5 Reasons To Work With A Yoga Therapist

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Yoga therapy is an emerging field. As such, most of the public doesn’t know what a Yoga Therapist is or why they would want to work with one. I thought I’d do my part and write the top reasons to work with a Yoga Therapist.

1) Head To Toe Thinking
For physical concerns, Yoga Therapists are trained to think about the whole body. In a world full of never-ending specialization, Yoga Therapists are uniquely positioned to see connections that others may miss. In practice, this often involves strengthening or stretching structures seemingly unrelated to one another. The result is a whole body approach to healing that often has amazing results.

2) Time
Yoga therapy sessions are often an hour, sometimes more. Unlike healing professions that are constrained to short sessions because of insurance and other factors, Yoga Therapists have the time needed to take in your full story. It makes us well positioned to see connections that others simply don’t have the time to make. Sometimes we not only need practices to help heal us, we also need someone to help us connect the dots in our daily life. Are we getting enough sleep? Do we need to re-think our medications? Are we unknowingly creating stressors that can be cut out? A Yoga Therapist is able to take in your entire picture and help you make beneficial shifts that others often miss.   

3) Education Not Dependence
The goal of the Yoga Therapist is to educate people so that they may heal themselves. Working with a Yoga Therapist should leave a client feeling empowered to self assess as part of their healing process. Independence from the Yoga Therapist is the goal.

4) Commitment To Relationship
Yoga is relationship. Yoga Therapists understand that relationship is a key part of any healing process. This mostly applies to our relationship with ourselves, but it also applies to the therapist/client relationship. A Yoga Therapist is a friend on the path entrusted with a certain role and a good therapist is committed to a relationship that benefits all involved. When working with a Yoga Therapist, a client should always feel on equal ground within the confines of healthy boundaries.

5) One Stop Shopping
Yoga therapy is interested in all aspects of the self: the physical body, pranic body, mental states and emotions, the unconscious workings of the mind, the heart and its connection to all. Yoga Therapists are trained in practices to facilitate healing connection and balance within all of these parts. For many, this holistic approach can alleviate suffering across the spectrum of their experience. This may eliminate or reduce the need to obtain help from different individuals which is often important since the cost in both money and time can be overwhelming, especially when working with chronic conditions.

There are of course, many more reasons to work with a Yoga Therapist! May this short list inspire you to continue your healing with yoga therapy and please spread the word by sharing this writing. As always if you have any questions or comments please write me [here].

May the healing power of yoga continue to spread,
Brandt

Yoga Therapy For Sitting On Our Butts All Day

lower cross syndrome image finalWe humans were not really designed to sit all day. That said, most of us do. In the last blog post and newsletter I wrote about what happens to our upper body and what we can do to counter it. Today I’m writing about the lower body and what is referred to as Lower Cross Syndrome.

Sitting signals our brain to adapt in a not so great way. Our hip flexors get short and tight as does our lower back muscles. At the same time our abdominal muscles get weak as do our glutes. As you can see from the diagram, the muscles across from the tight shortened muscle become weak (that’s why it’s called lower CROSS syndrome).

Over time this becomes a real issue. The lower back is over arched which can cause back pain and disk issues. The chronically shortened hip flexors can put our hip joints into a position that eventually can degrade the integrity of the hip joints.

Ideally we might stop sitting all the time. Quit our jobs, stop driving, get rid of the couch and television. Better yet we could move into the woods and our daily struggle to survive would take care of our lower cross syndrome. I’m guessing if you’ve done this you aren’t reading this article and suffering in this way.

Fortunately yoga poses were born out of a meditation tradition. Guess what you do when you meditate all day? You guessed it, sit! So the ever elegant yoga tradition once again has some pretty solid ideas about how to prevent sitting from becoming a problem.

Basically we are going to strengthen our weak muscles (glutes and abdominals) and stretch our tight muscles (hip flexors and lower back erectors). A good well rounded yoga class will take care of this. I thought I would share a brief sequence that you might do when getting to yoga isn’t possible. Countering the effects of sitting is one of the best things we can do to improve our quality of life. Let’s avoid back pain, hip issues and painful body posture—try these poses in between sitting sessions.

lower cross syndrome 1 (1)

Also, feel free to break this sequence up during the day if that’s the only way to fit them in. And as I said last time, if it doesn’t work, call a Breathing Deeply Yoga Therapist and we will take it from there.

May we all find ease of movement today and always,
Brandt

The Eight Fold Path

Chakra Image YogaThe Eightfold Path: Why Is It Useful In Yoga Therapy?

Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras are a manual for how to move towards an enlightened life. Included in this ancient text is an eight part system for how to experience and live life with less suffering.

Yoga’s eight component parts are self control for social harmony,

precepts for personal discipline,

yoga pose,

regulation of prana,

withdrawal of senses from their objects,

contemplation of our true nature,

meditation on the true self,

and being absorbed in Spirit

–Sutra 2.29

What is amazing about this approach is the acknowledgement that there is an order to how one can go about finding peace. Unlike some other systems, there is a direct appreciation for our lived experience as human beings working with bodies, breath, and minds. It is really useful to think about this order when we have dis-ease, especially in the mind. For example, it is very possible that any of us could be having a difficult time finding mental peace if we haven’t found a movement practice that suits us. To my thinking, if someone is suffering from anxiety it would be a shame not to recommend some movement and breathwork before trying to work directly with the mind. This is one of the ideas Patanjali is trying to share with us. If we simply try to “go for it” therapeutically, it may not yield the results we are looking for. This is because there are foundational steps (like moving the body) that may need to be taken before the deeper work of focusing the mind can take place.

By following Patanjali’s advice we naturally move toward a relationship with disease that requires the client’s full participation. Instead of being told what to do – the client now engages in a process where the results of any practice they’re doing are looked at. If symptoms aren’t being reduced, the therapist suggests another approach or practice that might help. Asana leads to pranayama which leads to concentration, and so on. If we need to go to a different step on the

‘ladder” to achieve successful results or less suffering, we do so with no attachment to our original ideas. This open mindedness creates a framework where healing and spiritual evolution are united. Who wouldn’t want that?

May we all move closer to ourselves today and always,

Brandt

Yoga Licensing and Certification

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I am often asked about yoga licensing and certification as a teacher trainer. To some it probably seems like a no brainer. When you require a professional to have a licence it assures the public that the person they are working with is a competent practitioner. It also assures that their work is safe and that they have passed some minimum standards of education. Licensing can also open the doors for insurance coverage which makes services available to more people.

If this were actually true, licensing would be a great idea. The problem is – it isn’t true. Certifying and licensing is managed by independent organizations that have mainly their own interests in mind – whatever those might be. Currently there are thousands of certified yoga teachers who have very little knowledge about how to keep people safe in a yoga class. The standards for becoming certified as a yoga teacher in no way ensures that this person is competent. How could they make sure of this? There really is no reasonable way to test everyone on their knowledge in a way that guarantees safety and efficacy.

When it comes to yoga therapy certification, we have a similar problem. Although I applaud the attempt to come up with standards, I take issue with these standards being the basis for government regulation. It is fine if any organization wants to put standards out there, and have people freely join – or choose not to. To require people to have a yoga therapy licence however should not be the direction we move in.

For thousands of years healers have learned from, and been given permission to teach from their teachers. This is a very important relationship and probably the best set up to make sure a student can practice what they have been taught. In any holistic field what makes a person a good practitioner is as much about attitude, humility, and personal sadhana as it is about book knowledge. There is an infinite amount of information to know. It’s how we use it that matters. Only someone with a personal relationship can gauge that.

I personally support certifications as long as they are just that: certifying that someone completed a program and has demonstrated some competency in those teachings. If governments want to get involved it should only be about safety. Basic testing requiring that people understand safety precautions. This would probably be ineffective, but at least it makes sense. To be a hairdresser most states require this (clean your scissors, etc.). They don’t test you on your hair cutting ability. It’s too subjective. And so is yoga therapy.

Turning yoga therapists into quasi physical therapists with less training and the need to erase or hide the more esoteric parts of the tradition would be a loss of the quintessential aspects of what makes yoga therapy so useful. If we go too far down the licencing path we risk losing the tradition that got us here.

May we all stay connected to our inner teacher and let wisdom guide the way.

A Pranic Reminder

Chakra Image YogaI recently worked with a client with chronic back pain. He had gone to PT, massage therapy, and seen a doctor. He’s in his mid 50’s – has a little arthritis – but nothing else to speak of. We worked with asana to extend his range of motion and strengthen his imbalanced weaker muscles. It helped a bit, but not as much as one would like.

Then during one session he said, “Things don’t move through there. I think it’s stress.”

There it was. So often it happens that we are working in the wrong area of our complicated, beautiful systems. Even as a yoga therapist I am sometimes derailed by my fascination with the physical – the manomaya kosha – the body of food that veils us from our innate bliss. (If that’s not a reminder than I don’t know what is.)

He could have hacked away from an anatomical perspective for a long time. Of course we will still address that. But after one week of pranayama, his symptoms were reduced greatly. He sometimes forgets he has a back problem altogether. What he needed was to address his issue through the pranic/breath body. When he did this, suffering immediately reduced.

Those of us who work in the healing arts need to hold the possibility that things aren’t always exactly as they seem. We need to educate and remind ourselves, as well as others that we are multifaceted beings. We need to not get stuck in the limited paradigm of western medicine and keep our minds open to all possibilities for healing. Especially the possibilities that come from simply seeing things as they are and moving from there.

I am so happy I have these reminders for myself each time I walk into my office. What a blessing!

May we all see the light of truth – especially when its standing in front of us.

Brandt