When you think of yoga, what comes to mind What have you thought, read, or heard about what yoga is—or is not The answer to this question is as varied as the people who might answer it. Everyone brings with them a unique perspective and history that influences their approach to yoga as an art form or discipline.
What’s interesting is that within the right context, any of these statements could be considered true, even the oversimplifications and overreaches. Some people consider yoga to be a part of their fitness routine and nothing more. For many people, yoga is part of a rich religious and cultural history. Others see it as a nondogmatic devotional practice. Some folks dabble in all of these things but don’t consider themselves to be a “yogi” or “yogini.”
Anecdotes abound about how yoga helped someone heal a serious health condition, lose weight, manage anxiety, minimize back pain, reduce medications, maximize performance, increase energy, and more. Chances are you have done some yoga or at least know a few people who have. Perhaps a friend, physical therapist, or chiropractor suggested that you give it a try. Maybe you’re a new yoga teacher or seasoned professional continuing your education, hungry for new information that will empower you and your students.
Yoga vs. Yoga Therapy
Because you or someone you know may have experienced some kind of profound shift or healing in a group yoga class, it might feel like a leap for us to say that while the outcomes may have been therapeutic, they were not necessarily yoga therapy. Yoga therapy may look similar to regular yoga from the outside, but beneath the surface is a discernible difference. The primary feature of yoga therapy lies in the individualized nature and personalized learning outcomes of the practice. More than a teacher in a group class offering you a skillful adjustment or postural suggestion for the physical practices, it’s a practice customized just for you.
Yoga therapy takes into consideration the totality of your human experience—the unique combination of your physical body, existing health conditions, individual history, view of the world, disposition, life goals, inter-and intrapersonal relationships, work-life balance, emotional awareness, mental stamina, and sense of spiritual connection. Instead of generalized technique instructions that you must retrofit to your needs, yoga therapy empowers you with support structures from which you create a distinctly personal yoga lifestyle plan.
Yoga Therapy as a Lifestyle Practice
Yoga therapy is intended to be an integrated practice of amplifying, maintaining, and restoring health during the various cycles of life, whether you are already active, looking to become more active, or simply wanting to continue your beloved activities well into your golden years. Using this practice, you can make more conscious and proactive choices to support your health and longevity, which in turn can offer an enhanced experience of daily life.
Growing Evidence Base
We live in exciting times when the more traditional practices of yoga are meeting the needs of modern society and are included in cutting-edge scientific research. Although this kind of study offers amazing new insights into how ancient practices work as a healing discipline, it also has pitfalls. It is challenging to quantify something as vast and holistic as yoga therapy.
When the entirety of the human experience is taken into consideration, where does a researcher start Is it even possible to pinpoint where and how the healing happens Is it the poses, breathing exercises, changes in attitude, reduction of stress, improvement in sleep, meditation practices, better diet, or the increased sense of spiritual connection that brought about changes It’s tempting to point to one thing and say,
That’s it; that is what healed me” but often that is not the case with the holistic model. One change begets another, and it is often the connections we make between things that are at the core of our most powerful healing experiences.