I see yoga classes and workshops like these advertised all the time:
Yoga for Back Pain, Yoga for Anxiety, Yoga for Depression, Yoga for…
I have even taken some of them, especially the Yoga for Back Pain classes. The name of the class is catchy and usually imply that in this yoga class, you will learn how to use yoga in a targeted way for a certain condition. You’ll also be with a group of people dealing with similar health issues.
I don’t doubt the intentions behind the yoga teachers who offer these classes. I do question the class’ ability to be effective for a wide population of students.
My Experience with Yoga for Back Pain
When I first started experiencing pain from herniated discs in my lower back, I sought out several Yoga for Back Pain classes. I did learn some valuable information, but I was left confused because each teacher taught different poses practiced in different ways. Several times I was told I could experience relief in poses where in fact I felt my pain increase. This made me think there was some inadequacy on my part, like I couldn’t do the pose correctly. I also wondered if everyone else was experiencing some relief after yoga class, but not me.
After years of training I realized something about those Yoga for Back Pain classes: those classes provided general guidance and offered poses that might work for some people, but they were advertised in such a way as to make it seem like they were for everyone.
These Classes (Usually) Offer General Recommendations
Yoga is not like taking a pain reliever for a headache. There is no single protocol that will work for everyone. Each individual shows up with their own health history, their own constitution, and their own manifestation of symptoms.
When you take a general Yoga for Back Pain class, know what you are getting: general recommendations for a general population. You might come away from the class with some new insights, but don’t feel inadequate in any way if you didn’t find relief from the class. Remember that any physical activity is better than bed rest or staying immobile.
Back pain has many causes and shows up differently for each person, from nerve pain to stiffness to a sense of achiness or heaviness. The same goes for Yoga for Anxiety, Yoga for Depression, etc. How does your anxiety show up? Would you describe it as nervousness, fear, or anger? What about your depression? Is it worse with stress? Does it come with anxiety?
Some Things to Consider
If you are attracted to taking a “Yoga for…” class, here are some questions to ask for making the investment in time and money:
- What is the yoga teacher’s experience?
- Has the teacher worked with a wide variety of people who have seen relief after taking their classes?
- Is the teacher familiar with your condition if you have a diagnosis?
- Does the teacher allow walk-ins to the class or is the class a limited series? Are you able to form a relationship with the teacher?
- Does the teacher have a general plan for what they are going to teach? Does that plan make sense to you and your needs?
Yoga Therapy Approach
As a yoga therapist, I don’t offer “Yoga for…” classes to the general public. If I do offer them, I advertise the classes as yoga therapy, they are taught as a series of at least 4 sessions with a limit on the number of students, and I require an intake meeting before the first session so I can get to know each student’s individual needs. (You can check out my upcoming small group yoga therapy classes here.)