Yoga Therapy – A Growing Field
Many people attending general yoga classes comment on their therapeutic value. Depending on the class attended, students can leave feeling less stressed, more relaxed and yet have greater energy levels. Yoga has been applied as a therapeutic intervention for many years, and yoga therapy has emerged as a related discipline.
by SOPHIA ANDEH & NIKKI JACKSON
There are differing definitions of yoga therapy, a common thread among them is the concept of applying yoga techniques and practices to help individuals with health challenges. Yoga therapy utilises tools found in many yoga classes, including postures, working with the breath, meditation, awareness of the body and/or mind and relaxation. However, in yoga therapy these are directed to the needs and ability of the person concerned. The aim of yoga therapy is to promote good health, for the whole person, both in addressing their current health needs, and also in maintaining health. Yoga therapy can focus on health and wellness at all levels of the person: physical, psychological, and spiritual. A health problem may initially present in one of these areas, for example back pain. Yoga therapy would focus on working with the physical body and appropriate yoga postures. If the back pain is exacerbated by stress, then including yoga to help calm the mind, for example breathing techniques, and self-compassion meditations to ease pain, would be helpful also. Yoga therapists prescribe specific regimens of postures, breathing exercises, relaxation and meditation practises to suit individual needs.
Yoga therapy interventions have been increasingly studied in many health conditions, and the medical establishment is beginning to understand and accept the benefits of yoga therapy. In a recently published online article Heather Mason et al. discuss the emergence of yoga therapy in the United Kingdom, and the integration of yoga into the National Health Service (NHS). They give the following reasons: (a) yoga research supports its efficacy as a cost-effective, preventive and complementary treatment for a host of non-communicable diseases; and (b) the escalating economic burden of long-term conditions is overwhelming the NHS. They mention that the NHS Choices website, which conveys information to the public regarding treatment options, has a page dedicated to the health benefits of yoga. Several institutions offer comprehensive training programs in yoga therapy, the British Council for Yoga Therapy website contains useful information about yoga therapy training providers. The Yoga in Healthcare Alliance has been established to help integrate yoga therapy into the NHS. Its mission statement includes integrating therapeutic yoga practice into healthcare systems. The policy consists of parliamentarians, leaders in the NHS, yoga researchers, health professionals, and representatives from yoga organisations.
If you are interested in learning more about yoga therapy, before taking the leap to the full training, the British Wheel of Yoga is running a six-day modular yoga therapy course, running from Nov 2017 to May 2018. The course is led by Nikki Jackson, a very experienced teacher, who has been teaching yoga classes, workshops and yoga therapy for 25 years and has worked extensively in the NHS as both an occupational therapist and yoga therapist for a variety of physical and mental health conditions. The course is designed for qualified teachers to develop skills in creating safe and effective yoga therapy practises that are appropriate for specific chronic physical and mental health conditions. The focus will be ‘person centred’ and will take the view that ‘no one cure fits all.
For further information please email: Nikki@yogafocus.co.uk or tel: 07816 786656.
Heather Mason, Nicole Schnackenberg, and Robin Monro (2017) Yoga and Healthcare in the United Kingdom. International Journal of Yoga Therapy In-Press. https://doi.org/10.17761/IJYT2017_Perspective_Mason_Epub