Updated: Aug 7
I am a yoga therapy student and I’m now beginning the clinical internship portion of my education. This means I’ll be working with groups and individuals delivering yoga therapy, supervised by a mentor yoga therapist, with the goal of helping my clients reach optimal health and wellness.
Reaching optimal health and wellness may mean overcoming difficult physical, mental and emotional conditions, but what’s most interesting about the practice of yoga therapy is that overcoming the challenges of a diagnosis or a condition doesn’t always mean what we think.
As yoga therapists (in training) the journey of finding the clients we are meant to serve begins with teaching people what yoga therapy is. And what it isn’t.
In a training last week, I worked with my classmates to create our own definitions of what yoga therapy is. Here are some of the things we came up with.
Yoga therapy is an evidence-based, clinical approach to yoga. Using the tools and practices of yoga, it complies to professional standards, takes in to account the needs of the individual with the goal being ongoing self-empowerment in health and healing. Yoga helps build resilience and teaches self-regulation.
The yoga tradition views humans as a multi-dimensional system that that includes all aspects of the body. It is an assessment-based approach that uses traditional yoga tools to support a consistently balanced lifestyle that will increase your self-awareness and engage your energy in the direction of your desired goals.
Yoga therapy is a self-empowering process that builds resilience and heals past wounds using the tools and practices of yoga so that we can find clarity and make brave choices to live a life of purpose.
Yoga therapy addresses all aspects of the human being, physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. It recognizes that we can’t fix a specific problem without addressing all of the layers of the human experience that the problem touches.
It’s not just a yoga class. It’s probably not even a lot of yoga poses. It can’t cure diseases necessarily, but it can make your life better in spite of a medical diagnosis. Yoga therapy is a newish (at least to the western world) healing modality that more and more is being recommended by medical professionals and healthcare providers.
So what can you expect from yoga therapy?
If you decide to begin to work with a yoga therapist to address back pain, for example, you’re going to do some postures and poses to improve strength and mobility, but you’re also going to learn to manage the stress and difficult emotions that the back pain creates, knowing that sensations of pain are amplified when we’re tense.
You’re going to begin to explore the thoughts and feelings you’re having as a result of the chronic pain. You’re going to explore how the pain is affecting all aspects of your life, from sleep, to daily activities, to your relationships and social life.
After several sessions with your yoga therapist you will have found ways to ease and manage the physical pain sensations and you will have found acceptance that the pain may return or never actually subside, but you will have learned tools to use to manage the stress and anxiety that living with chronic pain can trigger.
Yoga may not be able to cure disease, but it can help you manifest health and optimal wellness. It can also help you learn that those two ideas can exist at the same time.
I've created a Free Resource to help you begin a healing journey using the tools and practices of yoga. You can get your 3 Tools for Building Resilience and Healing Through Yoga here.