WHAT IS YOGA THERAPY?
The yoga tradition views humans as a multidimensional system that includes all aspects of body; breath; and mind, intellect, and emotions and their mutual interaction. Yoga is founded on the basic principle that intelligent practice can positively influence the direction of change within these human dimensions, which are distinct from an individual’s unchanging nature or spirit.The practices of yoga traditionally include, but are not limited to, asana, pranayama, meditation, mantra, chanting, mudra, ritual, and a disciplined lifestyle.
Yoga therapy is the appropriate application of these teachings and practices in a therapeutic context in order to support a consistent yoga practice that will increase self-awareness and engage the client/student’s energy in the direction of desired goals.The goals of yoga therapy include eliminating, reducing, or managing symptoms that cause suffering; improving function; helping to prevent the occurrence or re- occurrence of underlying causes of illness; and moving toward improved health and wellbeing. Yoga therapy also helps clients/students change their relationship to and identification with their condition.
The practice of yoga therapy requires specialized training and skill development to support the relationship between the client/student and therapist and to effect positive change for the individual.
Yoga therapy is informed by its sister science, Ayurveda.As part of a living tradition, yoga therapy continues to evolve and adapt to the cul- tural context in which it is practiced, and today, it is also informed by contemporary health sciences. Its efficacy is supported by an increasing body of research evidence, which contributes to the growing understanding and acceptance of its value as a therapeutic discipline. (from IAYT.org)
“From IAYT’s perspective, yoga therapy is not “diagnosing and treating” health conditions. While it’s not easy to summarize a wide range of healing practices in just a few words, we might say yoga therapists “assess and educate” in order to “empower individuals to improve their health and wellbeing through the application of the teachings and practices of yoga”. (John Kepner, from the IAYT.org site).
Thoughts about yoga therapy from Doug Keller:
Yoga Therapy centers upon empowerment and in yoga therapy the client is the expert. Yoga Therapy is relationship-and patient-centered. It can be evidence informed but more importantly it is outcome based, as judged primarily by the client (and should of course be judged by the client in conjunction with medical consultation, in cases of recovery from injury or disease.) The yoga therapist should be in a position to understand and appreciate medical advice, but is not in a position to give it--and should be careful of the temptation to dismiss it. That is the client’s choice, not the yoga therapist’s prerogative. And the yoga therapist should not take the position of fostering negative attitudes or prejudices toward medical diagnosis and treatment. Instead, we help clients develop deeper and more meaningful mind-body connections that help inform their journey towards improved health and well-being. The tools for this are the practices in which the client engages. And in the end, those who promote the therapeutic wisdom of yoga do best when the ‘big picture’ is maintained; that this is all about supporting the body’s own process of self healing.
- Doug Keller and Susan at his workshop in Norman, Oklahoma, 2018.