The case for Yoga Therapy

Traditionally all yoga was therapeutic. Students would usually come to their teacher or guru on a one-on-one basis.

This was important because it enabled the teacher to then guide them through a practice that was very specific and catered to the unique needs and goals of the individual.

In this way, yogic practices, such as posture, breathwork and meditation techniques could be used to help students explore, manage and sometimes even heal a diverse range of health concerns.

Somehow, we have drifted away from therapeutic yoga.

Group yoga dominates

These days we are most likely to learn yoga in more generalised circumstances: in a group-setting where there is a wider range of experience levels, injuries and health needs amongst the students.

The bigger the class, the more difficult it becomes to teach in any individualised way, and the best the teacher can do is offer guidelines for best practice, watch out for anything that could be injurious, and remind students to take a certain level of responsibility for their health and wellbeing.

It’s not that one method is good and one is bad, rather that different learning environments work better for different needs.

It is my belief that some groups of individuals would be much better served with a few one-on-one sessions with a teacher, or at the very least a small yoga therapy class in which the needs of the students are similar, for example, a yoga therapy class for back pain.

Who would benefit the most from one-on-one yoga therapy?

Clients/students who might get the most from a yoga therapy session include:

  • Students with specific physical or mental health concerns e.g. high blood pressure, diabetes, pregnancy
  • Students with chronic injuries

Therapeutic yoga will give these students the tools to modify and adapt their practice to keep them safe and also provide specific techniques that will help them to manage and in many cases ease, improve or even heal their health issues.

With this information, they then may well be able to move on to group classes but with a more sound understanding of what they need to do in such classes to get the best possible experience from them.

Therapeutic Yoga – my conclusion

In my opinion, an advanced yoga practice has nothing to do with our physical prowess in poses (whether we can get our foot behind our head or float into handstand), and everything to do with our willingness to listen and honestly practice with the body that shows up on the mat today, with all of its imperfections, aches, pains and health issues.

When we practice in this way, the practice can then truly be in service of us, not the other way around. That is when yoga becomes therapeutic.

Acknowledgements and thanks to Vicky from Sydney Yoga Therapy for providing this article

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