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The Origins of Yoga Therapy

Paul M. Jerard Jr.
May 30, 2008
What exactly is Yoga therapy, and what are its origins? Should a Yoga teacher consider becoming a Yoga therapist? Where will Yogic therapy go in the future?

If we look at a simplistic definition of what Yoga therapy is, it might be described as: A Yogic practice, which uses breathing techniques (pranayama), postures (asanas), hygienic duties (kriyas), proper diet, meditation, and many more methods, which treat mental, emotional, and physical ailments.

The origin of Yoga is, at least, 5,000 years old, but a contemporary school of therapy can be traced to Sri Tirumala Krishnamacharya, who is often regarded as a teacher of master teachers. Among his students were T.K.V. Desikachar, T.K. Sribhashyam, K. Pattabhi Jois, B.K.S. Iyengar, Indra Devi, and more.

If a Yoga teacher considers becoming a therapist, there are a number of requirements to become competent. One priority is to develop in-depth knowledge of anatomy. This will require extra training and study. Some physical therapists, and physicians, are also Yoga teachers, so the jump to Yoga therapy is a logical one.

However, the average instructor does not have a medical background. Continuing education becomes the next logical step in this case. Another point to mention is that therapy, of any kind, requires compassion.

If compassion is not a natural ingredient built into the personality of an instructor, why pursue teaching Yoga as therapy? The truth is: A personality without compassion should not be teaching classes in any subject. There are a rare few people, who derive pleasure from pushing others into pain. They should not be working with the public in any type of care-giving capacity.

Where will Yoga therapy go in the future? It is only a matter of time for Yoga to be integrated into standard medical therapies. Being cost efficient, and without negative side effects, has made a very strong case for proponents of Yoga therapy. As studies continue to reveal the results of a holistic and pro-active approach to health, standard medicine will evolve.

Yoga, in itself, has always been therapy - in every shape and form. If you look at a promising athletic child, or a student in a wheel chair, you will clearly see healthy results, which are mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual, in nature.

After observing martial artists, gymnasts, dancers, and competitive athletes closely, Yoga practice is much more than a form of cross training. Many of them learned to work around pre-existing injuries and ailments, as a result of practicing Yoga on a therapeutic level.

In the case of children learning proper breathing techniques (pranayama), postures (asanas), proper diet, meditation, and deep relaxation - Yogic methods become a natural form of therapy, and give them valuable life skills. Children need to have the skills to deal with stress, peer pressure, and finding their way throughout life.

The most common form of contemporary Yogic therapy has been relief from an existing ailment. The list of potential ailments seems to be endless. We may naturally think of using a combination of standard medical practices and Yoga therapy for neurological disorders, such as: Multiple Sclerosis, Stroke, Ataxia, and Parkinson's disease. Yet, there are many more neurological disorders, diseases, and ailments.

Students and clients are seeing good results and improvements in their lives. Yogic therapy and medicine can work in harmony to treat any ailment. In the case of postures (asanas): They can be modified for anyone, even if the student is in a hospital bed.

There are so many breathing techniques (pranayama) to choose from; they can also be modified for the particular student. Pranayama and asana are just two aspects of a huge and evolving therapeutic field.

Copyright 2008 - Paul Jerard / Aura Publications
About the Author
Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500, is a co-owner and the director of Yoga teacher training at: Aura Wellness Center in, Attleboro, MA. He is an author of many books on the subject of Yoga and has been a certified Master Yoga teacher since 1995.

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