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Yoga Therapy is a Practice!

There have been many discussions about what yoga therapy is and how it is different from taking a yoga class. But one thing I think is important to remember - is that whether we are discussing yoga or yoga therapy - it is an on-going "practice" not a cure for all that ails you. Having one yoga therapy session, and then never doing the recommended practice - whether that includes breathing techniques, postures or relaxation - is not going to change you. If you aren't willing to DO the practice, it isn't going to help you. Then months or years later, you can say, "Yeah, yoga therapy - I tried that and it didn't help." Well, it didn't help b/c you didn't actually DO the practice. Yoga therapy is a JOURNEY towards wholeness....towards wellness. It takes practice, just as anything worth doing.

Unfortunately, we have become a culture that demands instantaneous results and we just want a drug to make everything better. This expectation has made us drug dependent and unwilling to take any responsibility for our own health. I have many clients dealing with chronic pain issues, and many clients who want to increase their flexibility and balance as they age - to maintain or increase fuctional mobility. Well, doing one yoga practice in your life is not going to help you. However, doing a practice over time, under guidance of a yoga therapist you will see results, directly proportional to the time and energy you are willing to put into your own practice. Think about physical therapy. Does your doctor prescribe one session and you are done, or do you typically need to go several times to work through an injury and regain mobility? I will use myself as an example. I am prone to shoulder tendonitis. Last year, when I exacerbated the tendonitis in my supraspinatus muscle, I went to physical therapy for 3 months. I was able to avoid cortisone shots and surgery and the pain eventually went away. Now, whenever I have a flare up, I do my physical therapy and yoga therapy exercises. In fact, there are some yoga therapy exercises for my shoulders that I do EVERY SINGLE day to avoid flare-ups, keep my range of motion and prevent frozen shoulder. By putting this effort into it, I am able to manage and minimize chronic pain. I also occasionally take ibuprofen or cyclobenzaprene when I have severe flare-ups that prevent me from sleeping. But I am often able to use yoga nidra to help me relax and sleep. I also have more and more clients who ask me about meditation, but say they are unable to meditate - which is not unusual in this fast-paced culture we live in where it's hard to make time and space to sit and be still. In the yogic tradition - meditation is the 7th limb - and difficult to achieve without working on the other limbs - taking care of your inner and outer life, practicing asana and pranayama to direct the prana in your body, practicing pratyahara to direct your sensory awareness and cultivate the inner witness and dharana and dhyana to cultivate focus and concentration. Only when you have worked to cultivate all these areas of your being are you able to truly still the mind (there are exceptions to this, and there are certainly other traditions and paths towards meditation as well, but I'm not going to cover them here - that's a whole other conversation!) The Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program, Jon Kabat-Zinn describes in his book, "Full Catastrophe Living" begins with an 8-week program of MBSR training. Kabat-Zinn describes the practice of mindfulness as "remembering as best we be present in all our waking moments." He explains, "In the meditative context, practice means "Being in the present on purpose." Ultimately, we, as human beings, are, at least in part, responsible for our health. We are responsible for what we put into our bodies and how we treat our bodies as well as for the choices we make on a daily basis. You can change your present state - but it depends on your self-determination and desire to change. Tomorrow is another day. Wishing you health and wellness in 2018. Namaste.

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