If you’ve ever wondered about the benefits of  yoga therapy and whether it is appropriate for you, I believe it most definitely is. Everyone can benefit from an individualized yoga practice! If you need more convincing, please keep reading for a discussion of the benefits of yoga therapy and my approach to offering yoga therapy to groups and individuals.

I have been offering small group therapeutic yoga classes and private yoga therapy sessions at Propel Physiotherapy since 2018. My work here, specifically with clients with complex orthopedic and neurological injuries, has reinforced my previous experience working as a yoga therapist. That is to say, yoga therapy is extremely useful in addressing illness and injury in a multidimensional manner.

What is Yoga Therapy?

Yoga therapy is the process of empowering individuals to progress toward improved health and well-being through the application of the teachings and practices of Yoga.¹ Yoga therapy adapts the practice of Yoga to the needs of people with specific or persistent health problems not usually addressed in a group class.²

Derived from the Yoga tradition of Patanjali and the Ayurvedic system of health care, Yoga therapy refers to the adaptation and application of Yoga techniques and practices to help individuals facing health challenges at any level manage their condition, reduce symptoms, restore balance, increase vitality, and improve attitude.³

As a certified yoga therapist, I have completed my yoga teacher training, yoga therapist training, and also specialized training in restorative yoga, yin yoga, yoga for anxiety, stress, trauma, and PTSD, and Trauma-Sensitive Yoga (TSY). Working alongside the team of physiotherapists, massage therapists and exercise specialists at Propel, our clients benefit from an integrated approach to their rehabilitation.

Do I Have to be Flexible in Order to Participate in Yoga Therapy?

No. I think this is the single biggest misconception about yoga. Yoga therapy is so much more than physical movements or postures. Yoga therapists are trained to work multi-dimensionally and to address the physical, physiological, psychological, and spiritual aspects of the individual as well as of the illness or condition.

I have yet to witness a person’s condition or quality of life improve from solely contorting their body into a pretzel-like form. I have seen many, many people experience relief from symptoms or increased quality of life from something as simple as changing the rate of breathing or learning to coordinate simple movements and breath.

What Does a Yoga Therapy Assessment at Propel Entail?

During our first 60-minute private session, I will start by asking you some questions about what brings you to the clinic. Whether you are healing from a physical injury or living with a recent mental health diagnosis, it is essential for me to understand how your daily life is impacted.

Common questions include:

  • Are you in pain?
  • How is your sleep?
  • Do you struggle with issues related to mood and/or stress management?

It is also be helpful for me to know a little about your lifestyle, such as your eating habits and current level of physical activity. I will observe your breathing and teach you proper breathing technique. I will assess your heart rate, and may examine your spine or a joint by touch, if appropriate with your consent.

Whether you are healing from a physical injury or living with a recent mental health diagnosis, it is essential for me to understand how your daily life is impacted.

Taking into consideration the time that you are willing to dedicate to a daily yoga therapy practice, I will design a practice, specifically for you. Sometimes clients start with a 10-minute practice, twice a day while others may begin with a 60-minute evening practice.

Whatever the length, you can expect your practice to include breath work. Most include breath work and mindful movement and many practices include some form of meditation.

What are the Benefits of Yoga Therapy?

Let me start by saying that there is increasingly high-quality research demonstrating the benefits of yoga therapy for numerous illnesses and conditions; and in fact, a synthesis of yoga therapy-related research would be an excellent topic for a future blog post. Stay tuned!

In terms of my personal experience working as a yoga therapist, I see clients benefit immediately from learning proper breathing techniques. The breath is a powerful tool that can be used in myriad ways.

Some clients have reported finding their yoga therapy practice helpful in dealing with chronic pain and coping with the stress of ongoing medical testing and investigations. Others have found yoga therapy tools to be extremely useful in managing intermittent anxiety as well as anxiety disorders.

I have seen many people with experiences of trauma and diagnoses of PTSD begin to develop a new relationship with their body through the practice of yoga. I have witnessed countless people learn to “tune in” to their bodies and begin notice the ever-changing internal landscape of sensations, thoughts, and emotions.

Sometimes, something as simple as a 5- minute breath practice can change the extent to which we are impacted by uncomfortable sensations or negative thought patterns.

How Often Should I Practice Yoga Therapy?

A daily practice is just that – something to be practiced daily. This is often the biggest challenge for clients. A yoga therapy practice can be profoundly healing if done with regularity.

The frequency with which I see clients varies and depends on the individual and what they are dealing with. Some people benefit from regular weekly sessions with a yoga therapist, while others may do their daily practice for 4-6 weeks at home before returning to the clinic.

Some clients find that attending my weekly small group class helps them to stay on track with their daily practice.

Foundational to yoga therapy is the understanding that each individual is unique and whatever the situation, the therapeutic approach will reflect this.

If you are interested in learning more about the benefits of yoga therapy, or would like to book a session with me, please contact me directly or call the clinic.

Written by

Jessica Cowan-Dewar
Jessica Cowan-DewarYoga Therapist
Jessica Cowan-Dewar is a certified yoga instructor and yoga therapist with specialized training in restorative yoga, yin yoga, yoga for anxiety, stress, trauma, and PTSD, and Trauma-Sensitive Yoga (TSY). She is known for her calm and competent teaching style and is skilled at creating a safe and non-judgmental environment for people to explore various healing practices.
Contact Jessica