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Yoga What? Yoga Therapy!

That yoga can be therapeutic is something most of us have already experienced as we feel so different after we spend some time on our yoga mat. But what is the difference between your weekly yoga class and the benefits it offers you and Yoga Therapy?

With yoga, and everything connected to it, growing so rapidly it can sometimes be hard to keep track of all the different and sometimes new forms out there. The vast offer of retreats, yoga classes, meditation and yoga therapy can seem like a huge ocean of options that from the outside all look pretty similar. In line of this, it can be hard to find the teacher with the right qualifications to offer what you are looking for. How do you know you are in good hands?

At Global Flow Retreats the content of the retreats and the qualifications and experience of the teachers is what comes first when we create a program for you. This is why we work together with Montserrat G. Mukherjee (RYT-C-IAYT), founder of The Yoga Therapy Institute and probably one of the most experienced and skilled Yoga Therapists out there. This makes her the perfect person to shine a little light on Yoga Therapy, how it works and how you can benefit from it.

What is Yoga Therapy and how does it work?

Yoga Therapy is the application of Yoga principles and practices for the prevention, treatment and management of physical and emotional health imbalances.

In Yoga Therapy the Individual is treated as a whole: The physical body, energetic, emotional, psychological, spiritual and environmental/relationship aspects that make a person. Therefore, it works with a broad toolkit that includes yoga asana, pranayama (breathing and energetic practices), meditation, Yoga Nidra, yoga philosophy and lifestyle considerations that may include diet, how you relate to other people in your life, and daily routines.

Yoga Therapy is generally adapted to the individual’s needs, and that is why it is taught one-on-one or in limited-size groups, under the guidance of a certified and experienced yoga therapist.

Students get the opportunity to privately discuss their health issues with the yoga therapist, so that the class is adapted and the necessary modifications are applied, to make the session effective and safe.

For what issues can Yoga Therapy be a treatment?

Yoga Therapy can be applied for almost every health issue, but also as a practice to stay balanced while still healthy, focusing on the prevention of any health issues and creating health and longevity.

There are some exceptions when Yoga Therapy should not be used - unless under the care of a specialized medical professional- such as serious mental illness: schizophrenia, psychosis and any mind issues that might threaten the individual’s own life, and other people’s lives -with violent episodes-.

Degenerative disease in advanced stages and terminal cancer are best taken care of in one-on-one private classes, or in specialized groups for those particular issues. The Yoga Therapist will assess the situation before hand, and make the relevant decisions with the student on what would be the best course of action.

It seems like Yoga Therapy is becoming more well known and popular. How do you think Yoga Therapy can benefit people in their daily lives?

It is great that Yoga Therapy is becoming more well known and therefore more people can experience the benefits it has to offer. At the same time it is very important to keep in mind that Yoga Therapy is only beneficial and safe when practiced with a certified Yoga Therapist, which is a different training and certification than a Yoga Teacher, in a safe environment. A certified therapist will be connected to the International Association of Yoga Therapist (IAYT), which you can see as a trademark that guarantees a certain level of training.

When yoga became popular and democratised in India at the beginning of the 20th century, the father of Yoga Therapy, T. Krishnamacharya and some of his students including Desikachar and Iyengar, had already observed the effectiveness of yoga practices when they were modified and adapted to the individual.

If you like to make Yoga Therapy part of your health practice or treatment for any illness, you can do so by booking a private session with a Yoga Therapist. Together you can come up with a personal treatment plan and practice that you can then apply in your daily life.

Do you need to be sick to need Yoga Therapy?

Everyone can benefit from Yoga Therapy. I often get people who come to my sessions because they are curious, even though they are not sick. Interestingly, half way through the session something always comes up that needs to be taken care of: an old injury, built-up tiredness, or psychological issues that have been kept under wraps.

Truthfully, it is hard, if not impossible, to find someone who doesn’t have any imbalances! In Yoga Therapy we don’t see sickness in the strict meaning of the word.

I also work with people who come regularly for a maintenance “tune-up”, so Yoga Therapy then works as prevention and as a regular check-up before problems arise.

What is the difference between Yoga and Yoga Therapy? Isn’t yoga always therapeutic?

Yoga is a powerful practice, when practiced appropriately, can be very therapeutic. But, just like any other physical practice, it can also create injuries or other harm to the body when the practice is not balanced, or not appropriate for that specific person.

With yoga increasing in popularity and many using the asana practice as a way to stay fit, injuries are also on the rise for both yoga students and teachers. Just because it is yoga, it is not automatically therapeutic.

Yoga Therapy has a focus on an individual approach, which already prevents the student from practicing asanas or breathing techniques that do not serve their unique body and mind at a certain point in their lives. Furthermore, it has a focus on creating holistic balance, making use of different tools, of which yoga asana is just one. This makes the practice often more gentle, diverse and unique to the individual, with great health benefits as a result.

I believe that there is a need for Yoga Therapy in our society and that is why is emerging as a counter-balance to some of the more extreme practices on and off the mat that we see today. Whether you push yourself on the mat or in your work, social life or sports, modern life can be quite intense and tasking. Yoga Therapy offers the attention, care and healing to balance this.

Are you interested in experiencing Yoga Therapy for yourself? You can join Montserrat for a mid-week Yoga Therapy Intensive in Zandvoort 14-18 May.

While enjoying the beach, stay in a beautiful old church and enjoy delicious meals, you will receive and learn about Yoga Therapy, so you go home with a tool bag full of healing practices that are appropriate for you.

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