what is yoga therapy?
Updated: Feb 7
Yoga therapy is a self-care approach to wellness, guided and supported by a yoga therapist.
Yoga therapy allows you to participate in your own healing. Instead of being a passive recipient of medicine (popping a pill or receiving a massage), yoga therapy gives you the tools to be an active participant in the healing process.
It is a holistic body-mind approach. When we are sick or injured, aside from our body, many other parts of us are also affected, such as our mood, attention and sleep, and more. Often we try to ignore seeing the big picture and our place in it.
Yoga therapists can employ different yoga techniques such as physical postures, mindful movement, breathing, relaxation techniques, meditation, sound, guided imagery, etc. They are personalized to fit the current needs and interests of the individual, and they address not only the physical body but also the breath, mind, emotions, and lifestyle habits in a way that is safe and focused on particular health or life challenges.
What happens prior to and during yoga therapy work?
Prior to the first session with your therapist, you will be asked to complete a health information questionnaire, where you can describe your condition, exacerbating and relieving factors, etc. During your first in-person session, your yoga therapist will discuss your health and well-being, assess your posture, breathing and movement patterns guide you through some restorative yoga and relaxation.
Then, the therapist will create a yoga routine designed specifically for you, based on the assessment, that fits with your goals. The second session consists of guided practice (your therapist will teach you how to do it) and discussion. You will go back home with a routine that is tailored to meet your individual needs and capabilities.
It is usually recorded on paper or as a video for you. You will not need to buy anything. No additional tools, props, etc. are necessary to do the therapeutic yoga practice. Just you, your body, your breath, and your attention - that’s all you need. All magic is in your hands now – if you practice according to the plan. It is said that 90% of success is sticking to this regular, daily commitment to your home practice. Moreover, you won’t need to see the yoga therapist again for two to four weeks (frequency varies depending upon health challenge).
Your goals could include things such as improving your sleep, getting rid of aches in your back, shoulders, hips, and knees...., working on joints & muscle stiffness, general stress reduction and its management, issues related to peri-menopause and autoimmune conditions, etc.
Many health problems are caused by bad habits over which we potentially have control. These include not enough exercise, eating junk food, drinking too much, thinking in a negative, hopeless way that we are too weak to change.
“If you always do what you’ve always done,
you’ll always get what you’ve always got.”
I like that saying (attributed to Henry Ford by many, but its origin is uncertain), as it summarises the process of healing and empowers the intention towards making changes.
Yoga therapy can help you to break bad habits by giving you a sense of control and inner mastery. Certainly, as you become more aware of your body and mind through yoga practice, you will start to be more aware of the reasons for your lack of care for your body and mind, and more able to change for the better.