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Natural Awakenings North Central New Jersey

Yoga Therapy: Optimal Healing of Body and Mind

Mar 30, 2013 06:45PM ● By Kim Cope Tait

We all need healing, at one time or another, whether it is on a physical or emotional level. Often, it is both at once. Through yoga, we have the power to create the optimal conditions for healing our bodies and our minds. While a yoga class might normally work for many of us, there are times when we might have a more specific need, requiring more than a modification of a handful of postures. This is where yoga therapy comes in.

To define yoga therapy, we must first define yoga. Patanjali, who penned the famous Yoga Sutras, wrote, “Yoga is the removal of the fluctuations of the mind.” It is a system of movements, breath, and philosophy that work together to quiet the mind and bring about a meditative state, which allows for optimal relaxation, reflection and balance.  When we are struggling with an injury or dis-ease in the body, it can be challenging to quiet the mind and rest the breath. The stress related to coping with any variety of dis-ease is often the impetus for “fluctuations of the mind” and can detract from a balanced condition in the body, reducing our ability to heal. Through yoga, we can address this imbalance.  

“This is really why I got into yoga therapy and why I started Yoga Impact,” says Nancy Candea, local yoga therapist and founder of that nonprofit organization. “I wanted to effectively bring yoga to under-served populations.” By “under-served populations,” Candea is referring to all those for whom yoga has not been made readily accessible. That could be someone with an acute injury, someone confined to home or a chair, someone for whom English is not his or her native language. It could be someone who has experienced a trauma or who is battling addiction, someone going through chemotherapy or dealing with any debilitating illness. In essence, “under-served populations” include anyone for whom yoga might appear distant, or foreign, or simply unavailable.

“With my yoga therapy clients, I go in and look at the whole lifestyle,” says Candea, and she poses these five central questions to her clients: Are you using exercise to be proactive about your health care? Do you have relaxation techniques you feel comfortable implementing? Do you know how to put nutrition in your body in a mindful way? Do you know how to cultivate a positive state of mind? And finally, do you know your life path, and do you feel that you are able to find and navigate it?

These five questions, then, encompass the basis of yoga therapy:  It is a treatment that merges exercise, breath and mindfulness. It addresses the whole person, and it allows the yoga therapist to guide individuals toward actively promoting health in both the body and mind. Yoga therapists use their training in physiology, anatomy, asana, pranayama, nutrition, and meditation to guide their students to effectively exercise, relax, feed their bodies and minds, and live their lives in a more holistic, balanced way.

These are all components of overall wellness, and when these components are aligned, all of the other ways we care for ourselves become more effective. Whether those other ways involve taking daily supplements for general health, or engaging in intensive Western medicinal practices to treat acute illness, yoga therapy allows the individual to create optimal conditions for healing in her own body. Yoga therapy allows one individual to guide another toward accessing his or her own healing energy.  Who wouldn’t want that?!

To learn more about yoga therapy, 200- and 500-hour yoga teacher training, yoga therapy training or to become involved with Yoga Impact, visit yogaimpact.org.

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