Yoga vs. Yoga Therapy

It’s no secret that the practice of yoga is therapeutic in a myriad of ways. By flowing through asanas, practicing meditation, and utilizing breathing exercises, yoga practitioners are able to reduce their stress and anxiety, increase flexibility and blood circulation, and ease both mental and physical pain. Yoga therapy goes beyond a classroom or group experience to help heal the whole person on an individual level.

Yoga as we know it in the West, tends to be focused on the physical practice of asana in a group fitness setting and sometimes pranayama and meditation are incorporated. Students adapt their practice to fit in with the style of yoga being taught. Therapeutic yoga, on the other hand, is focused on the practitioner, and takes a multifaceted approach to yoga traditions to help improve the practitioner’s overall quality of life. For this reason, therapeutic yoga is used by both physical therapists and psychologists to heal chronic pain and emotional trauma, among many other ailments.

Instead of a traditional yoga class that teaches a single practice to a large group of people, therapeutic yoga is typically held in a private, one-on-one session to accurately assess the needs of the clients. Therapeutically-oriented yoga instructors help clients find ways to heal through yoga, offering tools and resources based on the individual’s needs.

According to the International Association of Yoga Therapists, Yoga therapy is the process of empowering individuals to progress toward improved health and well-being through the application of the teachings and practices of Yoga. While this includes asana practice, the practice of yoga for therapeutic benefits extends beyond focusing on the physical body to tap into all five layers of being. These layers are known as the Koshas.

Annamaya Kosha-The Physical Body

You are already familiar with Annamaya Kosha, as it is the only tactile Kosha you can actually see. The yogic practice of asanas supports the first Kosha, strengthening and healing the physical body that encompasses the remaining four Koshas. 

Pranamaya Kosha-The Energy Body

The second Kosha, Pranamaya, is the energy layer of our bodies that can be compared with human physiology. The second body encompasses our breathing, digestion, and biological processes. As its name suggests, the second body is fueled by breath practice, pranayama, as these exercises deliver oxygen-rich blood to all corners of the body.

Manamaya Kosha-The Mental-Emotional Body

The third body is responsible for our motor and sensory skills, and provides us with awareness. This body is nourished by the practice of mantra meditation, which soothes and restores our mental state — relieving anxiety and obsessions by clearing the mind.

Vijnanamaya Kosha-The Wisdom Body

The fourth body can be translated as “intellect” or “wisdom,” but it also encompasses the subtle mental processes of conscience and willpower. To strengthen this kosha, ancient yogis developed the yamas and niyamas, rules and restraints that yoga students are asked to uphold. By making a conscious effort not to lie, steal, harm, overindulge, or desire more than you actually need, you will find a sense of contentment and clarity that improves your overall quality of life.

Anandamaya Kosha-The Bliss Body

The fifth and final body is one that very few people are able to fully experience. In fact, it is thought that only saints and sages are able to experience this body in day-to-day life. By activating the bliss body, you are achieving your deepest level of being, and experiencing the purest form of peace, joy, and love.

Teaching therapeutic yoga requires specialized training to ensure that you are able to help your clients heal safely and effectively. While many programs can take years to complete, Asheville Yoga Center offers a Therapeutically Oriented 300-Hour Teacher Training that will prepare you to work one-on-one with clients in as little as nine months. If you are ready to get started on the next chapter of your yoga journey as a Therapeutically Oriented instructor, go to  http://youryoga.com/300-hour-therapeutic-yoga-certification-2/.