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What is the difference between Therapeutic Yoga and Yoga Therapy?

Therapeutic Yoga and Yoga Therapy by Nora Sundari Benian

People ask ‘what is the difference between Therapeutic yoga and Yoga therapy?’

All forms of yoga are considered therapeutic for the body, mind and especially the soul. The practice of asana/poses offers an opportunity to shift our focus inward for a while. With the demands we have to deal with of daily life, family, work, aging, rising costs and political frustration we really need time to shut the world out and offer attention to ourselves. Our nervous systems are doing their best to adjust to constantly changing conditions and adapt to ever advancing technology but the EMF’s, radio waves, noise pollution, and other stimulants such as the ones we ingest but these demands are taking their toll on our health and well-being.

With now more than 6.9 billion EMF-emitting cell phones being used in the world

(WHO, 2014), more powerful radio and cellular networks, and increased reliance on and closer proximity with electronic devices it is no wonder that our nervous systems are overwhelmed with input and have difficulty processing all the stimuli, which leads to nervous disorders.

Our brains attempt to keep up with all the stimuli, processing at night and in our dreams, causing our sleep to be less restful . So we create the vicious cycle of feeling tired and pumping up on the sugar and caffeine to get through the day, which of course exhausts our adrenal glands. These stimulants excite the Sympathetic nervous system putting us into fight or flight mode, which we have become addicted to, (since we can produce so much more while in this state), but depletes us of adrenaline that we have become so dependant on. This leads to decreased immunity, fatigue and eventually without real regular rest becomes illness or depression.

As you can see we have a real need to turn inward and do our self- healing practices just to keep a float. Yes, all yoga practices are healing but how we apply the practices are what makes it therapeutic. You can practice yoga and injure yourself or heal yourself. It all depends on the amount of knowledge you have and the degree of body awareness you have developed. And that is why it is so important to have a knowledgable yoga teacher guide you. The more one understands the benefits of yogic practices and the more one understands anatomy, physiology, energy imbalance, and emotional and mental effects on health, the better one can recommend the best practices to restore balance and well-being.

The term Yoga therapy describes specific applications of yogic exercises, principles and mindset to particular ailments, injuries or imbalances to have a therapeutic effect on the person suffering from certain symptoms. There are different methods of applying yogic practices. Some are mindfulness based, some are structural and some are integrative methods combining many techniques and practices.

So what is Therapeutic yoga then? It is a style of practice that can apply gentle yogic exercises and therapeutic techniques to general issues in a human. Such as difficulty breathing, sleeping, moving or something like frozen shoulder. Therapeutic applications of yoga provides an instruction that starts with baby steps that breakdown larger movements, exercises and poses allowing one to gradually work through pain, scar tissue, lack of mobility and develop the ability to relax tension through ailing parts but is not necessarily specifically catered to each individual. It involves exercises with repeated rotations greasing the joints and with gradual increase of strength development. It give students a chance to release holding fear in cellular memory and rebuilds strength with increased mobility through previously protected areas and improper body mechanics.

Therapeutic yoga exercises can be shared in a group setting and does not require great details of each students injuries or conditions but can both help prevent issues and helps students to work through their issues. Therapeutic yoga exercises can teach people to hold their posture more correctly and efficiently to heal or prevent low back or neck discomfort. Or it can teach one where to focus the breath to take longer fuller breaths to push out toxins and increase oxygen to get through a day without caffeine. Therapeutic yoga slows things down so students can develop better body awareness so they use their body with more attention to alignment preventing injuries and energy blocks. It can also help one heal emotional wounds, shed layers of protection, expand, strengthen, relax, sleep better, think better, and most definitely feel better, just like any yoga practice but more gently, gradually and with greater intention.

Yoga teachers can have therapeutic yoga training in small doses up to any number of hours that offers overall healing practices that address a wide range of issues pertaining areas of the body or mind. Where a yoga therapist has 800 hours more training in Yoga Therapy as a science of therapeutic effect on specific ailments, conditions and injuries.

The goals for both yoga therapy and therapeutic yoga are the same though, to ease discomfort, increase energy flow, to re-align and create balance in the whole person.

* Yoga therapy is that facet of the ancient science of Yoga that focuses on health and wellness at all levels of the person: physical, psychological, and spiritual. Yoga therapy focuses on the path of Yoga as a healing journey that brings balance to the body and mind through an experiential understanding of the primary intention of Yoga: awakening of Spirit, our essential nature.

-Integrative Yoga Therapy (U.S.A.) Joseph LePage, M.A.

Yoga therapy adapts the practice of Yoga to the needs of people with specific or persistent health problems not usually addressed in a group class.

-Samata Yoga Center (U.S.A.) Larry Payne, Ph.D.

(Yoga therapy is) the use of the techniques of Yoga to create, stimulate, and maintain an optimum state of physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health.

-Judith Hanson Lasater, Ph.D.

* Yoga therapy consists of the application of yogic principles, methods, and techniques to specific human ailments. In its ideal application, Yoga therapy is preventive in nature, as is Yoga itself, but it is also restorative in many instances, palliative in others, and curative in many others.

-Art Brownstein, M.D.

* Yoga therapy, derived from the Yoga tradition of Patanjali and the Ayurvedic system of health care refers to the adaptation and application of Yoga techniques and practices to help individuals facing health challenges at any level manage their condition, reduce symptoms, restore balance, increase vitality, and improve attitude.

-American Viniyoga Institute Gary Kraftsow

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