Guest Author - Terri Johansen
Yoga can be soothing and healing to a troubled psyche and is often used as a form of therapy. However, my references to yoga therapy deals more with specific physical ailments and conditions in which yoga can help relieve or alleviate symptoms. However, yoga therapy does not deal only with the physical aspects of an illness or condition. Since yoga represents the union of the mind, body and spirit, it would be impossible to treat a physical condition without taking into account the individual’s emotional, mental and spiritual condition.
Yoga as therapy is somewhat new to the west, though it has been used and practiced for several thousand years, since its origin in the eastern part of the world. Some styles of yoga use the study of yoga therapy as a basis for their instruction. Two of these styles are Viniyoga, developed by T.K.V. Desikachar and Iyengar Yoga, developed by B.K.S. Iyengar. Both of these great teachers trained under one of the best known yogis of modern times, Krishnamacharya; Desikachar being his son. Krishnamacharya is responsible for the development of several modern styles of yoga, which were introduced by his students.
Yoga as therapy can be used in a class setting in which an entire class may practice a sequence designed to alleviate a specific ailment such as headaches. It can provide teachers with unlimited choices in developing lesson plans related to common ailments, especially those that are stress-related. Students can benefit from classes designed around these healing fundamentals.
In its purest form yoga therapy is best used as an individual practice, so that the individual’s entire makeup (mind, body, spirit) can be taken into consideration in the design of the practice. The design focuses on the uniqueness of the individual and includes information from all areas of the person’s life; lifestyle habits, living and work environment, personal beliefs and career, to name a few. This is not be possible in a class setting, therefore yoga as therapy is more generic in a class setting and very specific in an individual practice.
A yoga therapist may go thru many steps in order to evaluate an individual before setting up a prescribed practice. These steps will vary with each therapist but in general they will contain the following:
1. Interview the student’s basic background. This background helps the therapist determine where this person is at this point in their life and how does this affect their current health condition.
2. The therapist may then discuss with the student what role a particular health condition has taken in their life, as well as what inner and outer circumstances may contribute to the condition. Personal healing must take place on all levels and may sometimes require changes in attitudes and/or actions.
3. Is stress a related a factor? When we are at cross-purposes with our world it can create a stress response within the body. Many illnesses can be related back to a chronic stress-response. This can result from inner conflict as well as outer situational conflict.
4. The yoga therapist will then draw upon their yoga training and experience to evaluate what yogic resources are available and are specifically valuable to the treatment of your condition. These resources could include breathing practices (pranayama), physical poses (asana), sound therapy (chanting), meditation techniques, visualization and affirmations.
5. Taking into consideration the previous steps, the yoga instructor will develop a therapeutic practice for the individual,addressing the wellness of the “entire” individual and not merely the symptoms
A therapeutic practice for the individual in yoga therapy, will address the wellness of the “entire” individual and not merely the symptoms. Students have a hands-on relationship with their personal healing process. It is up to the student to follow the prescribed practice diligently in order to see positive results. The student is also responsible for communicating their needs to the therapist. The therapist can modify the practice on an ongoing basis as the student adapts and their needs change.
Yoga as therapy can be considered a viable treatment option for those looking for an holistic approach to health issues. Each individual has the opportunity to form the union of traditional yogic belief between the mind, body and spirit, and by so doing experience optimal health and wellness. The yoga therapist can help to facilitate this union providing a safe non-discriminatory atmosphere for the student to develop, grow and heal.
Practice yoga, live right.
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