Point of View Matters—A Yoga Therapy Perspective

It seems like almost every day we see a new article pointing to scientific evidence for the effectiveness of yoga in treating various conditions.

This is definitely good news for us as Yoga Therapists. And we are seeing more and more people without a yoga background coming in for treatment–some even with referrals from their physicians.

In working with western clients, we want to make yoga practices more accessible and avoid using yoga terminology that certain people might find off-putting, or even threatening. But it’s essential not to forget or ignore the cultural framework within which yoga has been practiced for thousands of years.

—Listen in as Brandt explores some challenges and tips in sharing classical yoga teachings with clients unfamiliar with these concepts.

Classical & Tantric Philosophy In Yoga Therapy [In Opposition?]

Listen in as Brandt describes how both Tantric and Classical Yoga Philosophy fit into Yoga Therapy.

How Much To Stretch OR Is The Body A Metaphor For The Mind?

neon-woman-brain-720x480Flexibility is a good thing. Being flexible enough to have optimal functioning in the body is really important for joint health and pranic flow. Mental flexibility is important as well. Getting unstuck from past conditioning is an important aspect of yoga training.

Often we work with these metaphors in the physical plane and then we get results in the mental sphere. Moving through our sticky physical blocks can unstick some of our attitudes. So many have experienced an opening when pushing through the fear of doing a handstand, for example. We feel empowered and less afraid on many levels, not just physically, as we get over the fear of inverting.

But does this relationship go on forever? One might think so based on the thousands of yoga classes that promote this idea. Find more Range of Motion (R.O.M.) in your joints and you will find more openness and flexibility in your life. This however is simply untrue. No Rishi ever said this. No text I’ve never seen hints at this. In fact it’s not even discussed. There is an optimal R.O.M. for each joint in our body. Once we reach this, we are as stable and free and healthy as we will ever get from stretching. Anything beyond that will just put us at risk for joint degradation and injury.

So why do yoga teachers keep encouraging their students to get more and more flexible? Do they really believe it will move them past all mental afflictions? Or maybe it’s not obvious where to stop for most teachers. Not to mention that all of the social media pics of extreme levels of flexibility are encouraging us to be in a flexibility competition with ourselves and each other.

Maybe what we really want is a body that helps us on the path to mental flexibility? If that is so we should be stretching in a way that promotes enough flexibility and enough stability that we are empowered in our body long term. Because if you do read those yoga texts, many imply that we might be at this mental flexibility thing for a long time. And we will need strong, flexible bodies to accompany us on the way towards mental freedom.

Om Shanti,
Brandt

The Eight Fold Path

Chakra Image YogaThe Eightfold Path: Why Is It Useful In Yoga Therapy?

Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras are a manual for how to move towards an enlightened life. Included in this ancient text is an eight part system for how to experience and live life with less suffering.

Yoga’s eight component parts are self control for social harmony,

precepts for personal discipline,

yoga pose,

regulation of prana,

withdrawal of senses from their objects,

contemplation of our true nature,

meditation on the true self,

and being absorbed in Spirit

–Sutra 2.29

What is amazing about this approach is the acknowledgement that there is an order to how one can go about finding peace. Unlike some other systems, there is a direct appreciation for our lived experience as human beings working with bodies, breath, and minds. It is really useful to think about this order when we have dis-ease, especially in the mind. For example, it is very possible that any of us could be having a difficult time finding mental peace if we haven’t found a movement practice that suits us. To my thinking, if someone is suffering from anxiety it would be a shame not to recommend some movement and breathwork before trying to work directly with the mind. This is one of the ideas Patanjali is trying to share with us. If we simply try to “go for it” therapeutically, it may not yield the results we are looking for. This is because there are foundational steps (like moving the body) that may need to be taken before the deeper work of focusing the mind can take place.

By following Patanjali’s advice we naturally move toward a relationship with disease that requires the client’s full participation. Instead of being told what to do – the client now engages in a process where the results of any practice they’re doing are looked at. If symptoms aren’t being reduced, the therapist suggests another approach or practice that might help. Asana leads to pranayama which leads to concentration, and so on. If we need to go to a different step on the

‘ladder” to achieve successful results or less suffering, we do so with no attachment to our original ideas. This open mindedness creates a framework where healing and spiritual evolution are united. Who wouldn’t want that?

May we all move closer to ourselves today and always,

Brandt