Therapeutic Yoga heals the body, mind and soul
What is therapeutic yoga?
Therapeutic Yoga is a blend of restorative yoga, gentle yoga, breath work, hands-on healing, and guided visualization techniques combined in such a way that it is an excellent choice for those who would benefit from a self care practice that is gentle yet effective for bringing the body into balance. It is a particularly good fit for those recovering from or living with injury or illness, including Parkinson’s disease.
If you are new to yoga, you might not know that yoga originated in India around 2,000 years ago and provides a multitude of benefits. In its traditional form, it consists of practices such as breathing, stretching, and meditation designed to benefit the mind, body, and spirit. In the West, yoga has become increasingly popular in the last ten years as a methodology that not only enhances strength and flexibility, but promotes relaxation and peace of mind. In addition, yoga has been proven to lower stress levels, enhance the immune system, and calm the nervous system. Yoga also tones the internal organs and enhances circulation of blood and energy throughout the body.
When you hear the word yoga, you may have visions of people in pretzel positions in hot rooms, but there is much more to yoga than the photographs that tend to make it to the magazines. In addition to Therapeutic Yoga, there are quite a few different yoga styles, including Ashtanga, Iyengar, and Vinyasa Flow to name a few. Many of the yoga styles you find in yoga centers are fairly athletic and require a certain amount of physical strength and flexibility. It is important to find the style that fits you so you do not get discouraged when beginning.
How is therapeutic yoga different than ‘regular yoga’?
Therapeutic Yoga combines restorative and gentle yoga poses that are specifically geared to help those recovering illness, pain or living with a chronic condition or injury. The poses focus on helping the body to release and relax with the support of props such as yoga bolsters and blankets. This allows gentle positioning designed to use gravity to open up postures, and soften the body while relaxing over time. A body that has been holding tension or is in a rigid and painful state such as with Parkinson’s is persuaded to open through the gentle stretches, restoring proper blood flow and movement to the affected area. Often times, in working with seniors, it is common for people to rediscover range of motion, flexibility, emotional and physical well-being that they haven't had in years.
Therapeutic Yoga also provides powerful tools for reducing stress. Since so many medical conditions have their roots in prolonged stress response, or are exacerbated by stressful lifestyle, these tools can be an effective strategy for moving toward better health. For instance, sleep disorders are a common ailment in this day and age, and Therapeutic Yoga has proven to be extremely beneficial for resolving this condition as stress levels are lowered and relaxation enhanced.
How does therapeutic yoga help Parkinson’s?
There are several aspects of the practice that make it a good choice for the Parkinson’s. Therapeutic yoga helps Parkinson’s through its affects on muscle, body movement and relaxation. Therapeutic Yoga is easy to practice at home, which can make it a useful option for anyone not comfortable attending a class. In addition, the system is flexible. If someone is not able to do poses, they can still practice the guided visualization and breathing techniques. If someone is unsure about the poses but is in a position to try them out, they will find that the propping in the poses lets the body relax, requiring just the effort to get in and out of the poses. In addition, if one does not have official yoga props such as yoga bolster and yoga blankets, it’s easy to substitute cushions, bedding, and other items from around the house for propping the body. While the particular effect of Therapeutic Yoga on Parkinson’s disease remains an open area for research, the way that it releases stress, calms the nervous system, and supports the immune system makes it a good candidate for helping those living with Parkinson’s disease.
How do I get started or find out more?
Look for an instructor who is knowledgeable and has worked with a wide range of diseases. It is equally as important for healing to have a yoga instructor that can help you relax as it is to help you with movement and body postures. Log on to the International Association of Therapeutic Yoga website www.iayt.org or www.therapeuticyoga.com for more information on this practice and to find a practitioner in your area. If you would like to do the practice at home, The Therapeutic Yoga Kit is a great resource. Published by Inner Traditions in 2009, it includes large flash cards of the poses, a guided practice CD that finishes with a guided visualization, and a comprehensive yet accessible book covering the practice of Therapeutic Yoga. To learn more about the kit visit www.therapeuticyoga.com.
Authors: Cheri Clampett, ERYT-500, is the Director and Co-Founder of the Therapeutic Yoga Training Program and co-author of the Therapeutic Yoga Kit. Cheri has co-led the Integrative Yoga Therapy Teacher Training and has presented Therapeutic Yoga at Beth Israel Medical Center and the Rusk Institute at NYU Medical Center. Cheri currently teaches yoga at the Cancer Center of Santa Barbara and the Santa Barbara Yoga Center. As a certified Yoga Therapist, Cheri focuses on the healing aspects of yoga: freeing the body, breath, and flow of energy through practicing with awareness, compassion, and love.
Arturo Peal is an anatomy and physiology (A&P) instructor and a Certified Yoga Therapist. He Holds a Masters Degree in Chinese Medicine, practices Craniosacral Therapy, and has been involved in the "alternative" health-care field for more than 30 years. Arturo teaches A&P for Yoga teacher trainings and studios, for body workers, and for other movement specialists. His weekly class in Therapeutic Yoga serves students who are unable to do a traditional, stronger yoga practice. He integrates his expertise in Anatomy, Kinesiology, Chinese Medicine, and the healing processes to present a multidimensional understanding of the human body.