What is Yoga Therapy?
By Carol Dunaway, Certified Viniyoga Therapist, RYT 500, Certified Stott Pilates
Perhaps the best way to explain what yoga therapy is, would be to define what yoga therapy is not. Yoga therapy is not a general yoga class, or a one-on-one private session with a yoga teacher. Yoga therapy is not the same as physical therapy or psychological therapy. Yoga therapy does not take the place of seeing your doctor, taking your regular medications, or seeing other therapists, such as a massage therapist, an acupuncturist, or a chiropractor. What yoga therapy does do is enhance your experience with all of the above.
A yoga therapist is a highly-educated professional who is trained to work with people to eliminate all kinds of suffering. At this writing there is no national criterion for becoming a yoga therapist. My education includes over 500 hours of yoga teacher education, followed by specific western anatomy and physiology training, and then an additional 500 hours of yoga therapy education. This was a four year program.
So what does a yoga therapist do? As we in the west are beginning to see, yoga is a powerful scientific system that can maintain and create health and wellbeing. Yoga includes the physical postures, specific movements and movement patterns, breathing exercises, chanting, meditation, visualization, and life style recommendations. A yoga therapist uses these tools to create a program that is targeted to benefit the needs of the individual. A yoga therapist may not seek to cure the problem, but to help the individual cope with, and reduce the negative symptoms of a problem or disease, and live a fuller more satisfying life. Yoga therapy empowers individuals to help themselves.
Yoga therapy is beneficial for structural issues such as: back pain, neck pain, any joint pain, postural problems, like scoliosis, balance and stability problems, to name a few.
Yoga therapy benefits physiological/neurological issues such as: asthma, COPD, IBS, Crohn’s Disease, Parkinson’s disease, Multiple Sclerosis, ulcers, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, arthritis, migraine headaches, infertility, menstrual problems, menopausal symptoms, fibromyalgia, etc.
Yoga therapy also benefits psychological issues such as: depression, anxiety, insomnia, fear, focus and concentration issues, and addictions.
A yoga therapist understands that none of the problems we suffer from as humans exists in a vacuum. A person may have cancer and be experiencing back pain, and nausea, and perhaps insomnia and a fear of death. All of these issues would be addressed by the yoga therapist in a manner consistent with the client’s capabilities and beliefs systems. The benefit to the client could be a reduction in the need for sleeping medication, better nutrition due to less nausea, less back pain and feeling less fear and more at peace.
Most importantly, a yoga therapist sees the individual as a whole human being, not as their disease or pain.