By Yoga Therapist Julie Stannard
Yoga Therapy is the adaptation of Yoga for people facing health or life challenges at any level and greatly assists in the management of their condition. The aim of yoga therapy is to restore balance and vitality and promote a positive and enabling attitude to life.
Whilst general yoga classes can be great preventative medicine, they may be too demanding for someone with a medical condition. Yoga therapy can help people with more serious conditions by tailoring yoga to their individual needs, taking into account their health problems constitution and life circumstances.
Yoga therapy tends to be more gentle with a greater focus on bodily awareness, postural alignment and movement that is linked with relaxed rhythmic breathing. Time is taken to tune in with the experience of the mind, which cultivates greater self- awareness.
Yoga promotes balance and strength at a physical, mental and emotional level. When our balance is disturbed by illness yoga can help restore it, or to manage the illness. Timothy McCall an American doctor and author of “Yoga as Medicine” says “I can tell you that yoga is quite simply the most powerful system of overall health and wellbeing I have ever seen"
The NHS directory on complementary practitioners states: Research trials show that yoga therapy practices are among the most effective known methods for managing the psychosomatic, stress-related conditions, which are so common today. This is because they bridge the gap between body and mind, ranging across the whole spectrum from physical to mental. Conditions treated include asthma and COPD, hypertension and heart conditions, back pain, arthritis, hyperacidity, irritable bowel syndrome, diabetes, migraine and headaches, multiple sclerosis, and cancer (coping with chemotherapy and radiotherapy, rehabilitation from surgery, and reducing anxiety)”.
Yoga therapy practitioners are experienced yoga teachers who have completed post-graduate training in medical conditions and the applications of yoga and its bio-medical effects.
Yoga therapy can be taught in small specialist classes or individually with a qualified therapist. It consists primarily of postural, breathing, mindfulness and relaxation exercises. A one-to-one consultation will review the presenting condition, associated health problems and related lifestyle factors. A short programme of simple exercises is provided so that clients can begin to practise and benefit straight away. Generally you can expect to complete a series of 6-8 sessions of therapy.
Yoga therapy is very safe when taught by a qualified yoga therapist. In addition to helping manage the presenting condition, it often yields other health benefits. No previous experience of yoga is required. Yoga therapy empowers people to look after their own health and can be used to compliment your existing medical care.
A simple experiential exercise for you to try!
Sit in a chair facing a table or desk and cross your arms. Bend forward and rest your forehead on the inner edge of the forearm closest to you, so it rests just above your eyebrows. Using your forearm, gently tug the flesh between your eyebrows in the direction of your nose. Rest for 1 to 5 minutes. Notice if your breath deepens and slows. Try to let go of effort and pay attention to your experience.
This is just one of many simple but effective practices that yoga has to offer. As you probably noticed this one has a very calming effect on your nervous system.