Can you find therapy in a Yoga class or in just practicing Yoga? While there are numerous modalities that may be utilized in the application of Yoga as a therapy, a Yoga Instructor is very rarely qualified to be a Yoga Therapist. A true Yoga Therapist has copious amounts of advanced training and hundreds, if not thousands, of hours in a personal practice.
THE APPLICATION OF YOGA AS THERAPY
Pujya Swamiji Gitananda Giri has enumerated 52 aspects of Yoga Chikitsa in an
encyclopedic manner and his exposition of Yoga Chikitsa is unparalleled. We’ve included a truncated version of some of the works below.
Some of the more commonly used Yoga therapy modalities may include the following:
This includes the Asanas which are static postures as well as:
- Kriyas, which are the systematic and rationale movements
- Mudras-– seals of neuromuscular energy and
- Bandhas which are locks for neuromuscular energy.
The physical aspects of yoga stretch and strengthen the musculoskeletal system and improve mobility and flexibility of the different joints and groups of muscles.
There is also concomitant improvement in the systemic functions including
respiration, circulation, digestion and elimination.
Along with the physical aspects, there is an overall sense of well being thanks to the release of hormones such as endorphins and encephalins.
Here are some of the other elements that are tangential to the emotional aspects of yoga therapies:
- Swadhyaya–introspectional self-analysis
- Pranayama— breath and vital energy control,
- Sensory withdrawal, which is also known as Pratyahara
- Dharana – intense concentration
- Dhyana–meditational oneness
- The devotional music known as Bhajana also helps to stabilize
emotional turmoil and relieve stress and mental fatigue.
Together, these aspects of yoga synergistically bring about a
sense of emotional balance that is vital for good health.
DEVELOPMENT OF PROPER PSYCHOLOGICAL ATTITUDES:
Another lovely aspect of Yoga is that the work encourages us to step back and take an objective view of our habitual patterns of behaviors and thoughts.
While this sounds terrifying for many of us initially, this work enables us to better cope with situations in our lives that may routinely place our bodies and minds under strain.
Patanjali emphasized the need to develop following qualities in order to become mentally balanced human beings:
- Vairagya — a detached and thus dispassionate attitude
- Chitta Prasadann–acceptance of the Divine Will
- Maitri –friendliness towards those who are at peace with themselves
- Karuna –compassion for the suffering
- Mudita–cheerfulness towards the virtuous
- Upekshanam which is indifference and avoidance of the evil.
The right attitude is one of the most important aspects of Yoga as a
There are numerous Yoga techniques of relaxation and visualization — we’ll discuss those in depth on the page entitled Relaxation.
Other practices such as Trataka (concentrated gaze), Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana and Dhyana may also be utilized.
Relaxation is a fundamental construct in Yoga. It is through relaxation that the body’s tensions are relieved and the cells recharged.
SPIRITUAL THERAPIES: Swadhyaya, Satsangha (spiritual gathering seeking
knowledge of the reality), Bhajana sessions and Yogic counseling are important aspects
of Yogic therapy. Unfortunately, these modalities are often overlooked in our current health care systems and/or neglected in favor of physical therapies alone.
Assisting clients and patients to tune in and better understand their inner selves and connect with their Source is tantamount to healing. “Oneness” is health and “Duality” is disease. We cannot remain lonely, depressed and dis-eased if we can truly embrace that we are a vital part of this wonderful, happy and healthy Universe
PREVENTIVE AND REHABILITATIVE THERAPIES: Yoga has numerous preventive
benefits. Among other things, a regular Yoga practice increases awareness and agility thus aiding in the prevention of accidents. Immunity is improved. Psychosomatic, stress related and lifestyle disorders may be effectively prevented by a following the Yogic way of life.
Yoga also offers rehabilitative therapies for most musculoskeletal conditions and aids in relief for chronic and debilitating illnesses. The beauty of the Yoga practice is that applying these modalities according to condition and needs of clients and patients will
enable us to address the root cause of the disease and heal its origin. Done properly, the manifestation of the disease corrects itself and health, wellness and harmony can manifest once again.
PAIN RELIEF THERAPIES: Yoga can help to improve pain tolerance and may help us endure conditions that may be beyond our means to control or cure. This is vital in end
life situations where it is important that the patient has a sense of improved quality of life during their transitional days. Yoga can also benefit the patient’s caretakers who may find that they are under great stress themselves.
DEPRESSION AND DEPRESSIVE DISORDERS: Depression is rooted in many sources and at its core is a body-mind challenge. Yoga is clearly a very effective therapeautic intervention.
As noted From the International Association of Yoga Therapist Research Reports:
Yoga therapy appears to be a cost-effective and safe
healthcare modality, and in cases of severe depression
would almost always be conducted in conjunction with medical
care. We also know that a yoga practice may address
and help alleviate a number of individual factors that may
contribute to the development and, potentially, the perpetuation
of clinical depression, including a dysfunctional autonomic
nervous system, an excess or deficiency of stress
hormones like cortisol, a sense of isolation from others, a
lack of community (or sangha), low-quality sleep, poor posture,
and inefficient breathing. Given this situation, it seems
prudent for yoga therapists to continue using the methods
that—in their experience and according to the yoga tradition—
appear to be effective. – Pam Jeter and Timothy McCall