Why I Love Yoga Therapy

After years as a “regular” yoga teacher, I became very curious about restrictions, limitations, and pain patterns in individuals (physical as well as emotional). Why did yoga help some and not others? What about people who would never think to/want to come to a yoga class? While a good stretch is a generally a nice sensation, it rarely (never?) leads to lasting functional change. What if yoga could actually help people improve function so they could get free of cycles of pain and limitations - including chronic pain? How could yoga help people to experience long-lasting change and more Ease – in body, mind, & soul?

Then I found Susi Hately of Functional Synergy (Yoga Therapy instructor and founding member of IAYT – International Association of Yoga Therapists). Her unique approach immediately resonated with me because, like me, she saw the whole person (body, mind, heart/soul) as one intricate system. She taught me, instead of chasing symptoms and a “fix -it” approach, to look for underlying patterns of compensations. Bingo! (This is a theme in all modalities at TLC)

Pain is a sign that something is wrong; yet rarely is the site of the pain where you will find the root of the problem.

Every person with pain with whom I have ever worked compensated in some way, whether that pain was physical, mental/emotional, spiritual. Though this may have allowed you to dodge one issue in the short-term, inevitably your life, your activities, your choices, begin to shrink – especially as you age. It doesn’t have to be so!!   

What is Yoga Therapy?

Although all yoga is potentially therapeutic and healing, Yoga Therapy is the specific application of yogic tools—postures/exercises, breathing, meditation techniques, and more—to address an individual’s physical, mental, and emotional needs. Many people first learn about yoga through its physical practices, but a common misconception is that it’s all about stretching or movement. In fact, yoga therapy can help people who can’t move at all, as well as active individuals!

The yogic model of health is unique because it addresses every aspect of life rather than considering each body part or system separately. Yoga Therapy is a safe way of working with the natural capacity of your body and mind to optimize well-being.

A general public yoga class can certainly ease everyday aches, pains, and mood complaints. But a yoga therapy session goes much further because it is personalized to you.

As a Yoga Therapist I have in-depth training to help me assess movement patterns and  limitations, and to keep clients safe. I work with you to address your specific goals while considering any limitations you might be experiencing. The practices I recommend could include:

  • Movement ranging from gentle to vigorous

  • Breathing techniques

  • Meditation, visualization or mindfulness practices

  • Physical postures and movements that address specific areas of discomfort or musculoskeletal imbalances

  • Any combination of tools like these!

Yoga Therapy can compliment Bowenwork; scar tissue work (MSTR); physical, occupational, and massage therapy; psychotherapy; and more. Although we do not diagnose or treat diseases, IAYT-certified yoga therapists are trained in anatomy, physiology, and mental health and can meaningfully interact with other healthcare providers and suggest referrals when appropriate.

It all depends on what you need to increase your health, well-being & ‘ease in body, mind, & soul.’

How is Yoga Therapy at TLC different?

In response to an injury, parts of you compensate: that is, something either stops moving or habitually overworks. You develop “sensory motor amnesia” (term from Thomas Hanna, Founder of Somatics) where the body stays “stuck” in a pattern or shape that is unconscious, so you have no clue you are doing it! Therefore, even once the tissues repair, you don’t know how to change your movement patterns back to optimal function! I watch many people coming here post-PT where they have done all sorts of strengthening exercises yet the pain and limitations persist. They are still relying on the same unconscious patterns of movement! You ARE how you move and think – you don’t know how to be otherwise since its unconscious and you have practiced many of these patterns for a long time.  

Our process is:

  1. increase awareness of your internal experience and habits

  2. experience the relationship of your unconscious habits to your limitations

  3. decrease/quiet compensations ➔ decrease pain, fatigue, strain

➔ increase Ease in body, mind, & soul. And get back to thriving in life!

Without awareness, you get more of the same; you can’t change what you are not aware of.

The secret is beginning with slow, relaxed, novel movements while your attention is focused on your body. You will become aware of habitual patterns/compensations that cause strain. This not only changes your experience, but begins to rewire your brain by creating new neural pathways. (neuroplasticity) The way we embody ourselves transforms our experience which in turn transforms our brain…at any age. Neuroplasticity works a bit like how we create new tracks on a muddy rutted road. Wherever the “ruts” of habit are deepest, these habits repeat themselves (regardless of functionality!). So we need to consciously - yet without gripping or force - shift our movements out of these “ruts” and over time we will develop new “well-traveled pathways.” This includes habits of movement as well as of thought, which, it turns out, are not separate.

You will experience moving in new and delightful ways. Instead of fighting gravity, you will learn to use gravity intelligently. You will learn how to adapt movements, yoga poses, even thought patterns. You will explore function over form.  

There is no need to push past the body-mind’s limitations into pain. As together we explore movement, limitations and potential, restrictions and blockages melt away – sometimes quite quickly! 

Who can benefit from Yoga Therapy?

Anyone with chronic or acute pain, strain, or tension.

Beyond pain relief: anyone seeking improved function daily living, sports, yoga, and other activities, making life easier and more fun!

Sample conditions:

  • Prep for/recovery from surgery

  • Recovery from accidents, broken bones, sprains

  • Back pain, neck pain, sciatica

  • TMJ, headaches

  • Chronic pain

  • Chronic strain, limitation, loss of function

  • Stiffness, tension

  • Low energy/fatigue

  • Poor digestion, elimination

  • “aging” (most adults experience WAY more loss of function than is natural)

  • improving flexibility, stability, mobility 

And of course simply feeling more vibrant and energetic and “improving your game!” 

What should I expect in a session?

  1. Evaluation and assessment, learning goals/desired outcomes

  2. Structured practices (movement, breathing, stillness, internal body awareness) according to your unique history and abilities

  3. Closely monitor your responses to practices and adjust accordingly

  4. Work on stability, mobility, strength, flexibility, etc. in just the right areas. As relevant, including activities of daily living such as balance, getting up off floor, reaching, twisting, etc. for safe movement “off the mat.” 

  5. Work may be on the floor, seated, standing as is appropriate. Infinite adaptations possible to meet most needs

  6. Personalized home program after each private session based on needs, progress, goals, etc. and fitting your schedule 

  7. Sessions will be private at first (at least one), but there is always the option to transition to a semi-private class (max 4-5 students) where you will continue to work on your program under my supervision.

Also note that when you work with me privately you can mix and match what modalities we use each time to develop a personal approach most suited to your needs and for the fastest progress!  (Yoga Therapy, Bowenwork, Scar Tissue work/MSTR, Meditation, Spiritual Development, Family Constellations)