An Introduction to Yoga Therapy
Yoga therapy is a rapidly growing field, particularly in the United States. Today, this field of intuitive and practical wisdom is reaching across the water to our shores. 2007 marks the launch of a national training course in yoga therapy in Australia and the formation of the Australian Association of Yoga Therapists. Jane Wiesner, the Principal of the Body & Mind School of Yoga, is the inaugural President.
As a mode of therapy, yoga is extremely effective. The interest in yoga therapy is largely due to expanding views in medical science that acknowledge the benefits of yoga's physical and mindful approaches. Whether you are a teacher of yoga, a student of yoga or just someone looking for another way to treat dis-ease, there is no doubt that yoga therapy will compliment your path to being well.
A Definition: Yoga + Therapy =
The word therapy comes from the Greek word therapeuein meaning 'to heal or take care of' (Colman 2006, 761). With any form of therapy the ultimate aim is to help the individual to foster and enhance wellness—to improve the healing process. Yoga is concerned with healing the body and the mind through the individual's yoga practice. Yoga helps the individual to become in touch with the natural energy flow (prana or life-force) within the bodymind. Yoga recognises mind and body as one. When we combine yoga and therapy, the healing process becomes dualistic—where yoga is an individual practice (albeit often practised in classes), yoga therapy adds another dimension—the 'patient-practitioner' relationship. In other words, the process of healing is enhanced by the specialised input of a carer. One could say that yoga practice works on improving the general wellbeing of the individual, whereas yoga therapy works on a one-on-one level, often dealing with specific concerns. Yoga, as a therapy, does not claim to cure—its benefits lie in engaging the natural healing processes of the patient. In short, the yoga therapist aims to give the individual guidance and insight into ways and means in which the healing process can take place. And as with yoga in general, yoga therapy focuses on 'feeling'—how the individual feels and how this feeling manifests in the bodymind.
Yoga Therapy—Complimentary and Alternative Medicine
In the 80s we called yoga an alternative. Back then, natural methods of therapy were something we tried when all else failed. Nowadays, we call these kinds of therapy 'complimentary and alternative medicine' (CAM) because, in many ways, they compliment and enhance traditional medical treatments. Yoga therapy is one such modality. The growth of this industry demonstrates a huge shift in consciousness. Over the last thirty years Western medicine has started to recognise the insights of Eastern science. Today, in many fields of medicine, the mind is no longer seen as a separate entity, divorced from physicality. Scientific research is now exploring the unifying principles that constitute the body and mind. And lucky for us, the Western constructs of therapy are discovering the merits of classical Eastern practices.