yoga and yoga therapy

Life happens. There’s not a lot that I can guarantee you but life happening is one thing that is a constant.

Sometimes that can mean that you’ve had physical, mental or emotional challenges that make your life harder. During these life challenges, yoga and yoga therapy can be supportive in very different ways. The key is to know what you need during the different times of your life. While they can both be helpful, the approach can be very different and often one will be more suited to your current needs. Ask yourself what unique support do you need at this point for your particular life challenges and then take action to get that support.

What’s the difference between yoga and yoga therapy?

Over the past few years, this is a question that I’ve heard often. Depending on who you ask, you might get different answers. For me, there are differences and similarities between the two practices. They both involve a mind/body connection.  They’re both embodied practices.  They both can help you find stress relief and improve your mental state. Overall, they both support you in a deeper awareness of you, your body & your life.

However, for me, there’s one really big difference. One is led by the yoga teacher and the other is client led.

As a yoga teacher, I lead a class based on set guidelines. For example if I’m leading a Yin style yoga class, I’ll lead my students through a series of stretches designed to work different areas of your body. In contrast, when I lead a yoga therapy session, my actions are very much led by what the client is experiencing in the moment. Yoga and yoga therapy as I practice them can look vastly different.

What does that really mean?

In a class, there will be people of all different skills and abilities.  You’ll usually have one teacher and multiple students.  The students will have different reasons for coming to class but you’ll all do pretty much the same class with minor adjustments to accommodate different abilities and/or injuries.  Thus, a group class is created for a group and not you as an individual.  It’s led based on what the teacher thinks that you need or want on that particular day.  You might have a theme around a particular area of the body or maybe the goal is to work on strength or balance.  Maybe it’s a class around a particular sentiment or idea like ahimsa (nonviolence).  Whatever it is, the entire class will be working towards similar goals in any given class.

A private yoga therapy session is very different from a yoga class. 

I received yoga therapy training through Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy. 

In this tradition, a yoga therapy session is most often going to be a one on one experience.  As such, the content of a session is led by the client instead of the therapist.  What that means is that I will ask you what is going on in your life.  I’ll ask you how your body feels and I’ll take my cues from the responses that you give to me.  I tailor the session around what you need in that particular moment.  As a result, a yoga therapy session will help you to examine the connection between your life and your body in a way that a class won’t. 

If you’re tired of other people telling you what will make you feel better or how to get past a traumatic event, then yoga therapy could be just what you are looking for in your life.  A session will help you connect to your inner wisdom and with my support, you’ll feel empowered to navigate your own path to healing.

Which do you need right now?

Both traditional yoga and yoga therapy have their places.  If you’re wanting to sweat and stretch, grow stronger or relax in a group setting, then a yoga class is for you. 

The community feeling that you get from a traditional yoga class can be very enticing as well.  When you have a community who practices yoga with you, then you have accountability, friendship & inspiration that is included in your yoga classes. These can help you to continue to show up for class to work on your own personal goals. In today’s society we can often feel disconnected from other people. The community that you receive from a consistent yoga class can help you fill that void of connection.

In contrast, if you’re wanting to work on a particular issue such as anxiety, past trauma, or a major life change then a yoga therapy session can be the support that you need to thrive in life again.  Together we explore the life events that have been stored in your body. Refusing to deal with these life events will only result in more unexplained body aches and stress in your life. So, instead of ignoring the issues, I help you to explore them in a safe and supportive way. Then, you’ll feel empowered to create a way for you to begin to heal and grow.  In each therapy session, I’ll support you as you create the steps to shift and find more happiness and ease in your life.

You might need them both!

I’ve both led & taken yoga classes and yoga therapy sessions.  I’ve found them both to be incredibly helpful. 

While they aren’t the same, I love them both as I work on different things in each of them.  What I find great is that they compliment one another.  In a session I can become very clear about an issue that is bothering me and I can work out what I need to do about it.  In a yoga class, I get to explore just what my body can physically do on any given day.

So, which do I recommend?  I recommend them both.  Get to know your body and what it can do.  Get to know what your body is telling you about your life.  Become aware and reap the benefits. The real trick is to know which one you need to support you most right now.

What is your body telling you today?

If you’re not sure, then let’s have a chat. Maybe it’s time you get support for the life events that you’ve experienced. You don’t have to do it all alone anymore and I can help.

Remember… it’s never too late to live healthier and happier!


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