Yoga Therapy 101

A friend recently asked me if yoga therapy meant that I teach certain yoga postures for a given health condition. Others have asked if yoga therapy is a “gentle” yoga class.  To each, I have responded that yoga therapy is a client-centered intervention that  focuses on the individual person and his or her specific symptoms and needs. It may or may not involve use of asana (yoga postures).  Yoga therapy is traditionally applied during a one-on-one session, though it also works well with groups of people with similar conditions.

During individual sessions, I conduct an initial intake interview and assessment, with reassessment at subsequent sessions. I use therapeutic strategies to help clients develop a personalized, self-care program.  I listen to what my clients say and observe visual cues to help me understand their needs. The client does the work; I am a facilitator.

I love the adaptability of yoga therapy.  Each individual is unique. Two people with the same health condition may have different symptoms and experiences living with the condition, and they may have different responses to to a similar therapeutic intervention.  I will use a one approach with clients that prefer a morning practice, and another with clients that need a specific practice to help quiet them for restful sleep. Someone that has difficulty getting going in the morning may benefit from strategies to build energy; he or she may need a few mini practices to ease the process of getting out of bed.  On the other hand, clients with busy family and work lives may do best with “yoga snacks” that they can intersperse throughout the day. The strategy is designed to achieve an intentional therapeutic function.  

Understanding the relationship between the breath, movement, and the autonomic nervous system provide a foundation for for the therapeutic intervention. Yoga therapists work with clients to develop practices for self-care, improve function, reframe patterns, and find a place of ease when faced with inevitable challenges.