We’ve all at one point or another come across yoga. Whether it be years of personal practice, having taken a class with a friend or followed along with a Youtube video; yoga is fortunately no longer a mystery in the Western world. It has become a popular form of cardiovascular exercise easily found in gyms, schools and community centers. While we may be familiar with the more mainstream forms of yoga, what many of us may not be aware of is that yoga can be specialized and personalized for each individual through the practice of yoga therapy.
The practice of yoga therapy is designed to address health concerns, manage symptoms, develop a more optimistic attitude regarding the health concerns and improve overall function. A yoga therapist works one on one with their client to establish goals, develop a plan and educate the client on how to implement and maintain the said plan. Doing so empowers the client to take charge of their health while also knowing that they are supported throughout the journey to improved function.
Although several prominent forms of yoga such as pre- and post-natal or child yoga are specialized, they are geared towards groups whereas yoga therapy focuses very specifically to the conditions and needs of an individual.
The foundation of both a yoga class and a yoga therapy session is the same: the use of yoga asana. A yoga therapist, similar to the yoga Teacher, uses a set of yoga poses to address the health concerns of the client. The use of props such as bolsters, blocks and straps is encouraged in both practices. yoga therapy sessions also incorporate the use of Pranayama (breath control), Mudras (hand gestures) and Marmas (pressure points). Lastly, both forms of practice also use a similar approach: warming up the body, flowing through a set of poses, cooling down the body and finally allowing the body to fully relax.
The key difference between attending a yoga class vs. a yoga therapy session is that during a class, the same set of poses is being taught and implemented for all attendees regardless of their health backgrounds. This can be problematic for two reasons:
1. What may be beneficial to one student could be detrimental to another. For example teaching a class with a lot of inversions can help one student that may have circulatory issues and harm another that has high blood pressure.
2. If a student feels worse after attending a class, their perception of yoga and its healing benefits can be altered.
In order to know which is the right fit for you, it is important to consider the following criteria to make an informed decision:
- Group or Individual Experience
- Existing Health Conditions
The first thing to consider when choosing between a yoga class and a yoga therapy session is which one will best fit the experience you are looking for. For instance a yoga class will provide you with a community of members practicing together and possibly a good sweat. On the other hand, if you’re looking to heal from an injury or address a specific health concern, a yoga therapy session could be a better option. Another thing to consider is accessibility and affordability. Since yoga therapists are more specialized in their training, they can be harder to find in comparison to a yoga class that can be taken at a local community center or even online. Due to the nature of a yoga therapy session, they can cost more than the average yoga class. With that being said, there are several therapists that are willing to work with their clients to create a plan that works for both parties.
Overall, both yoga and yoga therapy have a myriad of healing benefits. Regardless of which path you choose, you will leave feeling refreshed, renewed and recalibrated.