"Yoga therapy is a dynamic therapy encompassing mind, body and breath to alleviate, empower and energize our whole being" (Sarah Reid).
Yoga Therapy (Yoga Chikitsa) integrates traditional yogic concepts and techniques with a Western evidence-based approach and provides the student with an in-depth analysis of their presenting problem and an appropriate personalized daily practice. The sessions address the person as a multi-dimensional energetic being and the personal practice is prescribed according to the physical, emotional and physiological needs as well as the circumstances of the individual. The health or sickness of any dimension affects the other dimensions and vice versa.
A yoga therapy practice is progressive (Vinyasa Krama), and changes as the client’s requirements change or develop. A personal practice is exclusively tailored to the individual as there is no pre-ordained “recipe” for a person’s condition. This style of yoga is referred to as Viniyoga (Desickachar 2005).
A daily therapy practice does not always involve the prescription of physical postures (asanas) and a student may be given advice on mindfulness/meditation, breath work (pranayama), lifestyle advice or relaxation. Yoga Therapy is not the same as a one on one yoga session, as a therapy session delves much deeper into the root cause of suffering (Dukham) and seeks to assist healing from a holistic perspective. Yoga Therapy is not supposed to take away from medical intervention and works as a complementary therapy rather than an alternative.
Yoga therapists draw on knowledge from the ancient Vedic teachings and philosophies of the Yoga Sutras of Pantanjali (circa 400CE) such as the causes of suffering (the Kleshas), therapy also draws from the principles of Ayurvedic Medicine such as identifying your body type (Dosha), the qualities of your lifestyle pertaining to the Gunas (rajas, tamas and sattvic) and the five elements (fire, air, space, earth and water).
Yoga Therapists utilise the Pancha Maya Model, first depicted in the Taittiriya Upanishad, to delve into the five sheaths/layers of the human energetic system (the physical body, the breath body, the emotional body, the wisdom layer and the bliss layer). This model serves as the basis for the therapeutic application of the postures and breathing exercises. By analysing the interaction of all these bodily systems and their inherent qualities we can establish any “conditioning or patterning” (samskaras) which may be affecting us in each layer.
There is a growing body of evidence within the medical field which embraces therapeutic yoga as a clinically effective intervention for many conditions such as chronic back pain management (Chang et al 2016), diabetes (Innes & Selfe 2016) osteoporosis (Motorwala et al 2016), stress reduction (Sharma 2014), neurological disorders (Mishra et al 2012) , management of oncology patients (lymphatic drainage, pain management, acceptance, grieving) (Kiecolt Glaser 2014).
A consultation will consist of a full subjective and objective assessment to establish the problem (Hetu) and cause (Heyam). Your personal journey will be listened to without judgement and all your needs will be incorporated into your practice. You will be provided with a personalised daily yoga practice which will be set to fit in with your lifestyle and for an agreed length of time. As I mentioned earlier anyone can do yoga, and by doing the practice you will see a change. So why not book in or come to a class to find out more.
Yoga to me is finding balance among the chaos, finding peace within myself and joy in the seemingly small things in life. It makes me stop and watch the sunrise, allow the beauty of our surroundings to diffuse into every cell of my being and to appreciate the journey which we call life. Technology and fast pace living leaves us all with a constant list of things to do, places to go and deadlines to meet. We are often thinking of 15 things whilst trying to do one. No wonder we can't concentrate, no wonder we can't relax and no wonder our stress levels and anxiety are rising along with conditions such as insomnia, auto immune dysfunction and adrenal fatigue.
Yoga has recently become very popular as a form of physical exercise and there seems to be an abundance of classes available. Unfortunately some of these are being conducted by people with great intention, yet limited physical knowledge and this can lead to injury or scare people off returning to class. Yoga seems to have become a new "fad" exercise where people feel that unless they have the correct "yoga clothes" or can bend themselves in half then they are not able to attend. This is such a shame as the whole idea of yoga is to come to peace within our own bodies and not to compare ourselves to others. The actual word "yoga" means to unite/to yolk the mind, body and breath.
Yoga is for anyone. Any size. Any shape. Any fitness. Any flexibility. I hear so often people saying "I can't do yoga as I am not flexible/strong/young enough and I would love to dispel this myth. We do not have to fit any "mold" in our yoga practice. We just need to come with the intention to want to make ourselves feel better.
As we are all individuals and not all postures are suited to everyone. In fact the majority of them were designed for Indian boys to perform so no wonder we can't all do them. Traditional poses can be easily modified to suit each individual to enable you to gain the most you can from your practice. If you can't do a one armed handstand or wrap you feet behind your head (I know I can't) your "yoga" journey will not be restricted. You can find bliss and allow your brain to kick into neutral much easier in a seated pose than hanging upside down!
I am Sarah Reid, Physio. Yoga Therapist, Yoga & Pilates Teacher and mother to two beautiful girls.