What is Yoga therapy?
A formal description from The International Association of Yoga Therapists describes Yoga therapy as a practice that specifically applies yogic teachings and tools, originating in India — physical postures (asanas), breathwork (pranayama), meditation, chanting and mantra (healing through sound), as well as mudra to address an individual’s needs—physically, mentally, emotionally, & even spiritually. The goals of yoga therapy include eliminating, reducing, or managing symptoms that cause suffering; improving function; helping to prevent the occurrence or reoccurrence of underlying causes of illness; and moving toward improved health and wellbeing.
What can you expect from a Yoga therapy private session?
Initial Yoga therapy session, intake interview
Yoga therapy is a body-centered practice which aims to bring healing and ease tension wherever it resides in the joints and muscles in your body. In my experience, imbalances and dis-ease in the physical body most often have a counterpart in the non-material aspects of our being: our breath, our mind, our emotions, our sense of belonging in our life. Yoga Therapy is for you if you wish to take the lead on your own healing path.
Yoga therapy can be different for each person. The thing that offers consistency is what I bring as a therapist. First and foremost, I establish a relationship with you which is more personal, nuanced and sensitive than the typical teacher-student relationship. We create a space where you feel comfortable and safe. This becomes the foundation for the yoga therapy healing process.
Initial Yoga Therapy session, Postural Assessment
Through my guidance you will be invited to grow your somatic (relating to the body as opposed to the mind) awareness by bringing your attention to your breath. You will naturally become aware of sensing yourself from the inside, and you will notice that your thinking mind and your emotions become more even, calmer. This points to the interconnection between your breath, your physical body, your mind and your emotions.
In the initial session, I spend 45 – 60 minutes doing an in-depth interview. First I listen to what has brought you in the door—your primary concern. Then we review relevant aspects of your medical history and establish your overall goals and intentions for the therapy.
I do a postural assessment that helps me begin to understand underlying causes of pain and stress. I assess strength / weakness, flexibility and tightness throughout your physical being. I also am interested in seeing what your breath is like as it is an indicator of holding patterns that may have been in your body for many years. As your breath finds more freedom, you notice a decrease in tension and pain in your body.
Movement assessment (ROM in hip joint)
The therapy itself involves hands-on assisted movement. As we do this, the assessment continues as well as the addressing of what your body is telling me.
By the end of the session, you will typically feel an easing of tension and pain. Often this will be most noticeable in the areas of the neck and shoulders and in your lower back and pelvis.
In short, my intention in that first session is to have you leave with an expanded sense of yourself. You will notice:
- less pain and tension,
- more ease in breathing,
- more fluid movement and
- feeling more embodied.
You will also carry with you a couple of exercises to practice at home that will help you remain in a more relaxed and pain-free state.
Manual arm traction with trunk rotation
Further research based on the assessment done during your first visit allows me to develop a therapy plan that addresses your present health concerns – this usually includes a home-based practice. In general, 4-5 sessions are required to develop and fine-tune a personalized program.
Yoga Therapy, a more comprehensive view
While Yoga Therapy uses the tools of yoga, it is in many ways a very different and more in depth practice—one designed to meet your specific health needs.
Yoga Therapy is based on the ancient Yoga system of India which views each person as a multi-dimensional being. This system is called Pancha-Koshas, which is Sanskrit for “five sheaths” (or layers). This model views each person as having 5 bodies, or sheaths, each made of an increasingly finer grade of energy.
The first one, Annamaya kosha, or physical body, is the densest, and the only one made of matter. The next four are actually energy states which are invisible to the human eye, yet we sense their presence inside us when we pay close attention.
Pranamaya kosha, is the body made of the life force energy, which activates and sustains the physical body.
The five sheaths that pervade our being are :
- Annamaya (physical body),
- Pranamaya (energetic/breath body),
- Manomaya (psycho-emotional body),
- Vijnanamaya (wisdom/insight body) and
- Anandamaya (the bliss body—that which is our truest essence)
To address the individual holistically on each of these layers, Yoga Therapy uses the tools of yoga as appropriate to your individual needs, including but not limited to breath awareness and pranayama (breath practices), asana (physical postures), , mudras (therapeutic hand gestures), meditation, body awareness and relaxation techniques.
In addition to the development and refinement of customized practices, a Yoga Therapy session may consist of any of the following approaches, depending on your current needs and goals, and what you want to learn:
- Hands on guidance in yoga and adaptive yoga poses, breath work, visualizations, meditation and chanting,
- Yoga Nidra (guided deep relaxation),
- Emotional healing
- Sound healing with toning and/or singing bowls,
- Hands-on stretches, joint manipulation and myofascial release.
If you choose to continue Yoga Therapy sessions, I offer you home based practices that will reinforce the effects of our work together. With regular practice on your own, you will maintain the benefits that our sessions provide for you.