Everyone knows that yoga boasts several health benefits. Amongst other things, the practice can relieve chronic pain, stress and anxiety and even combat serious health issues. But can yoga be used as a form of therapy? The short answer to that question is yes, it can. However, yoga therapy involves more than just throwing on a yoga hoodie. Instead, the practice must use techniques to treat emotional stress or trauma or physical injury. In this article, we explore the essence of yoga as therapy in more detail.
While all styles of yoga are therapeutic, there are a few key differences between a standard yoga class and a yoga therapy session. Below, we explore these further.
One of the biggest differences between a yoga class and a therapy session is the instructor. A standard yoga class can be taught by any certified instructor. Yoga therapy, on the other hand, must be led by a yoga therapist. Instead of looking at yoga as a practice, a yoga therapist concentrates on each practitioners’ needs. Typically, people that attend a yoga therapy class are there to combat a problem. However, it’s not uncommon for the practitioner to be unsure of the cause. Before treating the issue, the yoga therapist will need to determine the cause of the pain and figure out the best way to resolve it. During their training, yoga therapists learn how to assess practitioners and figure out the cause of their pain. This is carried out through a mixture of questioning, listening and observing. When appropriate, therapists can also use their hands to assess the injury. Once the cause has been determined, the therapist will suggest ways to address the symptoms. While some physical injuries cannot be healed, yoga therapy can improve the emotional side of the injury. During a yoga therapy session, the patient can focus on their attitude to their condition.
A yoga therapy session will start with an assessment. If you’re new to the class, the therapist will spend time assessing your injury and figuring out the cause. Once this stage is complete, the therapist will listen to your primary symptoms and suggest ways to manage them. Some of the most common problems include insomnia, pain and discomfort and general fatigue. As well as relieving physical symptoms, the therapist may suggest ways for you to self-care. This often includes stress-relieving techniques such as yogic breathing and meditation. Ultimately, a yoga therapy session can help you to overcome a health condition and regain independence. If you’re suffering from a long-term health issue, you can quickly become anxious and depressed – particularly if the condition affects your ability to work or socialise. Through yoga therapy, you can learn how to manage your mental health as well as your physical symptoms. Often, yoga therapy is practised in a group. Most of the time, those with similar health conditions will be in the same class so that they can work on new techniques together. However, the therapist will still spend one-to-one time with each patient to understand their issue. If you’d rather attend a one-to-one session, that’s fine! However, as you’d expect, these are often more expensive.
During a yoga therapy class, the therapist will assess your health issue and determine the best recovery method. As well as improving your health condition, yoga therapy has several other benefits. Below, we explore some of the therapeutic benefits of yoga therapy.
One of the biggest benefits of yoga therapy is its stress relief. Like any form of exercise, yoga can reduce the level of cortisol in your body. Often referred to as the stress hormone, an elevated cortisol level can leave you feeling worked up, stressed and anxious. Yoga also primes the parasympathetic nervous system to tame the stress response, allowing your body to tone down its “fight or flight” response. Over time, this can relieve stress, tension and anxiousness and leave you feeling relaxed.
Yoga therapy teaches mindfulness. Helping you to stay in the present, the practice teaches meditation and mindful breathing exercises to relieve stress and anxiety. If you’re feeling on-edge, meditating for just a few minutes can lower your heart rate and blood pressure to leave you feeling more relaxed.
Yoga therapy can drastically improve sleep quality – particularly when practised in the evening. Encouraging the body to wind down, restorative asanas can help the body to relax after a busy day. When both the body and mind are relaxed, you can enjoy a deeper sleep and wake up feeling refreshed and recharged.
When practised regularly, yoga therapy can improve your blood flow and circulation. Over time, this can result in better emotional and physical health. Good circulation allows fresh, oxygen-rich blood to be delivered to the organs. This allows each area of your body to function correctly. If you experience numbness, dizziness or tingling, you may be suffering from poor circulation. If left untreated, this can lead to more serious conditions such as blood clots and heart disease. Thankfully, yoga therapy can catch this early and help you to work through it before it causes an issue.
So, there you have it – the essence of yoga as therapy. Essentially, yoga therapy helps to heal the body both emotionally and physically. For best results, always use a qualified yoga therapist with good reviews. This way, you can trust their professional opinion on how to heal your body. Whether you’re suffering from pain and discomfort, insomnia or fatigue, yoga therapy can provide a much-needed relief from your condition. Before your first session, pack a yoga bag with a bottle of water, a notebook and a pen. This will ensure you stay hydrated throughout the session and allow you to note down any exercises that the therapist advises. With practice, patience and dedication, yoga therapy can help to heal your body – both physically and emotionally.