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What's a yoga therapy session look like?

I like to describe yoga therapy as somewhere in-between physical therapy and mental health therapy. There is movement and touch and conversation about feelings and thoughts. Every session is different, some days the process is more about moving and stretching and working with the structure of the body, and some days the experience is more about processing the thoughts and feelings arising. While the practice looks similar to both physical and mental therapies, it is distinct in that its goal is holistic and integrative.

Yoga therapy's goal is to use specialized practices to help people get to the state of yoga, which in the traditional sense, is a felt-sense of connection and integration between the individual and the world around. This is where the postures, and breathing practices, and meditation come into the conversation. The postures and movements look a lot like what a personal trainer or physical therapist might prescribe as a remedy for pain and/or injury. The breathing and mediation practices can have profound affects on the nervous system and body chemistry that a counselor or psychiatrist might suggest for dealing with anxiety or depression. As a yoga therapist my intention for offering any of these practices is to support the client in experiencing a deep sense of connection, and from that space working with the client to develop a consistency, accountability, and ease in their life.

A typical session looks like (my own spin on the Phoenix Rising Technique):

  1. Check-in: a conversation about what is currently going on in the client's life with a focus on how that is showing up at the time of the session.

  2. Movement: some guided movements and stretches to get the client out of their head a bit and into their body. Wiggling, shaking, walking, etc.

  3. Breath and movement: synchronizing deep breathing with movements. This might look a lot like what would happen in a "vinyasa yoga" class, but on a smaller scale. The intention is to use the synchronization to develop a deeper intimacy with self.

  4. Poses: holding poses for longer periods of time while breathing deeply. This is again an attempt to draw the client's attention deeper, to the more subtle sensations and nuances of the moment.

  5. Relaxation/Meditation: dropping in a bit deeper and having the client stay in the wordless, direct experience.

  6. Integration: a conversation where the therapist helps the client take this experience and put it into action in their daily life.

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