Yoga Therapy» Find a therapist dealing with Yoga Therapy
Yoga therapy is the specialist adaptation of yoga for those suffering with specific health problems and physical injuries. Although regular yoga sessions can improve general health, the practice does not aim to resolve serious conditions and is more focused on developing physical fitness and the maintaining overall well-being.
Yoga therapy practitioners are qualified yoga teachers but they have undertaken additional training in medicine and applications of yoga to medical conditions. This allows the practitioner to tailor the yoga to the patients specific ailment or injury with the ultimate aim of healing not only these specific symptoms but also to target the cause to prevent the injury from reoccurring.
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Yoga therapy uses practices which have been a part of traditional Indian healthcare for thousands of years. Physical postures, breathing practices, relaxation techniques and meditation all help to restore balance in the body and in the mind as well as promoting natural healing.
Much of the research conducted on yoga therapy has found that is among the most effective known methods for managing and reducing stress-related conditions which are becoming increasingly common. The reason for this is thought to have something to do with the fact that Yoga Therapy bridges the gap between body and mind and physical and mental, effectively treating many conditions from the inside out.
Though the origins of yoga remain unknown it is thought that it was first used in ancient India around 5000 years ago before subsequently influencing Hindu, Buddhist and Jain cultures. The yoga we know today is a result of thousands of years of evolution which can be divided into five main periods, Vedic, Pre-Classical, Classical, Post-Classical, and Modern.
The Vedas are a large body of ancient scriptures which were written in ancient India around 3000 years ago. Inside them is where the first written records of Indian culture and yoga can be found.
Vedic yoga, which can also be called Archaic yoga is a system which is based around rituals, sacrifices and ceremonies as they were considered to form a connection to the spirit world.
The pre-classical movement covered a period of around 2000 years, lasting until year 200. Much like the Vedas from years before the pre-classical period was also mentioned in a collection of texts known as the Upanishades. These writings detailed speculation about the true nature of reality and in contrast to the public rituals of the Vedic period, the Upanishades were secret scriptures.
Around 200 of the texts spoke directly about yoga and the connectedness of all things. This was really the period during which yoga began to take its form and its secret teachings were spread from teacher to student until the concept of an individual system of thought began to take shape.
The Bhagavad Gita is a sacred Hindu scripture which is considered to one of the most important texts in the history of literature and philosophy. The teacher of Bhagavas Gita is Krishna, who the Hindus consider to be a manifestation of God himself.
One of the stories in the scriptures tells the tale of a conversation between Krishna and a prince named Arjuna. The story takes place on a battlefield, which is considered by many to be a metaphor for the many distractions and complications of the world we live in.
Prince Arjuna faced the moral dilemma of having to go to battle with some of his cousins. Symbolically Arjuna's dilemma is considered to be representative of the bonds which tie us to the material world and he is asking for advice on how to set himself free. Krishna explained to Arjuna that it was his destiny and task to face the situation and there were certain ways that he could be victorious in his quest. Krishna outlined a yogic path for the prince to follow. Devotion (bhakti yoga), a keen mind (jnana yoga) giving up ego (karma yoga) and spiritual freedom (moksha) were the components that made up the path Arjuna would have to take in order to achieve his victory.
Somewhere between the 1st century B.C. and the 5th century A.D. a scholar named Patanjali wrote one of the earliest known texts documenting the theories and practices of yoga. This text was known as the yoga Sutras and it referred to a the eight limbs of yoga, a system which is commonly known today as classical yoga. Though yoga has evolved over many years, it is still the eight limbs which have inspired and formed the basis of many yoga systems in practice today.
The eight steps are as follows:
- Yama, meaning 'restraint' – refrain from violence, lying, stealing, casual sex and hoarding.
- Niyama, meaning 'observance' – purity, contentment, tolerance, study and remembrance.
- Asana, meaning 'physical exercises and body postures'.
- Pranayama, meaning 'breathing techniques'.
- Pratyahara, meaning 'preparation for meditation' – described as withdrawal and control of the mind from the senses.
- Dharana, meaning 'concentration' – the ability to focus on only one object for a specified time.
- Dhyana, meaning 'meditation' – the ability to focus on one thing or nothing indefinitely.
- Samadhi, absorption or realisation of the essential nature of self-acceptance.
You may be familiar with steps 3, 4 and 5 due to the fact they form the basis of most Modern Western Yoga practices around today.
Patanjali believed that each person was made up of two parts, matter (prakiti) and soul (purusha). The ultimate goal of yoga is to free the soul from the material world allowing it to take its original and pure form.
After the yoga sutras there was a period of time which saw the formation of many yoga schools and practices. Over the next few hundred years yoga began to evolve and interest shifted to the potential of the human body. Previously individuals had been more focused on meditation, attempting to leave their bodies and the world behind in order to become closer to their soul. However, the new generation developed a system of exercise which incorporated deep breathing and meditation which are believed to maintain the bodies youth. It was only during this period that people began to consider their bodies as temples as they housed the soul and it was this development that paved the way for Hatha yoga and Tantra yoga.
The story of modern yoga begins in Chicago 1893, when a young Indian named Swami Vivekananda made a lasting impression on an American from the parliament of Religions with whom he discussed yoga.
Vivekananda chose to tour America giving lectures on yoga, an act which many other yoga masters would later follow. It was from this point that yoga really rocketed in popularity. Hatha yoga reached the masses in 1947 when a Russian born Indra Devi opened a yoga studio in Hollywood where she taught film sirens Gloria Swanson and Jennifer Jones among other stars as well as educating thousands of yoga instructors.
Come 1950 and books were being written on the benefits of yoga when used in conjunction with sports. This development exposed the therapy to a whole new branch of people and subsequently further increased its popularity. 1961 saw the presentation of yoga on national television and the mid 60s saw even the Beatles trying their hand at taking up yoga.
Over the past few years people attitudes to health and fitness has changed quite dramatically with individuals spending more time looking after their physical and mental well-being, subsequently this new found heightened awareness has meant that yoga is currently practised by over 30 million people worldwide.
What does treatment involve?
When you meet your yoga therapist they will begin by taking a detailed medical history from you as well as discussing physical, mental and lifestyle issues. The more in depth the information the better as this is what your practitioner will use to analyse your condition and subsequently form your treatment plan.
Usually this is then followed by a series of one to one sessions or it could be that your therapist forms a small group of patients who require similar or the same treatment.
In terms of the session itself, whether taken singularly or as a group it will primarily consist of postural, breathing and relaxation exercises.
The combination of yoga postures chosen by your practitioner will be intended to strengthen the body as well as increasing flexibility and mobility.
Exercises which involve breathing techniques will work their magic internally by increasing the flow of oxygen helping to relieve stress, calm the nervous system and strengthen the respiratory and digestive systems.
Relaxation methods work on both a physical and mental level by creating a sense of well being which helps us to deal with situations that would normally put strain on our bodies, and finally meditation techniques help us to achieve a sense of inner calm and happiness.
How can Yoga Therapy Help me?
Whilst Yoga Therapy can be used to treat a variety of ailment's and injuries, it is important to note that it is a complementary medicine and should not be considered as a substitute for traditional medical care. With this in mind it is essential that you consult your GP before beginning any complimentary healthcare practices to make sure that any treatment you are receiving from either party is safe when used in conjunction with the other.
Aside from being used to help various ailment's and health concerns, Yoga Therapy also comes hand in hand with some additional welcome side effects:
During and after treatment many individuals find that they experience an increase in their flexibility. Many of the joints in our bodies are naturally exercised through the movements we make in our day to day routines, but there are also a fair few that don't fall into this category. The nature of yoga and its certain positions mean that the underworked joints of the body are now being exercised in ways that they weren't before which often works to increase flexibility.
Further to this a similar situation occurs within the ligaments and tendons which again are exercised in a different way through the movements of Yoga Therapy, subsequently increasing movement and flexibility.
In addition to this, the process of stretching all of our muscles and joints increases the blood supply to various areas of the body which helps to flush away the toxins and leads to advantages such as heightened energy levels.
Other types of yoga
The way we move today is a reflection of things which have happened throughout our lives. Perhaps an accident during youth has meant your posture has changed or a sporting activity such as tennis has resulted in you being stronger on one side of your body. It is these small and often unnoticed imbalances within the body that can lead to more serious illness or injuries later on in life.
Structural yoga basically identifies these imbalances before forming a programme which is designed to return the body to its natural and balanced state.
Hatha Yoga is a traditional system which is based on the premise that knowledge should come from experience.
The practice itself incorporates a combination of postures, breathing and relaxation with postures usually held for 10 breaths at a time. Hatha Yoga's intention is to help individuals balance their emotions as well as providing people with a good physical workout which over time will develop stamina, movement and strength.
Yoga for Pregnancy
Yoga for mothers to be has many benefits, with a key example being that it helps a new mother feel comfortable and relaxed throughout her pregnancy. Physically yoga will really help to ease pressure on the spine by building strength in the back and it will also build up strength in other areas such as the hips, legs and pelvis making labour easier.
Post Natal and Baby Yoga
This is a fantastic way for new mums to bond with their babies and is suitable from 6 weeks after a baby's birth up until they take their first steps. Gentle exercises and postures will help to restore the uterus, abdomen and pelvic floor muscles for new mums and will also help to prevent incontinence, womb prolapse and common postnatal pains in the neck, back etc.
Small exercises will also be performed on the baby, helping to develop their balance in preparation for sitting crawling and then eventually walking. Chest stretches will help the baby to breathe deeply and other exercises will help to improve movement in the joints, preventing colic and constipation which are common in babies.
Babies will also gain from the experience socially, as they will learn how to interact and play actively with others.
What qualifications and experience does a Yoga Therapist need?
Currently there are no laws in place in the UK which detail the level of training an individual must have in order to practice yoga therapy. However, those looking for a therapist will find it reassuring to know their practitioner is trained to a high standard and is working to certain levels of good practice.
There are various professional associations in existence which have taken on a self-regulatory role for yoga therapy, many of which require members to meet certain eligibility requirements and abide by a code of ethics and complaints procedure.
Below is a list of professional bodies that those practicing the yoga therapy may join and an overview on the requirements for membership. It is not an exhaustive list, but does features the main organisations. To find out more information, please visit the professional bodies’ websites below:
The International Association of Yoga Therapists is a professional association which works to establish yoga as a recognised and respected therapy around the world.
The organisation was established many years before yoga standards really began to develop, meaning that currently there are no minimum requirements needed in order to be listed on the directory as a member.
The association do invite all members to voluntarily list their education and training experience. Some of whom do, some of whom don't.
The British Wheel of Yoga (BWY) is a governing body for yoga teachers in the UK which works to accredit other organisations' teacher training programmes as well as listing qualified practitioners on their directory.
The association have their own code of ethics and complaints procedure and all BWY teachers (including students) in the UK and Ireland are covered by Personal Accident, Civil Liability and Instructor Indemnity Insurance.
All content displayed on Therapy Directory is for provided for general information purposes only, and should not be treated as a substitute for advice given by your GP or any other healthcare professional. Whilst some people have benefited from complementary and alternative therapies, no claims can be made to treat, cure or heal, and we strongly advise individuals with any health problem to seek independent medical advice from their GP before considering complementary or alternative medicine or treatment.Submit feedback on this page