What is yoga therapy?
What is yoga therapy
Have you heard about yoga therapy? This relatively new field in wellness offers big results across the entire world of wellness. Yoga has been around for more than 5000 years, but the field of yoga therapy first became mainstream in the early 1980’s. Thanks to Dr. Dean Ornish’s study looking at lifestyle to reverse heart disease in which therapeutic yoga was first introduced as a way to incorporate yoga in a clinical manner for health.
Yoga practitioners can and will offer volumes of anecdotal evidence that yoga as part of any wellness journey is beneficial. Optimizing the mind-body connection that modern living has dulled over the years is the ultimate in self-care- increasing your connection to what is happening in your body. The mind-body connection is a grass roots method for individuals to begin to make the necessary lifestyle changes in the name of disease prevention and healthy living.
Specifically, yoga therapy is using physical yoga movements, breathing practices, and meditation with a targeted outcome or goal. Because of the versatile and accessible nature of yoga it can be done by anyone for just about any purpose.
Some examples of yoga therapy are:
Physical pain or limitations
As an adjunct treatment for
Medical management of chronic disease
To support cancer care
Menopause & healthy aging
There is no end to the benefits of yoga, and therapeutic yoga is being offered more and more as the field grows. I have been using yoga therapy as an adjunct to nutrition therapy for more than 5 years with great success.
Is yoga therapy right for me
Yoga therapy isn’t for everyone, although it is accessible enough that anyone can do it. To begin with, as with any kind of wellness practice or therapy there is an investment of time and money, availability of practitioners, and a desire to embark on a practice that may take many weeks to see results.
Most students of yoga therapy see immediate results in some way. For instance, as an adjunct to chiropractic treatment, yoga therapy can support the relief found after treatment by strengthening the alignment achieved with your chiropractors help. Yoga therapy after an alignment would use targeted postures to support alignment of the spine, mindfulness to increase proprioception (or your ability to know when your body is aligned correctly), and flow to strengthen the functional movement while maintaining correct alignment.
In short, yoga therapy will help you stay aligned after treatment so that continued chiropractic care can advance instead of repeatedly fixing the same issues over and over.
Not all yoga therapy is physical in nature. Yoga therapy as an adjunct treatment to nutrition therapy involves practices to learn how you react to specific situations and make food choices as a result. A recent client who was also in treatment for an eating disorder found comfort from meditation and was able to work through some of her destructive food habits in favor of nourishing habits. I have worked with many conditions from diabetes to weight management and each situation is unique in modality and length of treatment.
In order for yoga therapy to be effective, a student needs to believe in their ability to make meaningful change. If you just go through the motions without belief in the outcomes you won’t be successful because you don’t believe that success is possible. The ideal yoga therapy candidate has a desire to make meaningful change and the motivation to do the work.
Yoga therapy can take a while to show success. This can be frustrating for certain situations- like fertility, when emotions are running high, money is running out, and time is usually a factor. This is where trusting in the process actually makes the process go more smoothly, of course there are no guarantees in success, only in your ability to optimize your wellness increasing your chances of success.
The most interesting thing about yoga therapy is that anyone can do it. Even the most physically challenged individuals can use yoga to explore their physical limitations and push further and stronger. This is proven in soldiers with both PTSD and physical injury- yoga therapy has been shown to help soldiers return to a quality of life sometimes exceeding their lifestyle prior to injury.
The only limiting factor in who can benefit from yoga therapy is your belief that you will be successful.
What to expect in a yoga therapy session:
A yoga therapy session is vastly different from your typical yoga class. To begin with the entire session is built around your goals, that’s why initially you’ll have an intake assessment similar to an extensive health history you might have experienced at your doctor or therapists office.
Each session will have a short practice for you to understand the shapes or activities that you will be conducting at home over the next several weeks, and then you’ll receive your homework- usually in printed or video form. If your yoga therapist is trained in nutrition, you’ll likely receive a nutrition program as well to compliment your yoga practice.
What to expect:
Intake- what’s going on with you, and what is your goal?
Practice- this is the good stuff! Learn how to get to your goal. This will change over time.
Nutrition- optional and only if your yoga therapist is trained in nutrition.
Homework- this is where the work happens, you’ll do this on your own at home.
What is yoga therapy good for?
As I mentioned above, yoga therapy has many uses. The most common being to support physical therapy, chiropractic care, or nutrition care. Below is a list of common ailments that may benefit from yoga therapy:
Menopause & perimenopause
PMS, PMDD, Endometriosis
Chronic disease: high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol
Compliment cancer treatment
Any condition where self-care is beneficial