What is Yoga Therapy

By Andre Haralyi, M.A., C-IAYT

Yoga therapy is a holistic discipline that aims to help in the prevention, treatment, and palliative care of those suffering from a variety of physical, physiological, and psychological health conditions or simply to improve overall health, promote longevity and well-being. Yoga Therapy treats the individual as a whole and adopts a vast range of Yogic techniques to suit specific needs of each individual.

“Any state of deviation from the ideal condition (sattva) is a state of disease – lack of harmony – and to re-establish this harmony through Yogic techniques is Yoga Therapy.”

Dr. M. L.  Gharote

Unlike conventional medicine that focuses on treating symptoms on the physical level only, Yoga Therapy treats individuals as a whole and helps them to restore the natural balance of the body-mind, increase awareness and promote integration at all levels of existence. Since this approach is holistic, truly an integrated discipline, better results should be expected when compared to conventional approaches that tend to give predominance to a single aspect of a disease, ignoring the other less manifested concomitant factors.

Yoga Therapy techniques, both physical and mental, have been largely studied and documented by their efficiency and health benefits. When safely practiced, Yoga Therapy has no contra-indications or side effects harmful to the body or mind, as is common in conventional approaches especially when invasive methods or drugs are used.

Traditionally, Yoga Therapy is typically done through individual consultations, but it can also be offered in group sessions in which participants have a similar health condition and/or seek similar therapeutic outcomes.

Yoga therapy is of modern coinage and represents a first effort to integrate traditional yogic concepts and techniques with Western medical and psychological knowledge. Whereas traditional Yoga is primarily concerned with personal transcendence on the part of a “normal” or healthy individual, Yoga therapy aims at the holistic treatment of various kinds of psychological or somatic dysfunctions ranging from back problems to emotional distress. Both approaches, however, share an understanding of the human being as an integrated body-mind system, which can function optimally only when there is a state of dynamic balance.

Georg Feuerstein, Ph.D.

Benefits of Yoga Therapy

I. Physical Level

  1. Helps to balance body weight
  2. Increases vitality
  3. Helps to remove toxins
  4. Increases body efficiency
  5. Removes excess of phlegm and fat
  6. Increases flexibility
  7. Increases muscle strength
  8. Improves balance
  9. Improves posture
  10. Improves joint health
  11. Relieves pains

II. Physiological Level

  1. Improves immune functions
  2. Improves flow of vital energy in the body
  3. Improves the body’s efficiency
  4. Balances the nervous system
  5. Improves lung functions
  6. Reduces levels of stress hormones
  7. Reduces levels of blood sugar
  8. Reduces  blood pressure
  9. Increases control of bodily functions
  10. Improves bowel functions

III. Psychological Level

  1. Improves psychological health
  2. Promotes healthier habits
  3. Improves relationships
  4. Promotes empowerment
  5. Improves brain functions
  6. Increases awareness 
  7. Helps to release of harmful emotions

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Additional Resources

Samata International Yoga & Health Institute – http://www.samata.com

International Association of Yoga Therapists – http://www.iayt.org