Yoga therapy involves using yogic principles and techniques by adapting them to the individual in order to address their physical, emotional or spiritual needs and promote overall well-being. The techniques can include the use of movement, breath, meditation, relaxation, visualisation, yoga philosophy and chanting – all of which make up the yogic teachings of yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana and samadhi. The adaptations of the techniques take into account the practitioners age, culture, beliefs, and goals as well as any physical limitations.
The aim of Yoga Therapy is to promote good health for the person as a whole – the emphasis of this work may be towards the body, the mind, the emotions or a combination of these. The issue may lay primarily in one of these domains, for example, pain caused by a recent spots injury. The therapist and the client would then focus on working with the body and Yoga postures to offer relief, stretch and strengthen the relevant muscle groups. If the pain is worsened by stress, the session may also include learning various ways to help calm the mind, such as breathing and relaxation techniques.
Our wellbeing is a result of many factors – a dynamic combination of body and mind. Chronic physical conditions can cause many unpleasant feelings including depression, anger, frustration and sadness. Similarly, depression, stress and anxiety have been found to cause a weakened immune response, meaning we can become unwell more easily.
Yoga therapy aims to address the physical symptoms, give you the tools to cope with pain and difficult emotions and allow you to become more attuned to your inner voice and live in a more mindful way.
When you book your session, you will be asked to complete a detailed health questionnaire. Following this, we will arrange a 30 minute skype/telephone chat to go over your objectives and what you wish to get out of your sessions. This is done well in advance so that your therapist will have a chance to prepare and tailor your first session to your specific needs.
During your first session we will use a combination of physical postures, breath work, meditation and relaxation techniques to address your issues and work towards your specific goals. You will then be given a set of exercises to practice at home. When you return for your next session we will review the exersices and your progress towards goals and talk about what worked and what didn’t, so that your home practice may be adapted in any way that is needed. It is recommended that you come for therapy once a week, and commit to about 5 sessions, however each case is completely individual and you may feel the benefits after just one session.
Practicing yoga as therapy involves a high degree of self awareness and a deeper understanding of your own body and mind. Often I hear people say 'But I thought all yoga is therapeutic?!' A group yoga class can indeed be therapeutic, however for many people attending regular classes can aggravate their existing conditions rather than alleviate them. In fact, sadly, injury has become a widely accepted part of yoga practice, with many people being pushed beyond their comfort zone.
In yoga therapy session the therapist will identify your areas of strength and weakness and help you to work towards balancing them in a gentle way. Mindful breathing and movement are essential, so is listening to your body and paying attention to your experience, making modifications to the poses as necessary. Props are a 'must have' in a therapeutic yoga session!
Because yoga therapy takes place in a one to one setting, you will have the teachers undivided attention for the duration of the session, which will leave you with a much better understanding of what it is you are doing and why. Your home practice will be specifically tailored to you and your needs at the time, understanding your practice and how it should feel can encourage you to make yoga a part of your daily life without the need to attend regular classes, or being confident to adapt your practice to your body in a group class without the teacher's assistance.
Refining your practice though yoga therapy can help you to address the physical symptoms, give you the tools to cope with pain and difficult emotions and allow you to become more attuned to your inner voice and live in a more mindful way. It may not fix your arthritis or take away your pain but it can give you the ability to manage the symptoms and deal with emotions in a much more effective away.