I mentioned in my August 1st post that I intentionally leave the word “Yoga” out of my description when I get asked what I do. There tends to be a generalized picture of what people expect when I say, “Yoga Therapist”. Yoga and specifically Yoga Therapy goes beyond the movement of an exercise class…
So what is Yoga Therapy, and what does a Yoga Therapist or Integrative Health Specialist do? Our governing body, The International Association of Yoga Therapists, (IAYT) defines Yoga Therapy as:
“Yoga therapy is the process of empowering individuals to progress toward improved health and wellbeing through the application of the teachings and practices of yoga. The practice of yoga therapy requires specialized training and skill development to support the relationship between the client/student and therapist and to effect positive change for the individual (IAYT, 2012).”
Leaving Corrections to do this work was about so much more than a job change…the lines blur between work and home, because literally everything is Yoga. Yoga is Connection. A process of becoming. A way of Life. Yoga is self-inquiry, self-study, self-responsibility and self-mastery. It is bringing more and more awareness to all of the layers that make up a life in these temporary skin-suits. Beyond the health of the physical body, beyond making healthy choices around movement and nutrition, are the more subtle layers of breath, mind, intuition and connection back to everything else. If you were to think of the Universe as an organism, each of us represent a single cell of the collective whole, each with its own function to contribute to the health of the greater system. What we do to our individual drop, ripples out to affect the entire ocean.
I like to think my role as a Yoga Therapist is simply to create and hold a safe space for another person to connect to themselves. Most people seek out Yoga in hopes for finding better overall wellness; mobility, flexibility or mental health. To me Connection inward is Freedom. Nobody else can connect to that internal felt sense of what it feels like being you. This is the first person perspective and perception of your life experience. We are taught to focus most of our attention outwards to learning, getting jobs and becoming successful. We block or numb out pain; physical and mental, in the pursuit of getting ahead. But eventually the unfelt, unprocessed emotions of unintegrated experience make themselves known. Repression, suppression and numbing become the breeding ground for disease. Intentional time and space to reconnect is required.
There are many ways in. This is the realm of Yoga Therapy…and the Therapist is there to serve as a guide. Holding the light and providing the toolkit for you to do your own work. There is no one-sized-fits-all solution. What works for one may not be the most helpful approach for another. This is the incredible beauty of this work. You get to be seen and heard as the unique individual you are. You bring your willingness and readiness to exploring wherever you would like to bring more awareness. Awareness brings ability to learn, grow and expand. It requires choice and self-responsibility. To work in a partnership versus being a passive patient that gets worked on. Yoga is not a work-out, it is a “work-in”.
So today, on Global Yoga Therapy Day I want to give a huge shout out to all the Yoga Therapists out there who are pioneering this new field into being. All the time spent educating and empowering others is shifting the way the world thinks about their health and happiness. To my cohort of fellow therapists-in-training, my teachers, mentors, and leaders…a huge thank you for pouring the passions of your life into this work and especially for sharing your individual zones of genius with me. I am so excited to be joining you bringing this work to the world. Much love and many thanks!
Happy Global Yoga Therapy Day!