Thursday, September 15, 2016

Yoga Therapist vs Yoga Teacher

When you practice as a yoga therapist, you are teaching yoga, but your vision, commitment and knowledge are deeper. How do you describe the essence of being a yoga therapist compared to being a yoga teacher?

When I go to most yoga classes in my home town and yoga mecca Los Angeles the teacher has a class in mind. The class often gets taught no matter who the students are.  The student is supposed to fit in the class or fit into the system.  The class rarely adapts to the students.  Of course a good yoga teacher offers modifications and options but often I am in  yoga class and I wonder who is this class for because no one can do the poses.  The class isn't matching up with who is there taking it.  And very often the class is unsafe.  

The basic Los Angeles yoga class is not about self knowledge and self-discovery but instead about mastering postures. In the mastery of these postures I have experienced and witnessed others heal their bodies and their lives. That is a testament to the power of yoga.  Even if it is just stripped down to asana, (1/8th of the total system) it still is profound instrument of transformation.

The emphasis is very different between a standard yoga classes and a therapeutic classes.  The emphasis on most yoga is the "work out" or maybe relaxation but in yoga therapy the emphasis is the healing journey, " . . . therefore, yoga therapy selects, adapts, and modifies the practices of yoga appropriately for the individual with respect to age, culture, religion, and specific physical challenges in order to facilitate optimal health and healing of the mind/body."  Joseph La Page, Chapter 1 p.4

When I work as a yoga therapist or teach a class with a therapeutic mindset. I ask the students at the beginning of the class who they are, how are the feeling, what do they need to work on.  I especially do this in my Saturday afternoon Yin Class.  Yin is great because there is a lot time. It's not a therapeutic class per se but I teach it with a therapeutic mind set  My emphasis is not only asana.  Pranayama, Pratyahara and Meditation become equally important.  I take time for body scans and yoga nidra which may not be accepted in a traditional yoga class you get at a studio or a gym.

"Yoga therapy, with its focus on the overall well-being of the student, places equal emphasis on the physical, emotional, and spiritual dimensions of being. This is distinct from some forms of yoga in which the physical may be highlighted, but without in depth understanding and integration of the psychological and spiritual aspects of the person." Joseph la Page, Chapter 1, p,5

Yoga Alliance came down with its decisions this year that yoga teachers couldn't use therapy or healing in their descriptions.  I was even flagged for the name of my 200 hour Yoga Teacher training program which was called "Yoga and the Healing Sciences" I had to make up a name for my program in order not to be blocked on the website. So right now using the word therapy has become a taboo, unacceptable and flagged.  I chose the radical profession of yoga therapist because I wish to facilitate self-knowledge, self-discovery and transformation.  When I introduce myself sometimes I say my name is Nya and in Sanskrit Nya means guide it comes from the verb ni to lead or guide.  Today in this yoga class you are the teacher and I am the guide.  It the essence.  My focus is on the students healing journey not my own agenda or the agenda of the lineage of yoga I practice.

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