What is the difference between yoga and yoga therapy?
Yoga can be understood as a state of unity, equanimity, or liberation from suffering. The aim of yoga in general is to alleviate suffering and support the realization of one's true nature in the union of the body, mind, and soul.
Yoga therapy on the other hand empowers the individual to realize their wholeness, achieving freedom from suffering through the application of yogic principles and practices.
We can say that yoga therapy is the therapeutic application of yoga to a certain health condition for an individual that suffers.
This suffering may be diverse: distress; dissatisfaction; a feeling of restriction; pain in the physical body, mind, or senses; a strong connection with self or disconnection from self; too strong desire; or other agitations of the body, mind, or soul.
My role as a yoga therapist is to help the client to bring more awareness of the connection between the body, mind, and soul, understanding the patterns and mechanisms of some of their reactions and then teaching skills on how to self-regulate their nervous system.
Some sources of physical or mental suffering may be the results of lifestyle choices and patterns (samskaras). The goal of yoga therapy is to create new samskaras that affect the client's behavior, attitudes, and expression. Getting rid of or replacing bad habits with new and healthy ones is the way to reduce suffering and as a yoga therapist, I assist in this healing process.
Yoga therapy is a process that must be self-empowered. It is personalized and focuses on the individual's needs and symptoms, not a particular tool, or style as seen in usual yoga class, which is a one-size-fits-all manner. As a yoga therapist, I adapt yoga practices to the individual needs of a client with the aim of empowering them to progress toward improved health and well-being.
The power of yoga therapy is in promoting awareness and curiosity in individuals. As a therapist, I am only a facilitator in the client's recovery. The aim of therapy should be oriented to healing rather than curing, mobilizing the inner resources that the client possesses to cultivate salutogenesis, a sense of well-being from the inside out rather than relying on external interventions. Self-awareness is the first step toward achieving salutogenesis.
Clients need to be ready to create sustainable change in their lives.
Yoga therapy is about healthy and sustainable relationships: connection with Self, to one's breath, with something that brings joy, to the environment, and other people as well. Building a heartfelt relationship with my clients is imperative to facilitate this healing and transformation. I do this through attunement and mirroring, gradually building a safe therapeutic alliance, holding the space for the client, meeting them wherever they are, and waiting for them to feel safe to open up and share.
Thanks to the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, I have an access to a clear toolbox to provide a transformation, consistent with the client's unique expression and inner terrain. After the initial assessment, the client works with a personalized and evolving yoga practice that addresses the symptom of disease or disbalance.
The co-creation of short and long-term goals needs to take into consideration the input of the client around their perception of the cause of their suffering. Only based on the above steps, I will be able to choose the adequate yogic tools for achieving the agreed goals. I could propose a therapeutic lifestyle intervention plan or a yoga therapy plan of action as a daily discipline (tapas) is key.
My main job as a yoga therapist is to guide the client in the removal of various obstacles to their level of consciousness, experience this rearrangement and allow it to filter through all the layers of their system (koshas). The most appropriate plan would include the ways of nourishing all five koshas and providing daily practice for healing them.
I would include a good mix of various tools from yoga philosophy concepts addressing samskaras in yamas, niyamas; asanas to change body habits; pranayama - new breathing pathways; pratyahara - withdrawal from senses; dhyana for repatterning the mind; bhavana- self-reflection; mudras - spiritual focus; mantras- symbolic sounds and others.
The Sanskrit word for health is swastha which means "living in one's own self" and this is a very individual aim for each yoga therapy plan, helping the client achieve a sattvic state of peace, tranquility, and equanimity.
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