Yoga Therapy’s Clinical Role
by Paula Morris
Many millennia ago, yoga originated as a therapeutic intervention delivered one-to-one for the health of the whole person and modified for both individual and circumstantial differences across a lifetime. But more recently, with its introduction into Westernized culture, has yoga become a primarily physical exercise, often practiced in a group setting and separated from its physiological, cognitive, psychological and social healing powers.
Yoga Therapy now comes full circle, resurfacing as the next generation of yoga, reviving its clinical role. Its reappearance is no accident. Only in recent decades has invention developed the medical equipment and scientific methods to probe into the body and evaluate the specific beneficial effects of what yoga therapists and practitioners have experienced for years, but have not been able to explain or prove.
Yoga Therapy’s time has come. You do not need research to know that Western society today is at a crisis level in epidemic dependence on pharmaceutical and invasive, costly medical interventions rather than a reliance on healthy living to survive. Pain management in America is the highest in the world. Drugs and surgeries can temporarily block pain, but they don’t attend to the roots of physical, mental or social injuries which recur and intensify if they are left unaddressed at the causal level.
The goal of yoga therapy is to personalize yoga regimens into simple and targeted practices for both at-home and on-the-job applications. This allows everyone to access yoga’s known benefits into their differing lives, bodies, environments and needs to self-regulate habits, mindfully manage actions, thoughts or emotions, and self-actualize the unique potential of each person in healthy directions for well-being, strength, resilience, composure and harmony.
Clinical applications of yoga therapy utilize customized and modified cognitive, sensory or somatic, recovery, breathing, posture, movement and meditative practices based on traditional yoga. These evidential findings can determine positive and optimized outcomes, using natural protocols. Yoga Therapy is what some have termed a “participatory medicine.” Essentially, it educates to empower. Patients can develop their skill in techniques which exercise the brain to better concentration, clarity and emotional balance.
These techniques can also expand pulmonary oxygenation and the energy that feeds all function; conserve bodily systems for healthy longevity; develop postural and core stability awareness; strengthen range of motion and functional fitness; and focus lifestyle choices on what is essential to balanced well-being.
When we learn to appropriately process all the stimuli that we intake daily in both our personal and professional lives, without stress reactions and compensations, we are better equipped for responding to whatever challenges, traumas or changes that arise. Yoga Therapy is being practiced around the world, and this is just a sampling of the results it can provide:
Respiratory muscle training, with coherent breath techniques, improved control of AFIB sinus rhythm, heart rate, blood pressure and mechanisms that trigger heart muscle MI’s and inflammation in the arteries, muscles and cells.
Debilitating fibromyalgia pain was reversed to promote normal and enhanced function.
Clients learned to self-induce reduction of pain and anxiety in order to sleep without difficulty.
Children in elementary school learned to quiet their minds and feel secure in an insecure world.
Seniors, using only gentle yoga therapy techniques and walking exercise, are now living independently. They both look and feel younger with lifted chest muscles, stabilized core muscles, weight control, released back pain, supple and straightened spines, and improved balance despite advancing age, scoliosis or joint problems.
20% of the 80% capacity of the lungs is all the typical person utilizes without therapeutic respiratory muscle training, and oxygenation capacity can have cancer-fighting properties. Scientists at Mayo Cancer Clinic and Princeton University have been successful in shrinking and stopping tumor growth by expanding the supply of oxygen to tumor cells.
Sports training research has concluded that respiratory training produces a 15% gain in muscle and mental performance in swimming, diving, running, cycling, hiking and potentially all aerobic activities. Researchers discovered that increasing oxygen access and capacity reduces the inherent reflex of muscle contraction to lessen muscle and mental strain, fatigue, injury and soreness with performance gains in endurance and responsivity.
Healthcare providers are using yoga therapy to manage their own mental and physical health.
In other words, the overarching benefit of Yoga Therapy is not waiting for tomorrow’s cure or change—it is making tomorrow better right now.
Paula Morris, C-IAYT, ERYT, MA Ed., is the founder of Empowered 2 Wellness Yoga Therapy which opened in 2017 as Sarasota’s first clinical yoga therapy practice for improving community wellness on all levels of health. Offering free individual consultations and small group education in hospitals, businesses and schools, she writes as often as publications will invite her, aiming to be a leader in the awareness, access and use of yoga therapy for all. Empowered 2 Wellness is located at 1219 S East Avenue, Suite 104, Sarasota. For more information, call 941-316-6893, email YogaTherapyWithPaula@gmail.com or visit Empowered2Wellness.com.