I recently met up with my good friend Elaine Oyang, a yoga therapist and whole foods nutrition consult here in San Francisco. I have been hearing a lot about "yoga therapy" and wanted to know what separated it from my understanding of yoga.
You may already know that the yoga teacher to student relationship was once, and still is in some places, an intentional commitment. The student would formally ask the teacher to guide him or her through the practices of yoga and the teacher would formally agree or disagree to take on that student. It was through this purposeful and steadfast one-on-one relationship that one learned the powerful practices and explored the union of body, mind, and spirit.
Elaine told me that yoga therapy is similar in that her students or clients ask for her guidance. During the initial consultation they commit to a healing and integrative health care plan. Yoga therapists use a variety of techniques including yoga, meditation, and breath work in order to guide their client's unique body and mind to it's natural state of vitality, balance, and ease. Yoga therapy can be energizing and nourishing for anyone and is ideal for someone living with chronic pain, anxiety, insomnia, or depression.
During our time together, Elaine guided me through a deep sacral release sequence. This was my first experience with yoga therapy and I didn't really know what to expect. The whole session took place with me lying on my back with my legs up on a chair. After a few opening assists, Elaine talked me through a simple practice of grounding my femur bones deep into my hip sockets so that the surrounding muscles could soften. Her calming and compassionate nature made it easy for me to relax my body and connect to my breath. I felt immediate release around my sacrum, low back, and hip joints, as well as a sweet peace throughout my whole being. From beginning to end, I felt held and nourished by Elaine's presence- something not so readily available in a public class.
If you or someone you know is currently living with some health challenge, consider yoga therapy! If you are in the bay area, I would highly recommend Elaine. You can learn more about her and her work here.
Also, the sequence below is easily done with or without a yoga therapist. All you need is a soft surface to lie down on and a chair to rest your calves and ankles on. Try it out and let me know how it feels!