Although now starting to gain recognition and traction in the yogiverse, Yoga Therapy is still largely unheard of out in the real world. So, I'm taking on the task of spreading the word and the love about Yoga Therapy to anyone who'll listen. So why Yoga Therapy and not simply Yoga? Firstly, lets address what 'Yoga' is. Yoga is a system of practices and an approach to life which seeks to understand and integrate the various layers of ourselves. Yoga therapy is the process of empowering individuals to progress toward improved health and wellbeing through the application of the teachings and practices of yoga (IAYT: http://www.iayt.org)
Our regular yoga classes at the local studio, gym, church hall or friend's place are wonderful and often keep us physically moving and mentally sane. Whilst your well-trained teacher will offer some modifications, generally everyone is adhering to the class plan or theme for the day.
Yoga Therapy on the other hand will be primarily focussed on the individualisation of practices to empower the person to improved health, wellbeing and quality of life. Group Yoga Therapy will have a group of individuals with a common condition or issues, which has been discussed prior to class attendance with the Yoga Therapist. Although in a group setting, each person will receive tailored practices which suit their needs. A Yoga Therapist will research and offer practices which are safe for their condition, and most importantly,
educate and empower the client so that they can build their own safe practice.
An individual Yoga Therapy Clinic will involve the Yoga Therapist discussing the health concerns and goals with the client, analysis of past and ongoing health issues, then a plan for practices to assist the client in improving the quality of life.
An example of Group Yoga Therapy is my Cancer Care Class at Chris O'Brien Lifehouse in Sydney, where cancer patients and survivors come to our sessions to find relief from side-effects and treatments, regain musculoskeletal mobility, release tension, re-energise the mind and body through a safe series of gentle movements, breathing practices, relaxations and mediations which can all be calibrated, modified or replaced as per each individual's needs. Yoga Therapy will soon be trialled in other areas of patient care to assist in management of stress.
The key aspect of Yoga Therapy which distinguishes it from other forms of therapy is that the client must be involved and empowered. Yoga Therapists don't DO the therapy to the client, instead clients are fully involved, responsible and educated in therapeutic yoga practices so they are empowered to help themselves.