As yoga increases in popularity and validity, its therapeutic applications are also growing. In addition to being a practice for the physical body, yoga is evolving as a way to address individual aspects of healing physically, emotionally, psychologically, and mentally. The field of Yoga Therapy has grown exponentially and is evolving to address all types of physical, mental and emotional imbalances.
But what is Yoga Therapy, really? Throughout the history of hatha yoga (asana, pranayama, and relaxation), it has been utilized therapeutically. Long before the present day “Yoga Therapist,” yoga teachers and gurus were prescribing yoga asana and breathing techniques to deal with physical, mental, and emotional obstacles. Today’s yoga therapy addresses a multitude of concerns ranging from physical health to psychological balance, but one aspect that all yoga therapy disciplines have in common is approaching each person as a whole unified being and addressing their specific issues from an integrative perspective.
In most cases, yoga therapy is done on a one-on-one basis, where the therapist can specifically address the individual needs of the client. The goal of yoga therapy is to increase the quality of life regardless of diagnosis or prognosis by incorporating the ancient yogic principles into a healing regimen. This can take shape in a variety of ways, from the incorporation of yogic exercises and breathing techniques into psychotherapy or meditative techniques into medical situations.
Yoga therapist Antonio Sausys defines yoga therapy as “the possibility of accessing self-knowledge that will enable us to change that what we consider dysfunctional. The applications of Yoga Therapy range anywhere from maintaining health, to recovering from illness – in some cases, even those considered incurable.” Ancient sciences like Ayurvedic medicine have been utilizing yoga therapy for millennia to address bringing the Self back into balance and all levels of personal well-being.
And today, Ayurvedic practitioners continue to utilize yoga as a component of healing. In addition to Ayurveda, there are numerous yoga therapy disciplines. Integrative Yoga Therapy, founded by Joseph LePage, “focuses on the path of Yoga as a healing journey that brings balance to the body and mind through an experiential understanding of the primary intention of Yoga: awakening of Spirit, our essential nature.” While Gary Kraftsow’s Viniyoga “refers to the adaptation and application of Yoga techniques and practices to help individuals facing health challenges at any level manage their condition, reduce symptoms, restore balance, increase vitality, and improve attitude.”
Many other disciplines of yoga therapy have emerged as the proof of its effectiveness has grown. Mukunda Stiles created Structural Yoga Therapy which is rooted in physical form and function, and Michael Lee founded Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy which has a strong psychological component that “through a combination of classical yoga techniques and elements of contemporary body-mind psychology, encourages a deeper connection with self.” To find out more about choices in yoga therapy and where to find a yoga therapist in your area visit the website of the International Association of Yoga Therapists.