I'm not sure if this came as a shock or not to me. On one hand, I understand the need for people to know exactly what 'therapy' means & entails. On the other hand, how does one really distinguish between therapeutic & non-therapeutic yoga?
Random rant: As I am writing this, I have come to realize that I hope in the future, all medicine/healings will be looked at holistically, & that yoga will not be regarded as an alternative or complementary form of healing.
Coincidentally, yesterday someone shared a story by Eric Nelson, instructor at NeuroKinetic Therapy, which I deeply resonated with:
I recently treated a patient who had been experiencing headaches for the past few months. She had multiple tests including imaging of her brain, and everything was negative for pathology. While there are many possible causes of headaches, based on her history, I decided to look at her from a movement perspective. Her neck range of motion was significantly limited and while neck flexion was limited and painful, neck extension was limited and non-painful.
My NeuroKinetic Therapy® testing was interesting. I usually find inhibited deep neck flexors in these types of cases, but this time it was the opposite, her suboccipital muscles (neck extensors) were the inhibited muscles. Gentle treatment was performed to the deep neck flexors and upon NKT retesting, the suboccipital muscles were now functioning.
In addition to looking at her neck, I assessed her core and noted that her breathing pattern was inefficient as she had a tendency to hold her breath. To address this issue, we worked on diaphragmatic breathing as well as stabilizing in the 3-month neurodevelopmental pattern.
By the end of the session she reported only a slight improvement with her headache but noted that she felt more centered and relaxed. On the follow up visit a week later she reported that she did not have one headache since her last visit!
Amazing, right! This is my take on the whole phenomenon:
How important it is to look at a condition holistically as opposed to just focusing on the main complaint. With this in mind, imagine how important posture & the breath is! For the most part, I don't agree with the new Yoga Alliance policy on using the word 'therapy' in your job/school/workshop/etc description. Yes, the yoga market is saturated with self-proclaimed teachers & 'experts', that is why the people need 'protection'; but the very purpose of yoga asana is healing. So how to say what is yoga therapy & what is not?
I understand that due to the modernization of yoga, there are people out there who do not take into account the very fundamentals of yoga. In some ways, it has been bastardized so much so that it has become just like any other physical exercise - to just get the body moving, to sweat, to have that 'runner's high', etc.
It is very important to combine both the traditional & modern aspects of yoga. Yes, traditional yogis probably did not know anything about alignment. But is it important & necessary? Of course! What differentiates yoga from other physical exercise? I would say, yoga, done properly, is designed to rid the body of unnecessary dis-ease & to build awareness first on the physical body, then expand this awareness towards other areas of life.
In saying this, all yoga would be therapeutic!
But no, nowadays you see yogis injuring themselves left right & center. Heck, there are even yoga competitions being held! What the hell is a yoga competition anyway??? Might as well call it a contortionist competition instead! It is such a ridiculous exploitation of the word 'yoga'.
I agree 100% with this article written by American Yoga School founder James Brown: The Colossal Failure Of Modern Yoga.
There is so much bullshit going on in the name of yoga, with every Tom Dick & Harry wishing to milk this cash cow in one way or another. & this not only affects the public, but also decent teachers who know their shit. It is very, very hard to undo the side effects & misinterpretation of yoga in students.
Back to the Yoga Alliance policies. I never fully understood how a 200-hour graduate could be deemed qualified enough to conduct a 200-hour teacher training course. There are no rules & regulations as to who is eligible to conduct 200-hour courses. For me, that in itself raises a big question mark as to whether the Yoga Alliance really is interested in the public's welfare. & of course, since conducting teacher training courses are much, much more lucrative than teaching regular classes, why wouldn't people want to start courses? & thus a never-ending self-destructive cycle has begun.
To me, all yoga is therapeutic, if you understand the basic fundamentals of the practice:
1. Your posture affects your breath.
2. Your breath affects your physiological, emotional & mental well-being.
3, Your breath is your teacher.
There is no such thing as 'by the third year of your yoga journey, you must be able to put one leg behind your head'. You may not even need to progress beyond a simple vinyasa sequence for years, unless you want to.
What I'm trying to say is that, yoga is just a tool to get one into optimal state of physical well-being. If you were having a stomach ache, is your mind at peace? Will you be open to listening or contemplating the philosophies of the universe? No! Your mind will only be on the toilet, hahahahah! That being said, different intensities of yoga practices exist to accommodate the different levels of physicalities amongst people. Someone may be naturally more energetic than another, & without expelling this excess energy, he/she may not be able to sit quietly! But aha! Even in the process of 'sweating it all out', one must not lose sight of the main purpose of their yoga practice - to work within one's limitations & not push the body too much.
Yoga is also designed to bring awareness to the physical body, we are learning to cultivate & build our awareness. & what tools do we always have with us? Our physical body & breath! When awareness on the physical body starts building up, then we will naturally expand this awareness to other areas of life too. Then our actions are filled with awareness. & as Osho said, 'awareness is the seed of godliness in you'.
Only when there is awareness, can we start living consciously. Or else, it will be like we are just walking around with a veil over our faces, not knowing what we are doing, just groping about hoping to find our way through. & only through this awareness can we begin to make better choices & decisions in life. Wouldn't you say that yoga is so therapeutic?