As a yoga therapist, part of my job is explaining what yoga therapy is. Most people haven’t heard about yoga therapy, or about yoga therapy for back pain. While yoga group classes often attract people who are already quite flexible, strong and healthy, yoga therapy sessions give you your personalised yoga practice. Yoga can be beneficial for everyone, even when in pain, unable to walk, kneel or bend in certain ways. But more than just making yoga accessible, yoga therapy actively seeks to support an individual’s journey to greater health and wellbeing. A yoga therapist is a yoga teacher who had additional training to make yoga beneficial and safe for anyone willing to give it a try. If you’ve ever wondered if an individualised yoga practice could help you, this blog discusses 5 reasons to choose yoga therapy.
5 Reasons to choose yoga therapy
1. You would like support with a health challenge:
If you’re dealing with a health challenge, yoga practices, breathing and relaxation can empower you to improve your health. A yoga therapist would teach you a tailored yoga programme that you can also do at home. There has been extensive research on how yoga therapy can have a positive outcome for people with depression, back pain, diabetes, heart disease and cancer, to name but a few. As a relatively cheap and safe practice, yoga therapy is an important companion of conventional healthcare. It takes into account the physical symptoms but also addresses emotional and mental dimensions, thus looking at a person holistically,
2. You would like a tailored programme that fits in your schedule:
When time is limited and you want results fast with practices that are targeted to your particular needs and wishes, a yoga therapist can help you with that. You may want the sessions for stress relief, back care, low energy, or any other health support. Some of my students have been learning with me for years, and every session is tailored to their needs of the day.
3. you have back pain:
This belongs to the first point, but I treat it separately as this is my area of expertise. Back pain may but most often does not respond well to a general yoga class, because:
- The class is too big for the teacher to give each student sufficient attention.
- Most general yoga classes contain poses that may deteriorate your back pain.
- Your particular back pain will improve with some yoga practices but feel worse with others, and this will depend on the particular cause of your back pain. A specialised yoga therapist will know which practices to recommend.
- To heal back pain it is important to do some exercises every day, so it is worth receiving a tailored practice to do at home.
- It’s essential to have sufficient time to discuss your particular back pain problem with a yoga therapist. Together, you can look at ways of correcting the postural and movement habits that may have led to or may perpetuate your condition.
4. you feel too intimidated to join a group class:
Even if it’s true that “if you can breathe, you can practice yoga”, you may not always be able or willing to join a general yoga class, especially if most people are young and fit. Yoga can benefit everyone who has the chance to try, so if you would like to try yoga but are reluctant to join a group, see if you can find a yoga therapist in your neighbourhood. Some of them, like me, are also happy to teach online now.
5. You want to prevent injuries
Injuries in large general yoga classes are not uncommon. In a large class of yoga students, the teacher is simply unable to give all students sufficient attention, let alone correct the misalignments. Private sessions with a yoga therapist can improve your yoga practice, making it safer and more intelligent for your unique body. It’s useful if you practise yoga frequently and want to know whether you are doing the poses correctly, or if you are concerned about knee, hip, neck and back safety. You can then take this knowledge with you into group classes. You will have learned how the poses can serve you, rather than the other way round.
Can yoga therapy be taught to groups?
Leaving aside these 5 reasons to choose yoga therapy, what if you prefer to do yoga in a group setting? Yoga therapy can be taught in groups, to a certain extent. For instance, the class can focus on people who are recovering from cancer treatment. However, it will not be tailored to them as individuals who also come, for example, with a frozen shoulder and painful knee. Nevertheless, the social aspect of the group format can be valuable.
I teach a small back care class online, although I always encourage people to take a few private sessions first when they have back pain. After those, you are welcome to join my back care class as an excellent maintenance programme.
Don’t hesitate to contact me if you would like to find out how yoga therapy can help you. Set up a free consultation call here: https://beneyoga.co.uk/book-a-free-consultation-call/
Or you can email me here: https://beneyoga.co.uk/contact-for-yoga-classes-in-chiswick/.
A case in point: Child’s pose
Child’s pose is a soothing, restful pose that can calm the nerves and emotions, and help lower blood pressure. It stretches the muscles on either side of the spine, thus increasing the space between the discs and promoting their health.
It is prescribed for all-over relaxation, tight lower back and spine, but counter-indicated for people with a herniated disc, extreme kyphosis or posterior spondylolisthesis/retrolisthesis.
Not everyone finds child’s pose easy. It is called after the sleeping position that babies sometimes sleep in, but we definitely lose that ease in this pose. Nevertheless, with adaptations it can still be very beneficial. See which of the following variations suits you best:
Place a rolled towel under your ankles.
Place a rolled towel tightly in the knee fold, to create space in the knee joints. You can also sit on a chair and rest forward on a table, either placing the elbows or the hands on the table to support your head.
Severe kyphosis (hunchback), or severe osteoporosis:
Rest with the body higher up, for example on a chair. Alternatively, sit on the chair and rest the body on a table.
Very tight back:
Place a bolster (or a large cushion) between your knees and rest your body on it, or use a chair.
Avoid this pose. Rest on your abdomen instead.
Bringing your arms back towards the feet may help, or bending them to the side.
During pregnancy or when you don’t like pressure on the abdomen:
Place the knees wider and the feet together.
To feel more emotionally supported, place the knees on either side of a yoga bolster (or other big pillow), and rest the abdomen, chest and head on it for a supremely restful and soothing position. Look to one side and change to face the other side as well. Stay a few or even 10 minutes.