According to the 2016 Yoga in America Study, conducted by Yoga Journal and Yoga Alliance, over 36 million people are currently practicing yoga in the U.S. with 34 percent (more than 80 million of us) reporting they are “somewhat or very likely” to do yoga in the next 12 months. However, with so many options available in the world of yoga today, it’s no wonder that many just starting out may find it perplexing.
What type of class should I attend? Is all yoga the same? Do I need to go to a studio or join a gym, or will finding it on YouTube suffice? What if I have an injury or am unable to get up and down from the floor? Is yoga still something for me?
One branch of yoga that has been growing in popularity, and establishing itself as an adjunct profession to being a yoga teacher, is the field of yoga therapy. Within the past three years, the International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT) has established a certification standard which is quite different from the standards of yoga teacher. Yoga therapists most often begin on the path as yoga teachers and further deepen and expand their education in a formal way. The minimum standard for registered yoga teachers is a 200-hour training program; the minimum standard for yoga therapists is 800 + hours of formal study, including clinical hours and practicum.
One of the main differences between yoga classes and yoga therapy is the understanding of individual needs and differences. A yoga therapist will often work one-on-one with clients to support them in using the many principles of yoga in achieving a particular spiritual, psychological or physical goal. The tools utilized may incorporate physical postures, breath practices, educational teachings, yoga philosophy, mantra, meditation, imagery, and methods of deep relaxation.
IAYT defines yoga therapy as: “The process of empowering individuals to progress toward improved health and wellbeing through the application of the teachings and practices of yoga.”
So, back to the question, if you have trouble getting up and down from the floor, or are recovering or suffering from an ailment, is yoga for you?
In the 11 years as a yoga therapist here in the Coachella Valley, I have seen quite a variety of clients. They include people recovering from open heart surgery, joint replacement, abdominal or reconstructive surgery; those who suffer from back pain, emotional trauma and grief; as well as those needing spiritual counseling. Stress underlies most of these situations and everyone benefits from how yoga supports them in bringing greater ease and peace into their everyday lives.
Yoga is for everybody. If you can breathe, you can do yoga. If you have particular challenges, try finding a certified yoga therapist to guide you. The right yoga practice for you is the one that you create. Instead of trying a one-size-fits-all approach, we want to find a practice that supports our individual needs. And for most of us, we need to find a teacher to show us the way.
Jayne Robertson is owner and instructor at Desert Yoga Therapy in Rancho Mirage. For more information, visit www.desertyogatherapy.com or call (760) 456.5160. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.