Imagine you’ve been working with your therapist – be it massage, physio, yoga or otherwise – and you’ve been incorporating movement into your treatment plan.
Yoga Therapy – What Is It REALLY?
It’s not your typical yoga class…
When most people think of ‘yoga’, there’s a pretty common image that comes to mind; a group of people flowing from one pose to the next, while the teacher calls out cues.
But when I start talking about the therapeutic yoga that I offer and how it might help them? Things get even more obscure!
Most people assume that to do yoga therapy with me, they:
- Have to already do yoga
- Have to be flexible
- Will have to do hard things like planks and downward dogs
- Will simply be talked through a flow or sequence
- Have to have the goal of eventually doing yoga or going to group classes
Here’s the thing; I am first and foremost a registered massage therapist who then pursued yoga therapy as a way of elevating my work.
In reality, I work with people who:
- Are having a heck of a time with things that SHOULD be simple, like getting in and out of chairs, picking things up off the floor, or even walking.
- Have a reduced range of motion they’d like to improve.
- Maybe don’t exercise much, but want to start moving their body more often, in a gentle and accessible way.
- Want to dabble with a little movement here.. a little movement there.. throughout their day or week.
- Just want to climb the stairs easier, prevent falls, or not hurt their shoulder throwing a ball around with their kid.
- Want to avoid injury as best as possible for a better quality of life and to remain independent into old age.
Yes, I LOVE the hands on massage part of my job… AND that’s only going to give people temporary relief. I am also obligated to assess people, create a treatment plan, and provide them with ways they can help themselves at home. Personally, I like to ‘Yogify’ this aspect of my work.
But this isn’t just the cliche, “have you tried yoga for that?” phrase we’ve come to hear.
This is strategic. This is a process. This is a super dialled back, start-at-the-foundations approach.
This is NOT throwing spaghetti at the wall with the hopes that something will stick. Well, ok, trial and error is always a factor, but the point I’m trying to make is that the way we approach movement and what we work on together will have a purpose and specificity to it.
In an appointment with me - an RMT who also happens to be a yoga therapist - here’s what we’re going to do:
- We’re going to spend time checking out the movements that are causing you problems.
- We’re going to see how your body is navigating or coping with those movements at this point in time.
- We’re going to check out what is moving well, and what isn’t.
And THEN, we’re going to use bits and pieces of appropriate and strategically chosen yoga postures to:
- Help you become aware of where you are bracing, avoiding movement or creatively moving ‘around’ the issue.
- Help you feel the relationship between moving parts (for example, how as the spine rounds, the pelvis should tuck).
- Retrain your brain to talk to the appropriate body part in a more efficient way and make sure things are moving as they should (see the spine rounding/pelvis tucking example above).
- Make sure you’re breathing
- Gift your body with multiple ways to move again – get out of that repetitive funk!
- Find ways you can move or rest that will cause less aggravation in the meantime.
I may not have you do all aspects of a yoga posture – but you can bet that the part we DO practice mimics or nurtures the movement pattern we’re trying to reinforce, the mobility of a joint we’re trying to target, or the subtle stability needed to support you.
Most importantly, I use the principles behind yoga to influence how I help people explore movement, breath work and restorative positions to reduce pain, reduce fear of movement, and bring them back to their activities of daily living with ease.
What are these principles I’m referring to??? Here’s a handful:
Ahimsa (Non-violence): This principle emphasizes compassion towards all living beings, including yourself. It encourages you to avoid causing harm, like moving in to pain.
Satya (Truthfulness): This principle encourages truthfulness in both speech and action. It involves being honest with oneself and honouring your body’s true limitations rather than moving or loading your body as far as you’d like to think you can or wish you could.
Brahmacharya (Moderation): This principle advocates for the mindful use of one’s resources. Pace yourself. What is your actual, current capacity, and can you stay within it?
Santosha (Contentment): This principle encourages acceptance of what life brings. Acknowledging and feeling grateful for what your body CAN do today, and recognizing and celebrating the achievements you HAVE made so far.
Tapas (Discipline): This principle is the practice of self-discipline and perseverance. It involves cultivating the inner fire or heat necessary for personal transformation and growth.
Svadhyaya (Self-study): The principle encourages you to recognize abilities and patterns – after all, we can’t improve what we’re not aware of!
I have found that the people who whole heartedly participate in incorporating yoga therapy into their massage therapy sessions gain a feeling of lightness, ease of movement, access to their true strength, and more energy. Not to mention, they have a newfound confidence and feeling of independence, because they are no longer fully reliant on the help of health care practitioners to get some relief. In general, their quality of life goes up.
The depth of learning and improvement they get from the yoga therapy completely transforms how they feel day to day between their appointments. It gives them the longer lasting relief that they were always looking for!
Will this cure you?
There is never one singular thing that is going to fix every ache, pain or concern you have. Getting relief and seeing improvements takes so many different efforts from so many different approaches.
But I will say that there is something to feeling ready to tackle the day and try new things when you’re feeling just a little less ‘blah’, AND when you can bring the compassion, patience and moderation that yogic principles teach.
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I LOVE micro practice! A quick little interlude in my day, and then I carry on… In all honesty, even as a yoga teacher/yoga therapist,
It’s not your typical yoga class… When most people think of ‘yoga’, there’s a pretty common image that comes to mind; a group of people