…and can it help me?
Pull up a chair and let me tell you the story of professional yoga in America over the last few decades and I will tell you what yoga therapy is and if it can help you.
Twenty years ago when I first began my own yoga practice, no one would have thought that yoga would be where it is now. Yoga has had more than it’s share of moments in the spotlight. That’s in no small part to the way that Western science has recognized the unique gifts that yoga practice bestows – so, the mechanisms by which yoga does what it does are being elucidated and at a furious clip. The field of yoga is doing its best to become more professional, so standards are evolving and certifications are on the rise. Thus it is with the International Association of Yoga Therapy (IAYT). They’ve recently offered a certification in yoga therapy, the C-IAYT, which I was grandparented into. The Yoga Alliance (YA) has stated that simply having an RTY does not adequately train you to offer yoga therapy to those with medical conditions.
Yoga is a multi-dimensional practice, and that’s what makes it so therapeutic when used skillfully. It has the physical posture practice that you have seen – the triangle, the warrior, the headstand and so forth. It has a mental aspect to practice – you focus your mind in a particular way inside your body as you practice, releasing the lists of to-dos and the relitigating of the past that is so common in our everyday distracted minds, and instead, we are invited to be absorbed in the sensations within. And, there is a breath or energy aspect of it. You use your breath in particular ways with particular aims in mind.
All of these aspects of yoga are going on at the same time. In yoga therapy (YT), we take advantage of what each of the multi-dimensional aspects of yoga can do, and we apply them within an evidence-based framework. For me, it’s within a Medical Nutrition Therapy (MNT) framework. MNT is an evidence-based approach to nutrition to address health issues. I use YT too, for example, address constipation by creating more space in the torso with breathing exercises, self-massage, and inversion postures. These techniques are added to the foods, fluids, and herbs Western science suggests can be helpful to resolve the issue.
Can YT help you? The short answer is if you are seeking lifestyle medicine to address a health condition, then yes, YT can be part of that program. Yoga can help support positive change, help us learn to move more skillfully, and provides us a philosophical framework through which to become our most skillful, kindest, most compassionate selves.
YT is a set of tools for use within my licensed nutrition practice. I hope to share with nutritionists and with yoga teachers my approach to blending these two sciences in a teacher training program. But, one step at a time. In the meantime, I’ll be offering YT-MNT in my telehealth practice opening in September.