What is Yoga Therapy?

 

Yoga therapy is utilizing principles and practices for a particular person in order to reach a goal. 

It can help heal various kinds of somatic and psychological issues ranging from back problems to emotional distress.

The goal may be physiological, psychological or spiritual.

 

It's integrative

Yoga Therapy contains an understanding of the human as an integrated body-mind system. 

A yoga therapist has a lot of training in allopathic medicine and pathology in order to understand the diagnostics that patients come with and the effects of the medications.

A yoga therapist represents the integration of traditional yoga with the latest Western medical knowledge.

So, a certified yoga therapist compliments other modern healthcare modalities. Contributing different tools and perspectives, they're great partners for physical therapists, chiropractors, psychologists and surgeons. 

Yoga therapy is especially useful for athletic activities, and long periods of time sitting at a computer.

 

It's Science-Based

Within the scientific community, a lot of studies have been illustrating how yogic practices promote healing, improve sleep patterns, and enhance overall well-being and quality of life - among other things. 

Pioneers in the field have massive amounts of empirical evidence documenting the effectiveness of yoga therapy for issues such as ::

Sciatica, spondylolisthesis, depression, anxiety, hip/knee surgery rehab, chronic back pain, fibromyalgia, arthritis, spinal disc injuries, digestive issues, insomnia, hypo/hyperthyroidism, chronic fatigue and more.
In a study on osteoporosis, 741 patients were followed over 10 years and showed improving bone mineral density due to their yoga therapy. In a miracle cure for rotator cuff issues, Loren Fishman, M.D. found that in 1,200 participants over 15 years, 90% were feeling 80% better.

The disease process is affected by strategically applying yogic technologies, and the research is showing that. 

 

Yogic Principles

The training and experience that a yoga therapist receives is vast. Each of the underlying principles is a study of humanity and so an experienced therapist will have incorporated understandings as a way of life.

A yoga therapist has done a lot of textual study, and the principles shouldn't disappear when the book gets closed. A trained yoga therapist knows about using wisdom to study ourselves.

An ancient, systematic approach to realizing our wholeness is the Yoga Sutras, where right there it tells how to get out of the pain and suffering that's happening on a daily basis.

"The impulsations {vrittis} arise within the mind as waves in the ocean manifest in a number of ways, some of which are 1) turbulent waves like a stormy sea; 2) a calm surface with turbulent undertow; 3) calm, placid, completely still waters with no undertow." - Rama Jyoti Vernon, Beloved Teacher

The moment to moment practical psychology of the Sutras teaches acts of resolving inner conflict {yamas}, steps to transform outer conflict {niyamas}, breath and more subtle work {pranayama}, postures {asana} self reflective inward focus and meditation. 

The therapist uses background knowledge to intelligently conceive steps, Ayurveda and it's considerations of an individual in diet and lifestyle being a foundation. Also mantra, imagery and ritual to meet the need of the individual.

The origins run deep and for at least thousands of years practitioners have steeped in this ways, discovering and sharing roadmaps to understanding the mind.

The Yoga therapist has studied and navigated these truths and can support students.

 

Scope of Practice

A Yoga therapist isn't a doctor. When working with someone with cancer, she doesn't say, "Why don't you stop using chemo and try breathe work instead?" The patient would be encouraged to see a doctor and work with the Yoga therapist to improve digestion and sleep, stimulate the immune system, or help the person feel better about themselves. So, it's complementary, not primary for conditions like cancer. {Gary Kraftsow}

The first step in effective yoga therapy is careful assessment of the individual's condition. The right strategy is determined considering which elements to include, when it should be done and for how long.

The clearer the needs and tools available, the more effective the practice. 

A yoga therapist has a network of trusted health practitioners. So if something falls outside of the scope, or there's a better support system in mind, they will refer in the patient's best interest. 

A yoga therapist has appreciation of a healthy therapeutic relationship, including appropriate feedback mechanisms and follow-through treatment.

They're like an advocate, helping keep the patient on track, setting goals with a patient {goals are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time bound}. A short term goal may be pain relief. Long term may be to have the ability to keep doing those favorite activities. 

Going to a public group class is significantly beneficial, and due to a high level of individualization, yoga therapists work most effectively one on one. 

The yoga therapist's goal is to empower, so the yoga can be replicated with confidence by the patient in a way that fits into daily habits and responsibilities. 

 

"Yoga therapy empowers individuals to progress toward improved health and well-being through the application of the philosophy and practice of Yoga." {International Association of Yoga Therapists}. 

 

Lauren Ziegler, RYT500, is a Yoga Therapy practitioner currently completing Level 2 Yoga Therapy Training through IAYT 800 hours plus clinical hours. Fueled by personal experience {read more here} She's passionate about helping people with pain and stress management. 

 

Lauren Ziegler