What is Yoga Therapy?|
Posted Jan 24, 2011 - 09:23 PM
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WHAT IS YOGA THERAPY?
by Luna Jordan, ERYT500, LMT
In the United States, most people are not aware of the diversity yoga has to offer. Yoga is often viewed as nothing more than stretching. In actuality, yoga contains a vast body of knowledge for balancing the human system. Within this knowledge are models of the human system showing how the physical body, the breath, the mind, the personality and our emotions are all intertwined. Imbalance or illness in one of these areas may show up in another. Today, this knowledge is often referred to as a “holistic” approach to well-being.
For example, disruption in the breath and heart rate may actually have their roots in anxiety, or our emotions. Similarly, with physical pain such as muscle spasms in the neck, stress patterns and lifestyle may also need to be addressed. When a person experiences illness or imbalance in their system, the aim of yoga therapy is to assist the student with their concerns, keeping in mind the individual as a whole.
Yoga therapy offers many different choices of activities, or practices, to increase both physical and mental health. These activities include movement (postures), breathwork, sound, visualization, meditation and more. The yoga therapist chooses one or more of these activities and designs a program that is both helpful for the student’s needs and can also hold the student’s interest. For the best result, the student practices their program consistently and then returns to the therapist with their observations noting any changes they have observed. With those observations, a modified or completely new yoga program may be offered to help the student meet their next goal.
Let’s look at how a yoga therapist might design a yoga program. A man came to yoga therapy seeking help for high blood pressure. His medication was not lowering his blood pressure enough and his doctor suggested that yoga therapy combined with his medication might help. He worked more than 40 hours per week in a high-stress job. He also had two kids in college and a loving wife at home. He said he ‘never met a meal he didn’t like’ demonstrating a sense of humor while also explaining one of the reasons he was overweight. He had heard that yoga offered more than just poses and said he was hoping to learn more. After the yoga therapist explained the different activities of yoga therapy, he was interested in learning more about the breathwork and meditation. He admitted that he did not have a lot of time to practice, maybe fifteen minutes a day. A program was developed including three postures, calming breathwork, and a three-minute meditation involving focusing his attention on something he found calming—he chose to focus on a calm mountain lake.
Due to the holistic nature of yoga therapy, changes are often seen in areas beyond those of the problem for which the student sought help. This man with high blood pressure experienced not only a lower blood pressure, but also the added benefits of sleeping more soundly at night and reacting more calmly with co-workers. This illustrates how yoga works not only on the immediate complaint, but other related areas creating more balance in the individual and their daily activities.
It’s very important to note that not all yoga practices are appropriate for all concerns and conditions and some may even make a condition worse. It is very important to seek the counsel of a well-trained yoga therapist when practicing yoga to alleviate health concerns.
To learn how yoga therapy can bring a greater sense of balance to your life, please contact me.