, pranayama, meditation, yoga nidra, yamas & niyamas, etc. However, this differs from a typical yoga class. In therapy, we adjust and modify the postures and meet the client where he or she is with ability, strength, limitations, and will. Nothing is forced. Most importantly, nothing is presented with unreasonable expectations.
Yoga therapy is a two-way effort between the client and the therapist. Really, you can say that the client is behind the steering wheel in regards to which direction their healing journey goes. The client determines the goals and focuses for treatment. I love this approach to therapy because it encourages self-empowerment of the client. It is also a useful way to tell if something is actually working or not. As a therapist, I just provide the tools, the correct methods to use them, and support.
The Very Basics of Yoga Therapy
Now getting back to that question; what does it mean and how is yoga specially used therapeutically? Well, the first step to any kind of healing; whether physical, emotional, or even spiritual (or at the core) is de-stressing, relaxing, and eliminating fear. Things such as fear and stress can literally be a brick wall and obstruction to the pathway of healing. Breathing exercises (pranayama), meditation, yoga nidra, and even specific postures can facilitate that initial step of release and relaxation. They can also make space to set up the best healing foundation.
Overall, yoga postures are great for strengthening, building stamina, establishing focus, and connecting the physical self to the internal self. The internal self encompasses personality, habits, cognitive function, emotions, behavior, and even spiritual (& soulful) being. They all work together to make us who we are. In therapy, we strengthen and learn to use these aspects of ourselves together to improve our quality of life.
Looking Forward to more Info
Be sure to subscribe to this blog. In future articles, we will specifically discuss different conditions and how yoga can address and be beneficial for each. You wouldn’t want to miss these. We will even delve into helpful hints and lifestyle adjustments you can do to offset the challenges of the 2020 pandemic.
Feature photo by Antonika Chanel on Unsplash