Yoga Therapy: A Holistic Approach to Preventative Care
The National Institute for Complementary and Integrative Health released studies showing improved physical, intellectual, and emotional health in yoga practitioners who had previously complained of both generalized and specific pain. Psychology Today made claims that yoga has potent health benefits, and in the past five years integrative medical teams have been popping up all over the world. Still, public awareness of Yoga Therapy and what an actual Yoga Therapy session involves remains low. In this article I plan to walk you through Yoga Therapy and help you to better understand how Yoga Therapy can be leveraged to help achieve balance in all four energetic bodies.
Yoga Therapy: What it is NOT
Yoga Therapy is not a substitute for talk therapy, massage therapy, or physical therapy. Although there may be times where conversation is necessary, typically, Yoga Therapy is about bringing balance and harmony to the whole experience. Yoga Therapy can be used to treat trauma like PTSD, anxiety disorders, and depression, but it’s important to maintain a relationship with your therapist for cognitive therapy.
Yoga Therapy should not be used as a replacement for physical therapy when recovering from major surgery or illness. It certainly can complement one’s recovery, but a whole team is best when approaching integrative healing.
Yoga Therapy: Intended Purpose and Best Practice
In my opinion, Yoga Therapy is one spoke of a truly holistic health and wellness team that works to create balance and harmony in the body while maintaining rich connection to the mind and spirit. Yoga Therapy can be utilized for a variety of purposes including dealing with physical, intellectual, or emotional stress. Yoga Therapy incorporates whole body awareness through exploration of Yoga Nidra, journaling, asana, pranayama (breathing exercises), and vibrational healing. It can be used to correct alignment in asana practice that is contributing to imbalance in the energetic body, and it can also be used as supportive care when working through trauma with a psychotherapist.
Initially, Clients meet privately with their Yoga Therapist and discuss physical characteristics and qualities that make up a persons experience. These attributes are organized into three Doshas, or constitutions. In Ayurveda, Yogic Food Medicine, identifying one’s Dosha is the first step to cultivating a more balanced experience. From there, the Yoga Therapist will develop a plan that is designed to create balance in the specific individual.
Once an initial plan is designed and implemented a Client might work one on one with the Yoga Therapist as frequently or infrequently as the Client desires. Often times, two or three follow up sessions are all that is required to solidify the learnings and practices gained from these customized sessions. Other times, Clients might decide to work long term with a Yoga Therapist to support their experience as they navigate through a particular season of their life.
Yoga Therapy is intended to look at the whole person: Physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual. Private Yoga is intended to enhance the student experience by providing direct feedback in the moment, and while customizing a sequence for the student’s specific needs. It is important to understand the scope of a yoga teacher verses the scope of a Yoga Therapist.
A yoga teacher is trained to watch bodies move in and out of asana. Yoga teachers are trained to create sequences that are intelligently sequenced, and that support the student’s natural progression. I personally had the privilege of working with both a Yoga Therapist and a Yoga teacher during my training as a 500-RYT and it was life changing. My yoga teacher never tried to counsel me; her primary goal was to support me as a student. She knew herself well enough to set responsible teacher and student boundaries.
A Yoga Therapist is trained to look at the Client as a whole being having a human experience. This approach takes the physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual facets of our perceived experience into account. The Yoga Therapist will identify and observe the state of balance or imbalance in the physical body, check in on the intellectual and emotional aspects of the Client’s experience, and ultimately teach the Client ways to optimize their energy, focus, intention, and creative energy to manifest and more relaxed and harmonious state of being.
Why is Balance Important?
When a system is in balance energy and life force (Prana) flow freely. Without obstruction the body can heal parts of itself that need healing and support. I personally have practiced integrative yoga and Yoga Therapy in my personal practice for over three years and I have never been healthier.
When we begin by bringing the physical body into balance with a deeper awareness of food, rest, exercise, and breath we lay the foundation for years of healthy active living. Yoga Therapy can help to reset the body, mind, spirit connection and enliven the overall experience by teaching Clients how to live a more present and mindful life.