When I tell people I facilitate private Therapeutic Yoga sessions, I am often asked “What’s that?” Because I am asked this frequently enough, I felt it appropriate to address here, in this forum.
The International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT) have defined yoga therapy as “Yoga therapy is the process of empowering individuals to progress toward improved health and well-being through the application of the teachings and practices of Yoga.” Of course, you can make this argument for any form of yoga practice. So what makes Therapeutic Yoga different?
Therapeutic Yoga is a one-to-one, private session. Yes, you can find yoga therapy classes. But they are often purposely small classes as there may be several times the teacher needs to assist each student individually. I have led classes and facilitated many private sessions. But, for the purposes of this discussion, I will be focusing on the benefits of private sessions.
At the start of all sessions, your facilitator will check in with you. If its your first visit, they will do a more in-depth formal intake with you. The purpose of these check-ins is to see what your needs are. Is there a health issue or injury, what do you want out of your session, feedback of what has happened since your previous session. The answers to these questions (and many others) will guide your facilitator in developing the specific postures for that session. A typical sessions involves simple stretches to loosen your body followed by postures that you will hold for extended periods of time. These postures are assisted – either with props such as blocks, bolsters, yoga straps or by the facilitator themself. The purpose of this prolonged holding is to allow the student/client to relax fully and allow the stretch to deepen naturally. It takes the client directly into sensations and can lead to a profound releases.
Therapeutic Yoga sessions are performed on a cushioned floor, fully clothed. It has been described as similar to Thai Yoga Therapy, as there is a massage element.
Yoga therapy is a holistic healing art. Rather than prescribe treatments, it invites presence and awareness. Using age-old yogic approaches to deeper presence and awareness, we are able to know ourselves more fully. Out of that knowing, we are more easily moved to embrace the opportunity for change, growth, and enhanced well-being in body, feelings, thought, and spirit.
Therapeutic Yoga utilizes the approach that memories and trauma are held within our body. This “blockage” often manifests as aches, pains, general discomfort and may eventually lead to dis-ease. Stretching the body followed by extended holding of a yoga pose allows the client to move past the initial ache and pain, allowing the deeper trauma to also begin to release.
After sessions, clients report everything from feeling deeply relaxed to feeling a sort of spiritual experience. The majority, however, report that their physical complaints have lessened or disappeared completely. They feel their body has been stretched, massaged, and cared for. Though a single session can yield great results, it is best to have a few sessions over a period of time so as to reap all the benefits of the practice. Just as you may go for a monthly massage, so should you partake of regular yoga therapy.
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