Yoga therapy is a self-empowering process, where the care-seeker, with the help of the Yoga therapist, implements a personalized and evolving Yoga practice, that not only addresses the illness in a multi-dimensional manner, but also aims to alleviate his/her suffering in a progressive, non-invasive and complementary manner. Depending upon the nature of the illness, Yoga therapy can not only be preventative or curative, but also serve a means to manage the illness, or facilitate healing in the person at all levels.
TKV Desikachar & Kausthub Desikachar
Yoga therapy, derived from the Yoga tradition of Patanjali and the Ayurvedic system of health care refers to the adaptation and application of Yoga techniques and practices to help individuals facing health challenges at any level manage their condition, reduce symptoms, restore balance, increase vitality, and improve attitude.
Gary Kraftsow American Viniyoga Institute
Yoga therapy is that facet of the ancient science of Yoga that focuses on health and wellness at all levels of the person: physical, psychological, and spiritual. Yoga therapy focuses on the path of Yoga as a healing journey that brings balance to the body and mind through an experiential understanding of the primary intention of Yoga: awakening of Spirit, our essential nature.
Joseph LePage, M.A., Integrative Yoga Therapy (U.S.A.)
Yoga therapy adapts the practice of Yoga to the needs of people with specific or persistent health problems not usually addressed in a group class.
Larry Payne, Ph.D. Samata Yoga Center (U.S.A.)
Yoga therapy is the adaptation of yoga practices for people with health challenges. Yoga therapists prescribe specific regimens of postures, breathing exercises, and relaxation techniques to suit individual needs. Medical research shows that Yoga therapy is among the most effective complementary therapies for several common aliments. The challenges may be an illness, a temporary condition like pregnancy or childbirth, or a chronic condition associated with old age or infirmity.
Robin Monro, Ph.D. Yoga Biomedical Trust (England)
Yoga comprises a wide range of mind/body practices, from postural and breathing exercises to deep relaxation and meditation. Yoga therapy tailors these to the health needs of the individual. It helps to promote all-round positive health, as well as assisting particular medical conditions. The therapy is particularly appropriate for many chronic conditions that persist despite conventional medical treatment.
Marie Quail, Yoga Therapy and Training Center (Ireland)
The use of the techniques of Yoga to create, stimulate, and maintain an optimum state of physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health.
Judith Hanson Lasater, Ph.D.
Yoga therapy consists of the application of yogic principles, methods, and techniques to specific human ailments. In its ideal application, Yoga therapy is preventive in nature, as is Yoga itself, but it is also restorative in many instances, palliative in others, and curative in many others.
Art Brownstein, M.D.
Yoga therapy may be defined as the application of yogic principles to a particular person with the objective of achieving a particular spiritual, psychological, or physiological goal. The means employed are comprised of intelligently conceived steps that include but are not limited to the components of Ashtanga Yoga, which includes the educational teachings of yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana, and samadhi. Also included are the application of meditation, textual study, spiritual or psychological counseling, chanting, imagery, prayer, and ritual to meet the needs of the individual. Yoga therapy respects individual differences in age, culture, religion, philosophy, occupation, and mental and physical health. The knowledgeable and competent yogin or yogini applies Yoga Therapy according to the period, the place, and the practitioner’s age, strength, and activities.
Richard Miller, Ph.D.
Yoga therapy is of modern coinage and represents a first effort to integrate traditional yogic concepts and techniques with Western medical and psychological knowledge. Whereas traditional Yoga is primarily concerned with personal transcendence on the part of a “normal” or healthy individual, Yoga therapy aims at the holistic treatment of various kinds of psychological or somatic dysfunctions ranging from back problems to emotional distress. Both approaches, however, share an understanding of the human being as an integrated body-mind system, which can function optimally only when there is a state of dynamic balance.
Georg Feuerstein, Ph.D.
Yoga therapy is a holistic healing art. Rather than prescribe treatments, it invites presence and awareness. Using age-old yogic approaches to deeper presence and awareness, we are able to know ourselves more fully. Out of that knowing, we are more easily moved to embrace the opportunity for change, growth, and enhanced well-being in body, feelings, thought, and spirit.
Michael Lee, Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy
Yoga therapy is the application of Yoga to individuals to empower them to progress toward greater health and freedom from disease.
Ganesh Mohan, Svastha Yoga and Ayurveda
Traditionally, yoga is a path of self-transformation, self-realization, and transcendence. In my book Yoga for Wellness I used the image of a launch pad to explain that kind of yoga. Therapeutically, yoga is more like a life raft. When you’re drowning, yoga therapy gets you back up and integrated into yourself.
The primary perspective of the yoga therapist is different from that of a Western physician, or even an ayurvedic physician. An allopathic doctor’s job is to work with disease and cure it. Our approach is to work with the human beings who have the disease—to help them develop a better attitude and get a better perspective on themselves and basically to help them with their mind. That doesn’t mean that we don’t work in a curative direction with certain conditions. But if we’re working with somebody who has cancer, we encourage them to see a doctor; we don’t say, “Why don’t you stop using chemotherapy and try pranayama instead?” If somebody is undergoing chemotherapy, I’ll work with them to improve their digestion, help their sleep, stimulate the immune system, or help them feel better about themselves. So yoga therapy is complementary, not primary for conditions like cancer or AIDS.
In the tradition in which I was trained, the foundation for practice for most adults is to create stability at every level—structural stability, physiological stability (which could be equated to immunity, perhaps), and psycho-emotional stability, which is essential given the volatile nature of the external world. The next goal is to help them to awaken slowly and appropriately to a deeper dimension in life—the spiritual dimension—and then help them find a way of linking to that dimension through their heart in a way that’s not counterfeit. You must find an authentic link, something that inspires them. For example, I might ask somebody, “Do you remember what inspired you when you were five or six? Did you go to church? Do you remember the joy?” The point is to reconnect to something they felt in childhood, and to go back to that. Help them return to something deeper inside themselves that gave meaning to their life.
Would it be fair to say that stability at all levels is the goal of yoga therapy?
That’s a good starting point. Again, we’re talking about therapy. We’re talking about the life raft. What you want to do is get out of danger and reach a stable place. Then if something else awakens we can think about the launch pad to help people elevate to another dimension. I had a powerful epiphany, which I wrote about in my first book. I was watching PBS interview the man who developed the rocket science to launch the Voyager out of the solar system. It was a tricky thing because this satellite was quite small and couldn’t hold enough fuel to propel itself out of the solar system. So this man figured out how to use the “gravity well” of the planets to ricochet the satellite to its next destination. If you shot it too close to the planet, the satellite would crash into the planet. If it was close but not too close, it would go into orbit. But if it was just right it would swing around the planet and pick up momentum from the gravity of the planet and go on. I was watching this and suddenly a light bulb went off in my head.
I thought about the normal neurotic who’s in orbit around the planet called me. It’s me, me, me. It’s all about me. (The seriously ill people have crashed into themselves.) Now, we all have challenges, and what I’ve learned in my own life is that when I’m suffering, if I get caught in the loop I just circle around the suffering and I don’t get anywhere. But if I sit with it and relax into it and let myself feel it, I can gain momentum from it and it can propel me forward. That for me is helpful diagnostically. I can watch someone and I see where they’re preoccupied with this neurotic thing, with themselves. Then I figure out how to apply what we call pratipaksha bhavanam, a reframing of a person’s perspective on their own challenges. Pratipaksha is a key idea in yogic theory, not only for working with psychological problems but also for someone who has cancer or diabetes. What we’re trying to do is reframe their way of dealing with emotional challenges.
~ Gary Kraftsow
Yoga therapy is complimentary not the primary practice in someone’s healing journey.. Work with the whole human being.