What is Yoga Therapy?
Yoga is the most sought-out and widely practiced form of complementary healthcare. From gyms to schools, to hospitals, you can find a yoga class pretty much anywhere. In this yoga-saturated environment, what’s the place of yoga therapy? And what is yoga therapy any way? Isn’t all yoga therapeutic?
The origin of yoga goes back millennia. It is a system of self-realization based on the philosophy of the Vedas, the ancient Indian scriptures. Yoga came to the West in the first half of the 20th century as a system of spiritual self-improvement. But the way yoga is practiced today in most studios and gyms is very far removed from that original purpose. In the past decades, mainstream yoga became part of the fitness industry, and the way it's practiced often makes it inaccessible to those who need it the most. There is a movement to bring yoga back to its roots and yoga therapy is part of that.
Yoga therapy is the application of the tools of yoga (such as asana - posture or mindful movement. meditation, pranayama - breath awareness practices,
mantra - chanting and affirmations, mudra - hand gestures) for individual healing. It is accessible to everyone: if you can breathe you can do yoga. Yoga therapists are trained to safely adapt these practices for common medical conditions. But beyond simply adapting yoga to individual needs, a yoga therapist aims to create a practice that promotes healing on all levels: physical, breath, mental, emotional and spiritual. This holistic approach to health and wellbeing is what makes yoga therapy a transformative experience.
Yoga therapy engages the mind-body connection and develops resilience of the nervous system. Autonomic nervous system both actively mobilizes our mind/body in response to the pressures of our day-to-day lives, and returns it back to the homeostatic, restorative state. Yoga practices make our nervous system more resilient so we can move between the active and the restorative states with ease, and not get stuck in the fight-or-flight response. By grounding ourselves in present-centered awareness we learn to consciously respond to our situation, rather than unconsciously react.
Yoga therapy offers both top-down (influencing the brain first) and bottom-up (influencing the body first) approaches to regulating the autonomic nervous system. This means that we can use the mind to influence the body, and use the body to affect the mind. Working with the body helps us calm the mind, while working with mental practices, such as mindfulness, visualization, intension setting helps us relax and feel more in control, thus reducing the effects of stress, lowering blood pressure, improving immunity, and reducing pain.
Interested in learning how yoga therapy can help you feel better in your body and mind? Book a free 30 min consultation call with Asya.