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.
Yoga as a therapeutic tool covers a broad range of modalities, incorporating elements from both physical therapy and psychotherapy. Yoga therapy is a well established treatment for depression and anxiety. These disorders are often seen together; think about how they impact the whole system on a practical level; if the mind and body are sluggish, inward and energy is slow moving then breath work and movements to lift up and energize the system will be offered. If the mind and body are overactive, racing and agitated, then meeting individuals where they are at, and then helping them to slow the system down is the goal. Trauma informed yoga (also called trauma sensitive yoga) TSY is working with an understanding that an individual who has been through a trauma and experiencing symptoms of PTSD has a fight/flight/freeze system that is most likely experiencing a nervous system dysregulation where the person cannot self regulate, in the way they used to. The person may experience extreme levels of over activation or on the other end of the spectrum, a shut down of the system. Trauma sensitive yoga can provide a physical experience that offers a safe environment, choice, empowerment, and a belief in the individual's capacity for self healing. It involves working with the breath and body to support the individual in starting to tolerate their internal experience, a greater body awareness and new patterns to allow them to live in the present moment.
WHAT TO EXPECT FROM YOGA THERAPY When a person decides to initiate yoga therapy, the therapist will first conduct an initial assessment. This assessment is designed to do the following:
-Identify health problems
-Assess lifestyle and physical capability
-Discuss reasons for seeking therapy
-Create a course of treatment
Once the treatment plan is established after this first consultation, therapy sessions will most likely include some of the following components:
Breathing Exercises: The therapist will guide the person in therapy through a series of breathing exercises ranging from energizing breaths, relaxation response breath to balancing breaths.
Physical Postures: The therapist will teach the individual 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 positive feelings and peace. Most people can visualize fairly easily and can enjoy it's benefits.
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. Therapy sessions are as transformative as the work you do between sessions.
What Clients Are Saying
I just want to let you know how grateful I am to have you as my therapist. I am so fortunate that I have that safe place to be vulnerable. It’s really helping me get through this difficult time. I know this feeling of safety has been around for me the past year and it’s something that I am so grateful that I can feel. I know many of the lessons in session have been repeated and yet throughout it, you continue to be steady, hopeful, and supportive. Thank you for commitment, insight, and ability to always be there “holding the hope” for my life, I really value this. -taken with permission from an email