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Yoga therapy is difficult to define, in part because of the breadth and depth of the tradition itself, and because, like Yoga, the discipline can be approached in so many different ways. Nonetheless, for Yoga therapy to be better understood and accepted, it is necessary to have a reasonable and pragmatic definition understandable to those without experience with Yoga, yet still acceptable to those steeped in the practice and philosophy.
Yoga therapy is a type of therapy that uses yoga postures, breathing exercises, meditation, and guided imagery to improve mental and physical health. The holistic focus of yoga therapy encourages the integration of mind, body, and spirit. Modern yoga therapy covers a broad range of therapeutic modalities, incorporating elements from both physical therapy and psychotherapy.
Yoga therapy is practiced in a wide range of formats. For example, physical therapists often implement yoga techniques in their delivery of treatments. Yoga therapy practice can resemble physical therapy, rehabilitative therapy, and/or psychotherapy (goodtherapy). Unlike a standard yoga class, yoga therapy sessions are typically conducted in one-on-one or small group settings.
Yoga therapy can be provided as an adjunct therapy to complement other forms of treatment, or it can be used to directly treat a specific issue (goodtherapy). Yoga techniques range from simple to advanced, and can be enjoyed by people of all ages. Potential benefits from yoga therapy include stress reduction, psychological well-being, improved diet, and efficient functioning of bodily systems (goodtherapy).
Therapy sessions will most likely include the following components:
- Breathing Exercises (Prayanama): The therapist will guide the person in therapy through a series of breathing exercises ranging from energizing breaths to balancing breaths.
- Physical Postures (Asana): The therapist will teach the person in treatment appropriate yoga poses that address problem areas. For example, the “Legs Up the Wall” pose is used to treat things like anxiety and insomnia. In this pose, the person lays on his or her back with legs positioned up against the wall.
- Meditation: Relaxation and mindfulness are the focus of meditation when it is combined with yoga poses.
- Guided Imagery: The yoga therapist attempts to calm the body and mind by providing a guided visualization intended to bring inner peace.
- Homework: An important element for any yoga practice is to find a way to incorporate it into daily life. Yoga therapists provide instructions on how to use what has been learned in treatment at home.
The most well-known professional title to describe a yoga therapist is Certified Yoga Therapist, credentialed as CYT (goodtherapy). However, because the field of yoga therapy is fairly young, no official, formalized certification process exists. However, there are many organizations and education programs accredited by the IAYT that offer training and certification.