Yoga Therapy – An Overview

This article originally appeared in The Recovery Village brochure and is adapted and reprinted with permission.

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© sunnysky69 – Fotolia.com

Yoga has many forms

Yoga therapy is the application of yoga for specific health conditions or to return to a state of balance. Yoga is recognized as an effective evidence-based treatment for many types of physical and mental disorders, and provides numerous benefits. Our yoga therapy program is designed to be an adaptive practice, and appropriate for clients of all ages and physical abilities.

Three primary forms of yoga are utilized during our treatment process at The Recovery Village: Restorative, Meditative/Mindfulness and Yin Yoga.

Each form utilizes slightly different physical and mental approaches, but each are empowering. Specific poses, breathwork, stretching, meditation and focused reflection are important elements of yoga therapy.

Even clients initially resistant to yoga therapy recognize the positive physical and emotional changes achieved through this therapeutic practice of yoga. Yoga is encouraged as an active way to support holistic, lifelong wellness.

Yoga encourages health and wellness

Physical and emotional stressors negatively affect a healthy mind-body connection. Through guided yoga practice, this connection is strengthened in a slow and subtle manner. Yoga helps individuals reconnect with their minds and bodies, using all of their senses.

Yoga helps people in recovery to connect with their true self in mental stillness, and experience being fully present. Fears, worries and anxiety are reduced through regular yoga practice. Cognitive and behavioral responses are improved as clients become more present and aware, and step away from negative automatic responses. Breathing techniques help release uncomfortable physical reactions to these emotions.

Yoga therapy is not strenuous, and a steady practice will increase circulation, enhance flexibility, build muscle tone and improve overall physical health. The client feels better and stronger.

Yoga for eating disorder recovery

Clients in recovery from eating disorders struggle with body image, self-esteem and a wide range of unfamiliar and uncomfortable emotions. Yoga therapy addresses these issues with specific and focused intent.

Clients learn to have compassion for their bodies. Body image is improved as the client learns to appreciate their physical strength, and take pride in what they are able to physically achieve. They see what their bodies can accomplish, not just what they perceive they look like. Some postures utilized in therapeutic yoga help release negative emotions and anger, creating space for positive growth.

Longer poses allow time to reflect on feelings, emotions, fears or thoughts. This is an effective neurolinguistic tool, since clients with eating disorders tend to be all-or-nothing thinkers, and need guidance to move beyond polarized thinking and negative self-talk.

Yoga for long-term sobriety from drugs and alcohol

Aside from its benefits for those in recovery from eating disorders, yoga also provides skills and techniques that a client with drug and alcohol addictions can utilize in times of stress, and when confronted with situations that trigger cravings. Reconnection and emotional release are important beneficial aspects of yoga.

During the therapeutic yoga process, current specific themes can be addressed. If someone is working on self-esteem, a specially-trained yoga therapy clinician purposefully integrates self-affirmations into the yoga session. A 12-Step themed yoga therapy group session can include reflective thought on specific steps being worked, or on the 12 Promises.

Professional yoga therapists use the comprehensive power of yoga to enhance the recovery process, and give clients concrete relapse prevention tools they need to support long-term recovery.

When introducing myself at the beginning of each yoga therapy group, I always say, “I am a psychotherapist first, yoga teacher second.” My sessions always reach beyond the postures and into the emotions and core issues, prompting each client to deeply connect, promoting healing within.

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