Yoga Teacher Or Yoga Therapist?

Yoga Therapy Takes A Holistic Approach

Yoga therapy takes a whole-body approach to yoga that starts with assessing each person’s overall health and working with any limitations that are present. Individual assessments are key, since two people with similar conditions could have very different medical histories or complicating factors that would require different courses of treatment.

Can yoga therapy be taught in group classes? I say yes, to some degree. I teach therapy in my Yum Yum Yoga class, where I ask the students to describe their problems. The list usually includes low back pain, tight neck and shoulders, and hip tightness.

Can I teach a general therapeutic class covering these areas? Yes. Will I be able to help each and every student with what might be causing this continual problem? Probably not.

These are broad brush strokes using yoga as a therapeutic tool. Many who find relief are amazed and they begin to gather postures or posture flows that release their tightness. The wise students that truly want their health back take these pearls home and use them between classes to help their problem areas. Some find relief and then want a private lesson to further help their healing.

Private Therapy Is Focused

A private therapy lesson starts with an assessment, using a posture chart and taking pictures that I’ll use to gauge the client’s progress. Many people have no idea what they look like from the side and back. The pictures combined with the posture chart lets me use line drawings on that I send to the student so they have a reference point to see changes or what may be part of the problem.

Of course everyone would love to have their issues fixed in only one session, however the issue didn’t appear in a hour and won’t be fixed in an hour either. Many times there are several things contributing to the issue: the more complex the issue the longer the relief may take.

I then discuss with the client what would give them the most relief by working on a specific issue or area. From there I come up with a home therapy plan. Sometimes it’s a small customized yoga practice. If the client is relatively new to yoga I’ll suggest a few things I’d like them to do either daily, or 2-3 times a week.

If it’s a daily therapy, the routine is a very short, maybe two things to do, five times a week. People have limited amounts of time that they’re willing to commit to daily so I try to keep things simple. Usually if a client is in pain and they get relief they’re willing to do more on a daily basis.

You’ll Feel The First Few Sessions

I also remind clients that after the first couple of times of either group or private lessons they may have discomfort the next day, so rest is in order, not pushing through the homework.

When a client has a great deal of pain or a number of injuries, working slowly is the key. Learning breath control, relearning how to relax, and realizing there is always hope are all part of the therapy.

Therapy Starts With Determination

I was talking to a student the other day who has several medical problems that she is navigating. She said that when she gets home from work she is tired and just wants to sit on the sofa. This of course just makes her problems worse.

She said that this is not how she expected her life to be at this age, and that she can’t do many things. If she tries to do them she is in severe pain for days or weeks. Sometimes it is hard to speak the truth but the truth is often a wake up call.

I told her that I understood that this is not what she pictured her life looking like but if she doesn’t start doing something daily her future looks even darker, and only she has the power to change this current state of emotional and physical health to something better.

I am willing to work with her to find those few daily things that she can perform. Instead of activities to do when after work, I gave her a few things she can do in bed when the alarm goes off. Hit the snooze button and do just three things slowly, mindfully, and with gratitude that you can perform these movements and we’ll see what happens.

Another student came to class with severe back pain from a car accident.  A young mother, she didn’t want to have surgery but was frightened about hurting herself more. She was even afraid to have me touch her because I might hurt her.

Slowly I offered props, a shift of her hips a bit to the left, rest often, only do a few repetitions. She became stronger, took home a few things that helped her the most, and did them between classes.

She came to class twice a week, and rarely missed. She was feeling better and slowly was able to get off of her pain medications. As she became stronger her body began to move away from the pain and into balance. I am happy to say she is now coming to some regular classes, she knows what she should and should not do, and on occasion she comes back to therapy class just to check in on her alignment.

A Family Affair

Her children came to class, learned what helped mommy feel better, and help remind her. Then her son came to unwind his body that had gotten tight from wrestling class in high school. Next her husband came in for his tightness and injuries.

They added acupuncture into the self care program and are now able to travel (car rides would wipe her out for weeks), they can go to amusement parks with the kids, and life is good.

I just supplied the tools that she was then able to use in her daily life to keep herself well. The family knows that if they do a long car ride mommy needs to have some rest stops. When they get to the hotel she needs to do a few stretches before anything else, so they join her and the whole family is ready for their adventures.

This is why I love being a yoga therapist. I don’t have all the answers. I don’t always do the right thing. But I am willing to give hope to those who think their situation is hopeless. I am willing to work as a team to help others find a balanced and a healthy life.

Breath work (pranayama), I am there. Meditation, I will help. I can even write and record a yoga nidra just for that client. I also have great resources from other yoga therapist that I study with and who are willing to share thoughts and ideas.

I am continuously studying, adding to my knowledge to help others. I have over 2000 hours of studying with a yoga therapist as well as my other yoga trainings ranging from prenatal, restorative, yoga nidra, and many more. I have a very large toolbox that I will dig through until I find the right approach. I am here to serve. There is always hope, and I am willing to help you help yourself.