Health and wellness trends have infiltrated entered the public consciousness, and with that has come yoga. One growing field of this activity is yoga therapy. Contrary to popular belief, though, yoga therapy involves more than just physical poses. In fact, it can help you with both your physical and mental health. So, what is yoga therapy? And what are its benefits? We’ve compiled a short guide to get you up to date with this practice of yoga.
Yoga Therapy: Yoga + Psychotherapy
Sessions of yoga therapy go beyond a traditional yoga class. Yoga therapy combines psychotherapy and yoga to improve your mental, emotional, and physical well being. A typical session will usually incorporate:
- yoga postures
- breathing exercises
- guided imagery
Many people seek this therapy when they need to treat a specific type of health condition. This needs-based activity can reduce and help you manage your symptoms, as well as improve your attitude. You can also use it to prevent future pain or maintain your current health. Most often, people use it to treat:
- mental health issues, such as anxiety and PTSD
- physical conditions, such as chronic illnesses and injuries
The Benefits of Yoga Therapy
Yoga therapy works best when complementing other types of treatments. The integration of mind, body, and spirit can help holistically. It can also easily fit into many different treatment plans and be used in conjunction with talk therapy, group therapy, physical therapy, and medicine.
Many studies have focused on the efficacy of this practice. A 2011 study showed that it had a positive effect on anxiety and was a cost-effective alternative to other types of therapy. Additionally, it was shown to be an effective adjunct treatment option for other mental health disorders including depression, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and schizophrenia.
Researchers believe that yoga therapy increases the amount of the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the body. Because this chemical has been shown to be historically low among those who suffer from mental health conditions and addiction, it may be extremely beneficial to engage in this practice.
This intervention can also help those who suffer from substance use disorder. In addition to the effects from the neurotransmitters, yoga therapy can provide the much-needed discipline that some addicts struggle with. The incorporation of mindfulness into the practice can also help with self-control. Other benefits of yoga therapy include:
- stress reduction
- improved mental well-being
- increased body functions
What Happens During a Yoga Therapy Session?
So what exactly can you expect from a yoga therapy session? While classes are tailored to individual students, certain yoga techniques are incorporated in most sessions to guide students in their practice. Here’s what may happen:
First of all, your yoga therapist will conduct a thorough assessment before you start. This ensures that you are on the same page about your condition and lets you work together to take the proper steps to fix it. They may ask you about your health problems, lifestyle, and reasons you’re seeking treatment. You will also develop specific goals that you want out of this treatment.
Following this conversation, you will come up with an action plan together. They’ll outline how often you will meet and for how long. Just as yoga therapy is not the same as traditional yoga, yoga therapists are not the same as regular yoga teachers. Oftentimes, yoga therapy training programs are more rigorous than traditional yogic training programs.
Once you’ve outlined your goals and come up with a schedule, you can get to work! Your yoga therapist will take you through a large series of exercises that include:
- Breathing exercises (pranayama): These range from energizing to balancing breaths.
- Physical postures (asana): Some postures work better with specific conditions. For example, the “legs up the wall pose” is often used to treat anxiety and insomnia. However, since no single pose corresponds to a particular condition, you and your therapist will work together to find out what works best. Sometimes, these may be more gentle, while other times it may feel like a workout!
- Meditation: This allows you to bring mindfulness into your practice.
- Guided imagery: You can use visualizations to help you calm down and picture your goals.
- Homework: Your instructor will most likely give you exercises to work on at home.
Classes are usually either held either one-on-one or in small groups with an instructor. This type of therapy usually takes time to work. You’ll hopefully see progress, just not overnight. You can find out more information by visiting The International Association of Yoga Therapists’ (IAYT) website.
Start Your Path to Recovery
The Woods at Parkside offers yoga classes at our center. If you or a loved one are ready to start your path toward a better life, The Woods at Parkside is here to help. Our treatment center, located near Columbus, Ohio, provides the highest quality care for both mental health conditions and addiction.
Call (614) 471-2552 to speak with one of our treatment specialists and learn more about our programs. Or click here to take an assessment.