in collaboration with Dr. Robin Armstrong, DC, RYT
Many of us were drawn to the yoga mat by the many health benefits of the practice: stress relief, freedom of movement, a calm mind, and a healthy body, to name a few. Western science has begun to study the use of yoga as a therapy and has found it to benefit many conditions ranging from depression and anxiety, to cancer care support, chronic low back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, multiple sclerosis support, and more. The popularity of yoga is continuing to grow and its entrance into the world of health care is a natural progression as we look for deeper and more holistic approaches to becoming and being well.
Yoga therapists are practitioners who have specialized training above and beyond a yoga teacher training, and who mostly work individually with clients to support them in working through various mental health or physical issues, such as trauma, disease, disorder, and injury. There is an accrediting body for yoga therapists, the International Association of Yoga Therapists, which defines the standards for professional yoga therapy training programs and supports empirical research in the field of yoga and yoga therapy. Yoga therapy is becoming more recognized as a legitimate therapeutic practice, and with IAYT’s guidelines in place practitioners are held to a higher standard which ensures that not just anyone can call themselves a yoga therapist. There are a number of approaches to yoga therapy – some practitioners focus on our mental-emotional state and others manage and heal physical conditions of the body, but both take a holistic approach that honours the individual and all our parts.
While all yoga therapy approaches could be considered body-mind therapies, Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy (PRYT) is unique form of embodied mindfulness that focuses on the connection between our embodied experience and our mental/emotional experience, rather than on physical injury, postural alignment, or musculoskeletal rehab. PRYT combines humanistic psychology, yoga, and mindfulness, and emphasis the importance of becoming present and aware to our whole experience – body, mind, emotions and spirit – as a way to tap into our capacity for self healing and inner knowing. In general, therapeutic approaches which incorporate the body have been shown to be helpful for individuals who have experienced trauma and abuse, and PRYT supports such clients in exploring their embodied experience in relation to past traumas in order to learn from their body’s sensations and to work to feel comfortable and safe inside their bodies again. Others seek out PRYT simply because they want to release stress, tension, or anxiety, while for others it’s about cultivating a healthier, more compassionate relationship with oneself and others, and to experience holistic wellbeing regardless of what’s happening in their lives.
A Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy session might include gentle assisted postures sometimes similar to restorative poses, and sometimes with hands-on support and therapeutic touch by the practitioners, although sessions can still be effective and body-centered without touch depending on the client’s needs. Sessions also include dialoguing about whatever is coming up in the present moment as a way to promote mindfulness. Through a deepened sense of self awareness, and with the support of individually tailored weekly practices, clients are empowered to engage their own unique process of healing and to embrace the opportunity to shift unhealthy patterns, de-stress, and take practical steps toward enhanced wellbeing.
Shivani Wells is a yoga teacher and Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapist in Vancouver, BC, who works with individuals, couples, and groups. Visit www.shivaniwells.com to learn more.