Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Is Yoga Therapy?
Since “yoga therapy” shows up in so many publications, it may seem like a moot question, but I am called to consider it for myself…
Last spring I took a LifeForce Yoga weekend workshop and then in the summer I took the Level I intensive training with Amy Weintraub, author of the book Yoga for Depression. There were about fifty of us in the five-day training that took place at Kripalu, half of us were yoga teachers and half were mental health professionals. This made for a fascinating and lively experience. I was there looking for the connection between yoga and mental health. Most of the social workers, psychologists, and the psychiatrist were also yogis. Some were looking at ways to integrate yogic techniques into their therapy sessions. Yoga teachers seemed to be into learning to help themselves and students with mental turmoil and stagnation, perhaps...
LifeForce Yoga promises to “Manage Your Mood” which seems to indicate a focus on the mood. This title is designed to appeal to people believing that their moods cause them to suffer, and that their moods need “management”. I can relate… However, the yoga technique, itself calls for the practitioner to bring their attention back to the body. Emotional releasing happens, but the yoga practice isn’t the time to focus on the story around emotions. The stories are to be processed with the mental health professionals. So everybody has a place in the LifeForce Yoga strategy.
I thought it was really interesting to try out the technique, and do a mostly Kripalu style yoga practice with Amy. I learned some things. And the community aspect was really cool. Everybody was really interesting. I worked with it on my own and have integrated aspects of it into my practice and teaching. Looking at yoga from the mental health perspective was worthwhile.
But I just don’t think you can put yoga in a box. People come to yoga to de-stress, relieve depression, or manage back pain, etc… And yoga does help people mentally, physically, and emotionally.
Yoga itself goes way beyond our suffering. Suffering may lead someone to yoga, but yoga is not a prescription. Yoga is a vastness. Yoga transcends ordinary experience. Yoga is wonder.
To say yoga is “therapy” is to bring yoga into human proportions, when yoga is rapture and awe that is so much larger than the words any individual can use to describe it.
Yoga is not therapy.