When I started my path as a Yoga teacher 5 years ago, I found motivation in sharing with others what had given me so much peace and knowledge about myself. However, I always thought my vocation had come late. Being a Yoga teacher has become something so ubiquitous it was hard to see what I could contribute to my students. What was my mission or Dharma? But then I discovered the difference between Yoga and Yoga Therapy.
Yoga has always been considered a therapeutic practice. However there is a difference between Yoga and Yoga therapy.
What is Yoga?
Yoga is an ancient discipline practiced to maintain health. However, with Westernization and modernization, Yoga has become just another discipline of exercise. Although Yoga uses the practice of postures to take care of the physical body, there are other tools that go further. These are things like breathing techniques, the use of mantras, and chanting which also benefit the energetic, emotional and spiritual body.
During my years as a Vinyasa Yoga and Restorative Yoga teacher, I met many students with different physical conditions. In most cases, the doctor had recommended Yoga. And while it was a wise decision, many of these students ended up frustrated. Most of the time it was very difficult to follow a group class no matter how basic it was. Therefore, the Yoga that was heralded as a source of well-being for everyone became a barrier for certain people. These people, either by age or by some condition, were unable to follow a regular class.
A learning moment
But life gave me a learning moment. Due to cancer treatment, I entered a state of forced pre-menopause and began to suffer from a series of symptoms that complicated my life and my Yoga practice. I had heat strokes that prevented me from sleeping, joint pain and low energy. I suddenly shared those feelings of frustration myself. I was no longer able to follow an Ashtanga class as before. The balancing postures and inversions began to be too demanding.
Suddenly, I experienced the sensation of getting old, of not living up to what people, conditioned by social networks, understand by Yoga. My body demanded a change in my routine. It asked me to evolve towards a less physical Yoga practice, one aimed at peace of mind. It asked me to accept the new phase that I was entering. I also needed to fight against the fear that had settled in my body and especially in my mind, after my episode with cancer.
My choice for Yoga therapy came naturally, as a response to those students who feel limited, and as a response to my own personal situation.
It has been almost two years of hard work and specialization as a Yoga therapist. I am deepening and understanding how to adapt the tools that Yoga provides. I develop an individualized practice according to the physical and mental limitations of each student to improve their quality of life.
Two approaches to Yoga
I went from assessing the needs of my students during classes to teach techniques that benefit them and provide them with better knowledge of yoga. Before I taught general classes, now I am assessing individual needs to design personalized routines, so that the practice of Yoga is a practice for EVERYONE.
In a common Yoga class, including individual or group classes with specific conditions, the intention is to teach students to practice yoga while respecting their health conditions.
In a Yoga Therapy session the intention for individuals or groups with specific conditions changes. The therapist’s job is not so much to teach yogic techniques but to help people overcome their challenges and gain independence.
Yoga Therapy for me is a practice for all kinds of people with any physical or mental condition, permanent or temporary. It is a personalized prescription which is, ultimately, a return to the origins of Yoga.