It is well known that yoga benefits the mind, body and soul, improving one's strength, flexibility, tone and peace of mind. But, there's a common misconception that yoga is only for the fit and able. The fact is that absolutely anyone can practice yoga and benefit from its therapeutic aspects – even someone with severe physical restrictions.
What is Yoga Therapy?
Yoga Therapy encompasses a lot more than the postures and common sequences offered at gyms and yoga studios. In fact, it has been used for centuries for the recovery and healing of a variety of ailments and conditions.
How does Yoga Therapy differ from yoga?
Yoga Therapy is typically conducted one-on-one and more closely resembles an appointment with a physiotherapist or rehabilitation therapist than a typical yoga class. The yoga therapist will holistically assess the health and needs of the client and then prescribe a practice that takes into account the client's condition, strengths, weaknesses, personality and goals.
This practice will be personally tailored to assist the individual in managing their condition, reducing their symptoms, restoring balance, increasing vitality and improving their outlook. It will incorporate a unique combination of yogic tools, such as postures or movements (asana), breathing techniques (pranayama), meditation (including visualisation or yoga nidra), chanting, mudras and self-reflection. In addition to yogic practices, the Yoga Therapy session may also include lifestyle counselling and dietary advice.
Where can Yoga Therapy help?
Yoga Therapy can help with a wide range of conditions from chronic fatigue to hormone imbalances, obesity related problems and fertility.
It provides integrated recovery from common muscular-skeletal ailments and conditions such as chronic back pain (including bulging, herniated, slipped or prolapsed discs), joint injuries, scoliosis, arthritis, osteoporosis and more.
It also offers comfort to people with acute debilitating or terminal diseases. Cancer patients suffering from ongoing nausea, weakness and severe fatigue as a result of chemotherapy or radiation have found that a gentle set of therapeutic yoga poses geared for their condition has helped provide relief. Not only does Yoga Therapy help remove toxins, it can also can help dissipate tension and anxiety, enabling patients to enjoy a greater sense of ease and wellbeing.
People with mental health issues, including anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, eating disorders and agoraphobia, have also found Yoga Therapy helpful in alleviating symptoms and restoring balance, harmony and joy to everyday life. Yoga Therapy is able to increase alpha brain wave activity, lower blood pressure, pulse, respiration rate, metabolic rate, oxygen consumption and anxiety, and produce a greater sense of wellbeing. Over time, practitioners develop an ability to shift into a more relaxed state in the midst of stressful situations.
Why choose Yoga Therapy over other physical therapies?
There are three key aspects of Yoga Therapy that set it apart from many other physical therapies:
- Its holistic approach
- Its focus on linking breath-work and mindfulness in each moment, or movement, encouraging peace and equanimity
- The way in which it releases and liberates the mind and emotional state while restoring the physical body
In certain situations, for example when a client is undergoing chemotherapy or radiation treatment, the therapist may suggest that the entire practice consist only of breath awareness and visualisation. Such work has shown remarkable results in allowing the body's innate intelligence to shift and release the stagnant blockages.
Finding a yoga therapist
As there is not yet a recognised standard of certification for yoga therapists in Australia, many have different levels of training, experience and areas of expertise and come from a wide variety of yogic traditions and styles. While the Australian Association of Yoga Therapists provides quality assurance and contacts for selected accredited therapists, word of mouth is still an effective way to find the right yoga therapist. Here are some specific qualities to look for in a therapist:
- Appropriate training
If you have a condition that requires knowledge of the physical body, like back pain or arthritis, find someone with substantial training in anatomy and physiology. If you have a more serious medical condition, such as cancer, heart disease or lupus, you'll need a therapist who understands the disease, the effects of medications and contraindications to practicing.
Ask potential therapists how long they've been practicing yoga therapy and how often they have worked with people who have your condition. As with most things, the more experience someone has, the more equipped he or she will be to help you.
- An inspiring approach
While a good yoga therapist may be knowledgeable, a great one will be able to design a personalised program that motivates you to practice on your own. The key to success in Yoga Therapy is feeling connected to your own healing.
About Alex Ivetic
Alex Ivetic is a qualified yoga teacher and yoga therapist who has practiced and studied yoga for 15 years in Australia and internationally. Alex teaches from Elixr Health Clubs in Sydney and offers yoga and Yoga Therapy to both individuals and groups on a private basis as well as in corporate workplaces, retreats and rehabilitation clinics. Alex has studied a number of other healing modalities, which she incorporates into her sessions.
To find out more about Alex please submit an enquiry here: elixr.com.au/about/yoga and mention that you are interested in Alex and yoga therapy, or to book into her latest course Yoga for Anxiety and Depression book here: elixr.com.au/yogawellbeing.