Yoga is a form of exercise that helps people acquire inner peace and better concentration and awareness. But some people are introduced to yoga because of mental and physical health issues that made them seek a certified yoga therapist.
What is yoga therapy, and what are the issues it helps resolve? What are its benefits, and what should you expect when you undergo a yoga therapy session?
If you or anyone you know suffers from mental health conditions, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other mental and physical health concerns, know that you don’t have to suffer alone. If you have tried everything but still feel like something is missing, you may want to know more about yoga therapy.
The Definition: Yoga Therapy
Yoga therapy uses guided imagery, meditation, breathing exercises, and yoga postures to improve conditions dealing with mental and physical issues. Yoga therapy is different from a typical yoga practice.
It aims to improve mental state and a person’s overall well-being. It involves a treatment plan that will teach you about self-care. It will work wonders for cancer survivors, patients with multiple sclerosis, low back pain issues, heart disease, and more.
Instead of a yoga teacher leading a yoga practice of several practitioners, a yoga therapy session is one-on-one. You will go to a certified yoga therapist for each session.
Yoga therapy uses a holistic approach to integrate the connection of one’s spirit, body, and mind. Modern yoga therapy implements different healing methods, including physiology, psychotherapy, and physical therapy.
A Brief Lookback into the Origins of Yoga Therapy
Yoga therapy has the same roots as the yoga practice. Both originated in India a thousand years back.
Yoga found its way to the US in the latter part of the 1800s, but yoga therapy was only introduced in the 1980s. Dr. Dean Ornish conducted a research study that paved the way for the discovery of yoga therapy.
Dr. Ornish included yoga therapy as part of healthy lifestyle actions that could reverse heart disease. His findings were picked up in 1990 and approved for insurance coverage.
Since then, the health industry has started taking yoga seriously by including it in their treatment plans.
Yoga therapy was standardized in 1983 by the Biomedical Yoga Trust. Six years later, the International Association of Yoga Therapists was put up, contributing to the creation of standards for yoga therapy and hosting yoga conferences. The International Association of Yoga Therapists is also responsible for publishing the Journal of the International Association of Yoga Therapists.
Common Conditions Yoga Therapy Can Help in Healing
Yoga therapy can be healing as long as you seek sessions from therapists trained in the practice. It can be used as a treatment for physical and mental health concerns.
Yoga therapy is an effective treatment for body-focused concerns due to trauma, stress, and chronic pain. When you keep all these factors in you for a long time, they will manifest as pain, depression, or anxiety the moment you least expect them.
You were not born with depression or anxiety, but outside factors contributed to what you are dealing with. You don’t have to keep them all in.
For example, you don’t have to hide from other people that you are suffering from anxiety, especially those who care about you. Yoga therapy can also help you turn negative feelings into positive thoughts and calmness, which you can get with the sessions, meditations, and practices you will undergo with your therapist.
Yoga therapy sessions with trained therapists can also be used to help a person recover from mental health issues that include the following:
- Substance abuse
- Bipolar disorder
- Autism Alcohol dependence
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Eating disorders
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
- Panic disorders
Benefits of Yoga Therapy and How It is Practiced
Yoga therapy sessions offer many benefits if you seek treatment from qualified yoga therapists.
Other forms of therapy also integrate yoga therapy into their treatment and therapeutic practice. For one, physical therapists use yoga therapy in their massage sessions with clients.
This is the same with other forms of treatment, such as psychotherapy and rehabilitative therapy. The practices integrate yoga into the treatment plan. The therapist applies the appropriate yoga therapy ideas into their practices.
Yoga therapy is ideally one-on-one with a patient and a yoga therapist, which makes it quite different from a yoga class. But there are cases when yoga therapists allow more than one patient, as long as it is limited to a small group per session.
Yoga therapy uses yoga techniques ranging from beginner to advanced, depending on the age and condition of the person undergoing the treatment. Yoga therapists can use the medium to treat the issue directly. They can also apply yoga therapy as an adjunct therapy to other treatment techniques.
According to a 2011 study, yoga therapy effectively reduces clients’ anxiety and boosts their mindfulness, relaxation, physical health, and mental health.
Therefore, yoga therapy offers benefits, such as improved body functions, a healthier diet, healthy blood pressure levels, and psychological well-being.
Yoga Therapy – What to Expect?
When you go to yoga therapists, prepare for an initial assessment. This is similar to how a yoga teacher assesses a person’s flexibility upon enrollment.
They want to know more about your physical and mental health. They may also ask you to do certain physical postures to determine your fitness level.
Upon meeting with therapists, they would want to know the following:
- Know the exact concerns you have with your health
- Assess your physical strength (or weakness)
- Know more about your lifestyle
- Ask for the reasons why you have decided to undergo yoga therapy
- Make a plan on how the treatment would go
After the yoga therapists have gathered the necessary information, they will give you an idea of how long it will take. Yoga therapy can be done in six weeks or more, depending on your health concerns.
Each session of your therapy with a yoga therapist will include the following:
Your yoga therapist will teach you how to meditate while doing yoga poses. They aim to make you more mindful and relaxed.
Asana or Physical Postures
Your yoga therapist will guide you on how to do yoga poses that can help address your health concerns.
Pranayama or Breathing Exercises
Yoga therapists teach their clients the proper way of breathing while doing yoga poses. This way, it will be easier for you to maintain balance and posture as the therapist conducts yoga therapy.
The therapist will conduct guided visualization to help calm your mind and body until you find inner peace.
Yoga therapy differs from yoga but uses similar postures, meditation, and breathing techniques. If you want to begin learning about yoga, it is best to go to a pro who has been in the industry for many years.