What is Yoga Therapy?
Yoga Therapy distinguishes itself as a form of one-on-one therapy, with different goals than many of those found in group yoga classes, and, importantly, differences in approaches to psychological material. There are numerous ways of approaching yoga, which when translated from the original Sanskrit means, “to yoke,” or unite. Yoga Therapy encompasses the huge field of psycho-physical-spiritual awareness that makes up a human being, and places priority on the development and integration of each individual, according to one’s unique constitution and situation in life. In its purest essence, Yoga is about stability, growth and deepening one’s connection to the source of life and consciousness.
These private Yoga Therapy sessions are designed for clients who have either specific concerns for which they are seeking help, such as physical limitations or depression/anxiety, or for those who want to develop a home yoga practice, or for people interested in expanding their psycho-physical-spiritual range. Each session is geared toward achieving awareness and concrete change in whatever areas of interest or concern the client presents.
Yoga and the therapeutic model: Therapy, as we understand it in the West, has come to refer to the treatment of psychological symptoms that are causing suffering significant enough to keep one from living a balanced, healthy life, through forms of talk therapy. Yoga Therapy is also concerned with alleviating suffering, but takes a broader approach. Based on scientific principles governing the workings of the body, mind and spirit, yoga emphasizes the importance of a consistent personal practice in order to reap its greatest benefits. The various practice tools includes physical postures (asanas) or movement, breathing exercises, concentration and meditation (mindfulness), self-study and reflection (often with the aid of classic texts), and toning or chanting. As well, restorative asanas that specifically aid the nervous system and energy centers are often an important component for those who are suffering any kind of fatigue, or trauma. When any or all of these disciplines are included in a personal practice, this comprehensive approach brings health and integration to every aspect of being. Yoga Therapy, in the tradition of T. Krishnamacarya– as I practice it–does not specifically refer to using psychotherapy during a session; however, it may include work with the emotions because there can be an emotional component in a yoga practice. In its most basic form, however, Yoga Therapy may simply consist of nothing more than a set of physical postures, done with awareness, which will help to ease suffering.
Below, you will find a list of common ailments or concerns that are often addressed in Yoga Therapy:
- Back pain: acute or chronic
- Joint problems: frozen or hyper-mobile
- Neck and shoulder tension
- Sports Injury Rehabilitation
- Strengthening muscle systems
- Stabiling the sacrum
- Stretching areas that are chronically tight
- Women’s Health Issues
- Digestive problems
- Immune Dysfunction
- Fatigue issues, including Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
- High Blood Pressure
- Headaches and Migraines
- Insomnia and other sleep disorders
- Anxiety and Depression
- Emotional Unrest or Instability
- Chronic Illness
- Inability to Manifest Change
- Spiritual “crisis”
Yoga Therapy for Trauma and PTSD
When humans experience trauma, our bodies and nervous systems become activated to protect us from danger. The sympathetic branch of our nervous system automatically initiates the fight, flight or freeze response. The blood is redirected from the skin and digestive system to the large muscles of our legs and arms to give them more oxygen to fight or flee. Our respiration becomes rapid and shallow. Our heart beats faster. Our pupils dilate to allow the eyes to take in more information. Our blood clotting ability increases. Stress hormones are released in the body. If we cannot fight, we will run fast to escape from danger. Sometimes, if nothing can be done, we freeze, collapse, become numb, so that we do not have to feel the pain of being hurt.
If the body can successfully complete the fight or flight response, and get out of danger by running or defending itself, the vast amount of energy in the body can be released. The nervous system then activates the parasympathetic nervous system, resulting in feelings of warmth, fullness of breath, slowed heart rate, relaxed muscles, and an overall feeling of relief, safety and ease.
However, in many cases of trauma, neither fight nor escape is possible. The vast amount of energy mobilised during the fight and flight response is locked in the body, setting the stage for various symptoms of trauma. The body holds onto its ramped up state. The body is left with an incomplete fight and flight response that keeps repeating itself when triggered by internal or external reminders of the trauma (e.g. dreams, smells, nausea, being around people, being touched, seeing a dog etc), through such body symptoms as fast and strong heartbeat, difficult breathing, muscles tension and pain, sweating, trembling, irritability, sleep problems and anxiety, among many others.
Body symptoms of trauma cannot be alleviated by talk therapy alone. Trauma affects our body and nervous system. It affects how we feel in our body, how we hold it, how we move.
Body-centered therapies can help us slow down, listen and follow the wisdom of the body. As each person will respond uniquely to each threatening situation, it is necessary to tune into, listen to and follow the impulses and tensions of the body in order to support the body to finish incomplete actions and restore it to its pre trauma state. This results in a sense of deep release, openness and ease in the body. Once the body shifts, it is very likely that our emotions, thoughts and beliefs will shift. We may feel safe, relaxed, calm and coherent. As we reconnect to and feel safe in our body, we also reconnect with life, people, and the world.
If you are interested in learning more, you can set up a free 15 minute consult by phone to address all your questions.