Yoga Therapy and Medication

There is a lot of talk about how yoga therapy can help with a wide range of mental health conditions. There also seems to be some dissonance between how yoga and medication intersect. In this segmentBrandt answers one of his students questions about how to work with a client on medication, specifically, what a Yoga Therapist’s scope of practice might look like in this scenario. Here, we share a candid moment taken from a live session with students. We are working to spread the word about yoga therapy including the subtle details one must be aware of to be effective. Knowing what you don’t know is key. 


“It’s definitely not in our scope to comment on medication. You know, you can have personal beliefs about that, but you really have to know the history of someone. So, someone who’s had lifelong depression, you know you’d have to be really sure… well, first of all, you really shouldn’t comment at all as a Yoga therapist. You should say, “Actually you don’t know a lot about medication.” You know, “What I do know is that Yoga therapy can help alleviate the symptoms. And then if you feel like those symptoms are alleviated enough to try pausing your medication, you should talk to your doctor, psychologist or psychiatrist whoever you’re seeing about that.”

That’s for the official line. And then on another note, I would say, there is mounting evidence that medication for mild and possibly moderate depression isn’t that effective. And the reason I bring that up is because mild and moderate depression is not in the suicidal realm.

So, you know, if you had some science based around that and wanted to share studies or points of view from the Yoga Therapy tradition, that would be fine. But I wouldn’t become the ally against medication. I would stay in the zone, not just because of a liability perspective; more in terms of you really want your client to be achieving their personal goals. And so even though someone might say, “my personal goal is to get off medication,” it’s not the only goal. Because…and if you are skilled and talking to them, you would also find out that their other role would to not be depressed. So those things have to balance each other out.

So more important to ally yourself with the pursuit of overall health and happiness. Whatever that means. So that’s my general answer – that I have definitely helped people achieve their goals of getting off medication especially depression – it’s kind of a commonly, in my opinion, overused realm in terms of medication. However, some people you know it’s the perfect thing. And you know without it, it’s not going well. So just keep your mind there.”

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