Yoga therapy is for people with chronic health conditions. Learn more about yoga therapy below.
What is yoga therapy?
Yoga therapy is a complementary health modality, similar to acupuncture, Traditional Chinese Medicine, or massage. It is the application of yoga techniques to chronic health conditions.
These yoga techniques might include postures, breathwork, meditation, chanting, and/or philosophy.
Yoga therapists do not cure, diagnose, or treat any specific disease. They work with you and your medical professionals to determine what practices may be most helpful for you.
Yoga therapy is not work that is “done to you,” like massage or chiropractic. You learn the yoga practices and practice them on your own. This process empowers you with tools to help restore balance to your system.
How is yoga therapy different than yoga?
In both yoga therapy and in a yoga class you are learning yoga. In the West, a yoga class is typically practiced in a group setting, with a format similar to fitness or aerobics classes. The main focus tends to be on physical postures or physical fitness. The teacher’s approach has to be general in order to reach a wide audience.
In yoga therapy, each yoga practice is specific – tailored to you and your unique needs. For example, if you experience fatigue, a yoga therapist will account for this by developing a practice that balances activity in postures and breathwork with rest and meditation.
Your experience level doesn’t matter in yoga therapy. Because each practice is developed for you, you are taught in such a way that meets you where you’re at, whether you have never taken yoga before or if you’ve been practicing for years.
If you don’t have an hour per day to practice yoga, the practices will be shorter and made to easily fit in to your schedule. The practices are targeted to bring balance to your system.
Training for yoga therapy is also different and more extensive than general yoga teachers. Yoga therapists undergo training in contraindications and in working with specific health conditions. A general yoga teacher does not necessarily learn this approach in their teacher training. Yoga therapists also learn how to work with individuals and maintain the therapeutic relationship.
How does yoga help with chronic health conditions?
It’s all about balance!
All systems have an equilibrium – a natural state of balance where the system functions at its best. Your system – your physical body, your emotions, your thoughts, your behaviors – has this same equilibrium. Maybe you can recall a time when you felt like your health was in an optimal state. In the yogic view, your system was in balance.
When out of balance, your system functions differently. The flow between the physical body, emotional states, thoughts, and behaviors becomes disturbed. In general, the further and longer your system is out of balance, the more disturbed is this flow, causing issues like pain, fatigue, stiffness, digestive issues, anxiety, frustration, or insomnia.
Yoga can help clients by encouraging your system to move back into balance. While many clients experience benefits, nothing is guaranteed – it all depends on the specific individual.
What chronic conditions does yoga therapy help?
Yoga therapy practices work best for clients with chronic conditions. Some common conditions that people seek help for:
- Autoimmune diseases (multiple sclerosis (MS), rheumatoid arthritis (RA), celiac disease, lupus, Crohn’s disease)
- Digestive issues (IBS, chronic constipation)
- Low back pain and other types of chronic pain
- Joint replacements and post-rehab (knee, hip, spinal surgery, C-section)
People also seek out yoga therapy for generalized conditions, such as:
- Grief and loss
- Eating disorders
Sara at In Waves Yoga specializes in low back pain and autoimmune diseases, but is trained in a variety of conditions to work with each person holistically.
If you are wondering if yoga therapy can help with your condition, schedule a free consultation with Sara.
What can I expect from yoga therapy?
Yoga therapy requires an initial consultation and follow-up sessions. It also requires you to do the practices. Much of the work happens outside of sessions. If you are not ready to commit to the time it takes to practice and learn the techniques then yoga therapy is not the modality for you.
Because each individual situation is unique, the number of sessions will vary. Most people can plan on four to six sessions spaced out over several months. Some conditions like weight loss, addiction, and PTSD can take longer.
The intake session takes up to 90 minutes in duration. This gives time to have a discussion with Sara and for you to share your goals and the specifics of your health condition. Sara develops a plan for you for the next session. From there, follow-up sessions up to 60 minutes in duration can be scheduled.
During follow-up sessions, Sara will share practices and check in with you to see if any modifications need to be made.
If at any time Sara feels that yoga therapy is not a good fit, she will refer out to other practitioners or medical professionals.
What is small group yoga therapy?
Sara specializes in working one-on-one with people, but she also offers small group yoga therapy for those who are not interested in private yoga therapy.
In small group yoga therapy, you get the benefit of individualized attention in a semi-private setting. Each small group has a maximum capacity of 6 people and a minimum of 2. You also have the opportunity to meet others with similar health conditions and shared experiences.
The small group sessions run for a series of several weeks, ranging from 5 weeks to 10 weeks depending on the health condition the program is targeting.
In addition to weekly yoga sessions, you also get a one-on-one intake session and a private session. You will receive recordings of the practices in each group session, as well as your own personalized yoga practice to take home with you.
At this time, small group sessions run in-person only at The Om Center in Watertown. For more information on the next session, click here.
If you are interested in moving forward with yoga therapy, you can book an initial consultation.