What is remedial yoga therapy?
“Yoga therapy adapts the practice of yoga to the needs of people with specific or persistent health problems not usually addressed in a group class” – Larry Payne PhD, Samata Yoga Centre (USA)
As the health benefits of yoga become increasingly popular, new ways of applying this ancient practice to our modern lives are developing all the time. Although using yoga for healing the body and mind is certainly not new, the application of yoga as a specific healing practice to sit alongside modern medicine is a relatively recent development.
Essentially, yoga therapy is the adaptation of yoga practices for people with health challenges, in a formal and private clinical environment. A yoga therapist will prescribe a specific regimen of postures, breathing exercises and relaxation techniques to suit the need of an individual.
This moves away from the traditional class-based practice, where a number of people will practice together and the choice of postures (Asana) will be based mostly on the needs of the group, rather than the specific physical requirements of an individual.
How can yoga therapy help me?
When there is an injury (This includes surgery) or a particular physical condition, attending a large group class with no individual supervision can in fact be detrimental to healing. Yoga is not a “one size fits all” practice when it comes to challenges in the body.
What is healing to one person, could be harmful to another. Without particular care and attention, the injury can be made worse by poorly aligned postures, weakness and lack of mobility in a large class where one teacher can’t spend too much time on an individual’s needs.
Alongside this, yoga is prescribed more and more nowadays to continue the healing after an intervention made by an orthopaedic specialist, chiropractor, osteopath or physiotherapist. Yoga is hugely beneficial following fractures or breaks, muscle tears or joint impairments, where soft tissue damage takes a lot longer to recover after the damage to bones or skeletal structures are repaired. It is also a great way to recover from surgery, where the inevitable soft tissue damage and scar tissue can potentially limit movement, mobility and strength in the longer term.
Also, when a person suffers a physically limiting condition like MS, amputation, obesity or a range of other conditions, practicing in a group class is not an option. This does not mean that they should be denied the opportunity to enjoy yoga and to move their bodies, but these conditions do require a different approach. This is where yoga therapy really finds its place.
What is the difference between a yoga teacher and a yoga therapist?
It is very important to note that teaching yoga and working as a yoga therapist is not the same thing. A yoga therapist requires an in-depth knowledge of the biology and physical
structures of the body, and how these relate to yoga and the application of it as a healing practice. A yoga therapist must qualify as a yoga teacher first, and then supplement this learning to acquire the knowledge and tools to work as a therapist.
A yoga therapist will work on a one to one basis with clients, not to teach yoga but to intelligently apply the science of yoga to the particular problems presented by the person’s body in question. Often, the physical symptoms come packaged with mental and emotional issues associated with handling pain, overcoming trauma (In surgery and accidents) and dealing with limitations in the body. This extends the need for a yoga therapist to have some psychological training alongside the knowledge of yoga, human anatomy, therapeutic discipline and practical experience.
The new breed of yoga therapist is able to integrate the traditional yogic concepts and techniques with Western medical and psychological knowledge. This elevates yoga therapy to a true profession to sit alongside physiotherapy, massage therapy and chiropractic.
What can I expect from my yoga therapist?
A course of yoga therapy is more expensive than joining a yoga class. The cost will probably be similar to that of your chiropractic or physio treatment (usually around £60 to £75 per hour). Your yoga therapist will do an assessment of your condition and physical, mental and emotional situation at the first appointment. Courses of treatment and action are usually prescribed in blocks of 6 weekly 90-minute sessions.
Yoga is a self-empowering methodology, so during this time you will probably create a sequence with prescribed postures for you to continue the practice at home. There is usually a follow-up session after 3 months of home practice to assess your progress.
Yoga therapy is very hands-on! When I work with a client, I use a combination of deep tissue massage, trigger point therapy and reiki to release stiffness in the joints and muscles. We use a very wide range of props, bolsters, straps and blocks in the Iyengar yoga tradition to support the body. I also use the concepts of expansion and contraction, passive stretching alongside active practice, and yin yoga techniques to help restore balance. If necessary, I use my own body weight or apply external weights to build strength and create space in my client’s body. Additionally, I am a Cognitive Behavioural Master Coach, using CBT-style techniques to help my clients deal with their approach to pain, their body and self-care.
Would you like to know more?
If you want to know more about yoga therapy in general, or are interested in how it can help you deal with your particular conditions or problems, I will welcome the opportunity to discuss it with you. This link will take you to my diary to book a free telephone consultation. Otherwise, I can be found on www.diversityyoga.co.uk