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Natural Awakenings Sarasota / Manatee / Charlotte

How Yoga Therapy Changes Lives, Lifestyles and Medicine

Sep 02, 2019 08:00PM ● By Janet Lindsay

by Paula Morris, C-IAYT, ERYT, MA 


Times have changed.  Before the 1990s, few doctors and medical therapists were aware of yoga’s mind-body benefits to recommend to their patients. Medical science could save and enhance lives with heart bypass and angioplasty procedures, but these conditions would often reoccur. After serious injury and rehabilitation, patients were often left with addictive prescriptions to manage their pain. If a patient felt mentally stressed or emotionally disturbed by life events, most physicians did not address that side of health in consultations, and psychological care was separated from medical treatment.  

The effects of unmanaged chronic and post-traumatic stress received minimal attention until research named it the number one factor that impacted degeneration, health breakdown, increased medical risks and shortened lifespan. Now, the National Institute of Health includes yoga therapy among other recognized “complementary alternative medicines,” based on amassed international research that corroborates the significant efficacy and therapeutic value of this modality to healing from both pain and stress.  

Moreover, when yoga is adapted, individualized, and targeted to specific needs, the result is yoga therapy. Not only do more healthcare providers in both mental and physical medicine recommend yoga therapy to their patients, they also have started to discover how it improves their own health, well-being and performance. 

Yoga therapy is effective because it is stress management for the mind, body and spirit. The modality integrates all of these as equal resources for health and healing, then adapts them to individual needs and limitations, just as is done in other targeted therapies. It exercises and restores the whole person through movement, breath, awareness, relaxation and meditation. One study from the 2011 Annals of Medicine concluded that 12 weeks of yoga therapy was twice as effective as 12 months of physical therapy for pain, as well as the most effective option for back pain. Clinical studies of patients with heart and other chronic diseases also saw diseases reduced or permanently reversed when yoga therapy was applied as a continuous lifestyle of self-care.     

A recent Harvard Medical School study compared those who practiced yoga and those who did not, and found a 43% lower incidence of medical visits for those who practiced regularly.  However, sometimes these results cause misunderstandings. For example, a 1998 JAMA study attracted buzz about yoga’s benefits for carpal tunnel syndrome, and many people with this injury flocked to group classes which included typical weight-bearing poses on the hands and wrists that do not help the condition.  The JAMA research was based on a therapeutic program designed solely for people with the syndrome.   

While yoga is beneficial, personalization is rarely possible in generalized group classes, and some people cannot—or should not—participate in them.  Certified yoga therapists are trained and experienced to design and target which yoga tools will best affect a person, address their needs and limitations, and keep them safe. Yoga therapists primarily serve one-to-one or in small groups of a similar condition. A regular yoga teacher often cannot provide this. 

What makes yoga therapy unique is that it addresses a person’s total life condition, and the practitioner learns independence and skill in practices to optimize and self-regulate their overall health and functionality. Someone in pain or recovery might practice reclined supported postures, breathwork and meditation until they are physically able for more. For a busy working parent, the practice might be just 15 minutes once or twice daily and one longer guided session once a week.  Those healing tools—simple as they might seem—can profoundly improve health on all levels because we know the mind and body communicate with each other on a cellular level.     

This integrated and frequent dosage can be more effective in maintaining health and happiness than treating each body system separately—or not at all—until the symptoms indicate a problem. Yoga therapists create simple and individualized practices for at home and on-the-job applications, for prevention and recovery, so that everyone can access yoga’s health benefits in their differing lives, bodies, environments, ages, conditions and needs.   

 To locate a certified yoga therapist near you, visit or the International Association of Yoga Therapists at Yoga therapists can be found educating schools and adult learning centers, and serving in private practice, wellness centers or hospitals around the world. You are never too old, and it’s never too early or late to begin. Yoga therapy is for anyone who desires to feel supported, strong and resilient through life’s changes or challenges of all kinds. This modality helps countless practitioners to continue to experience both purpose and enjoyment in their fullest, healthiest lives at each stage. 


Paula Morris, MA, C-IAYT, ERYT, is a Certified Yoga Therapist by the IAYT and experienced yoga teacher since 2007 who opened Empowered 2 Wellness Yoga Therapy in 2017 as a private practice in Sarasota. She offers consultations for free, and as a community leader in the use of yoga therapy for all, she designs wellness courses for Ringling College’s Osher Learning Institute. Register for Fall’s “Living Healthier: Mind-Body Practices for Everyday Life” at Morris also contributes to Manatee Memorial Hospital’s cancer survival and support group and provides “Survive and Thrive” sessions in Sarasota, as well as “Unplug and Restore” half-day meditation retreats. Her practice is located at 1219 S East Ave., #104, Sarasota. For more information and to schedule a consultation, call 941-316-6893, email [email protected] or visit 



Natural Awakenings of Sarasota January 2020 Digital Edition


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