Q: What is the difference between Yoga and Yoga Therapy?
A: An International Assn. of Yoga Therapists (IAYT) definition reads…“Yoga Therapy is the process of empowering individuals to progress toward improved health and well-being through the application of the philosophy and practice of Yoga.”
Yoga is a system that works to create union (derived from ‘yuj’, the Sanskrit word meaning ‘to join’) of the body, mind and spirit. It seeks to create balance, both on the yoga mat and in life. The practice of yoga brings the individual into a calmer and relaxed state of being, reducing the stress response system. Yoga offers improved strength and flexibility bringing more blood flow and oxygen to every cell/system in your body. The circulatory, digestive and respiratory systems are impacted through the postures and breath work. The calming and strengthening of the nervous system clears the mind of unnecessary clutter. Emotional wellbeing and spiritual awareness is heightened resulting in more joy, greater peace. Yoga´s cultivation of peace of mind in turn impacts the immune, cardiovascular and nervous systems. When all systems are balanced, you create optimal health and wellness.
Yoga Therapy involves working with the client one on one or in a small therapeutic group. An evaluation is done to access the individual´s strengths, imbalances and special considerations and to determine how they impact his/her wellbeing. As a Registered Physical Therapist, special attention is given to addressing the individual´s posture and alignment.
Following the assessment, Yoga Therapy involves adapting the physical postures of Yoga (asanas) to meet the individual´s specific needs. The yoga student is directed toward self-awareness, without judgement, to create greater self-acceptance. This individualized attention creates a safe environment to practice yoga. Throughout the practice, yoga breath work (pranayama), is incorporated into the session to maximize the healing benefits.
Q: What is the difference between traditional Western medical treatment (ie Physical Therapy) and Yoga Therapy?
A: Yoga Therapy offers a holistic approach in which one strengthens both the body and the mind. It involves an interactive process between teacher and student in which all aspects of wellbeing are considered. Unlike Physical Therapy, breath work is a vital component in the process. Yoga Therapy emphasizes both developing keen body awareness and relaxation. As a result, besides the strengthening and improved flexibility that occurs in the physical body with traditional medicine such as PT, Yoga Therapy also strengthens the nervous system by making it resilient, boosts immunity, and makes breathing easier. By impacting emotional wellbeing as well, one experiences an optimal opportunity to create greater healing and health.
Yoga Therapy should be viewed as a compliment to traditional Western medicine. A yoga therapist plans the session based on the student´s needs, strengths, limitations and known contraindications. Careful observation of the student´s responses provides the basis for further modifications in the program. A properly directed Yoga Therapy practice is very unlikely to have harmful interactions with other medical treatment.
WHYoga~PT integrates the scientific knowledge of a Physical Therapy and Anatomy background with the Eastern philosophy of Yoga thereby offering the student the best of both worlds!
Q: What certification is required of a Yoga Therapist?
A: Currently there are no specific standards or licensure required for Yoga Therapists. It is wise to seek out teachers who have a Physical Therapy degree. Yoga teachers registered with the Yoga Alliance verify training by an accredited program for Yoga Teacher Training involving 200+hours.
Q: Is Yoga/Yoga Therapy right for me?
A: Yoga is for everyone, not just those who are already strong and flexible. No prior experience is necessary. Yoga Therapy offers appropriate adaptations to enable those with specific health issues and concerns to enjoy the many benefits of yoga. There are no age limitations; yoga helps keep you youthful throughout the aging process. The role yoga plays in stress reduction alone explains why yoga is right for everyone.
Q: Is Yoga a Religion?
A: Yoga is not a religion; it is a mind/body/spirit philosophy for living. Those who practice yoga in the United States represent many different religious backgrounds. Yoga and Yoga Therapy are compatible with Christianity. Although there is a spiritual side of Yoga, a student doesn´t have to ‘hook into” any particular beliefs to benefit from the practice of yoga.
Meditation originated in yoga and remains an integral part of yoga due to its healing effectiveness. Centering Prayer is the Christian version of meditation. Suggested reading: “Open Mind, Open Heart” by Fr. Thomas Keating for more info on Centering Prayer and meditation. “Full Catastrophe Living” by Jon Kabat-Zinn details Medical meditation. The practice of yoga allows it to be adapted to fit anyone´s personal spiritual needs. However, if it feels strange, just don´t do it!