What is Yoga?
With origins in India thousands of years ago, yoga is an ancient practice that has flourished and endured into modern times. Today as many as one in seven adults in America reportedly practices some form of yoga regularly. Whether for overall wellbeing, to combat pain, alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression, or to assist in a return-to-normal balance when being treated for addiction or substance abuse, yoga has a prominent place in both general and clinical settings.
What is yoga therapy and how does it differ from the practice of yoga among the general population? There are many similarities, although yoga therapy when incorporated into mental health and addiction care serves a distinct purpose. In all cases, however, yoga therapy is viewed as a safe and widely available approach for use by a diverse population.
How Does Yoga Work?
The practice of yoga involves the combination of meditation or relaxation techniques, engaging in and holding various physical postures, and several breathing techniques. Each practice is a little different from another, yet all offer some form of benefits to improve flexibility, balance, strength, endurance, alleviate stress, calm the mind, release muscle tightness and tension, and improve overall wellbeing. Whether it’s gentle and slow or faster and much more challenging, yoga has garnered millions of adherents and practitioners over the more than 5,000 years of its existence.
What Can Yoga be Used to Treat?
Yoga has been extensively researched, and there’s some evidence that the practice is useful in combatting various symptoms associated with chronic pain, stress, certain mental health conditions, and disorders. Yoga is also strongly associated with improved wellbeing and life balance in the midst of everyday and unexpected stressors.
Yoga has been found to lower cholesterol and blood pressure, as well as lower resting heart rates. There’s even some evidence that yoga helps with breast cancer and heart disease and other cardiovascular conditions. Those with chronic lower back pain may find relief through the practice of yoga and benefit from yoga therapy.
Yoga for Anxiety
Research published in Frontiers in Psychiatry found that the practice of yoga and physical exercise have proven to foster improvements in anxiety as well as depression. Noting that yoga therapy effectively decreases symptomology of anxiety and depression, researchers said that a combination of mindfulness meditation and body-awareness yoga asanas have been suggested to clinicians for diverse populations to reduce anxiety, depression, and stress. Yoga therapy is also beneficial for overall mental health.
Yoga for Depression
Although studies on the benefits of yoga therapy on depression have shown mixed results, a 2020 study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that integration of physical interventions such as yoga with routine psychiatric care may provide a moderate positive effect for reducing depressive symptoms in people with a range of mental health disorders. The review and meta-analysis also noted that yoga session frequency per week greatly improves reduction in depressive symptoms. Researchers called out exercise and mindfulness as “singular therapies for improving depressive symptoms.”
Yoga for Addiction
Yoga and mindfulness, according to research findings, are considered effective complementary therapies for use in treating various addictions. A growing number of clinical trials and experimental lab studies on treating alcohol dependence and substance use with yoga and mindfulness appear to support its effectiveness in targeting the various processes (psychological, physiological, neural, and behavioral) involved with both addiction and relapse. As such yoga therapy is a powerful adjunct tool for use in recovery.
Does Yoga Therapy Work?
The integration of complementary therapies, such as yoga therapy, into current psychiatric treatment for addiction, substance abuse, and mental health disorders has become increasingly popular. There’s a good reason for this in that integrative yoga therapy helps alleviate psychological symptoms associated with diagnosed mental health disorders and substance use disorders and promotes individual well-being. Yoga therapy rehab can also continue following completion of residential mental health and addiction treatment.
What Does Yoga Therapy Entail?
What is yoga therapy? It isn’t at all mysterious, complicated, difficult to do, or a source of potential physical or psychological harm. On the contrary, yoga therapy is designed to be low-impact, calming, restorative, and particularly helpful in easing the stress that may result from physical and mental health conditions or disorders and addiction. Typically, a quality provider will discuss the objectives of yoga therapy with the individual patient, so they can understand how yoga therapy will support their specific plan of treatment.
Are There Different Types of Yoga?
There are many different types of yoga, several of which can be incorporated into physical therapy yoga, yoga therapy, and integrative yoga therapy.
- Hatha yoga – Considered for all yoga practices, Hatha yoga is slower than other types of yoga. As such, it is a good beginning yoga practice and is also useful for meditative and restorative yoga objectives.
- Vinyasa yoga – Classes offering Vinyasa yoga tend to be fairly active, with movement from one pose to another progressing quickly. The key to Vinyasa yoga is focusing on awareness and breathwork. There’s even power Vinyasa yoga for those desiring a more energetic workout.
- Iyengar yoga – Developed by B.K.S. Iyengar, this type of yoga revolves around balancing flexibility and strength through proper alignment of the body. Usually taught in studios, where there are many props available such as blocks, straps, and blankets, Iyengar yoga is considered a good yoga therapy practice for those overcoming physical injuries.
- Bikram yoga – All the rage in some areas of the country, Bikram yoga involves 26 yoga poses performed in a room that is heated to 105 degrees. The yoga practice was developed by Bikram Choudhury.
- Hot yoga – Akin to Bikram yoga is hot yoga. Be aware, though, that not all Bikram yoga is considered hot yoga. Both occur in heated rooms, although hot yoga rooms can be between 90 and 105 degrees. Since muscles tend to get very warm with hot yoga, care must be paid to not pull a muscle during the workout. Hot yoga is great for flexibility improvement.
- Kundalini yoga – A spiritual practice, Kundalini yoga typically involves chanting, breathing, and meditation— more than in other types of yoga therapy.
- Ashtanga yoga – The creator of this practice was Sri K. Pattabhi Jois. Designed for seasoned practitioners, Ashtanga yoga has three series: primary, intermediate, and advanced. Endurance, strength, and a commitment to multiple days a week of practice is required.
What Happens in a Typical Yoga Therapy Session?
Yoga therapy is a holistic approach that combines mind-body medicine in a manner to improve the practitioner’s physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. Typically, therapists will work with people in group or one-on-one sessions to teach and impart specific yogic tools designed to address treatment needs.
During an initial session, the yoga therapist may discuss the goals and objectives of yoga therapy. If it is an individual session, they may want to know more about the patient’s medical history, personal challenges, and treatment concerns and goals.
Sometimes the therapist will work with the patient and/or their treatment team to draw up a personalized therapy plan. Typically included is a combination of postures, different breathing techniques, and other additions, all taking into account any specific health challenges or known limitations or hesitancy.
Next comes the practicing of yoga instruction, including breathwork, poses, meditation, and other aspects of yoga therapy. Depending on the recommendations of the treatment team and yoga therapist, subsequent group sessions are scheduled several times a week.
Why We Offer Yoga
Overcoming addiction and learning to manage mental health disorders requires commitment, persistence, effective treatments, and ongoing support. At FHE Health, combining evidence-based psychiatric treatments, medication-assisted treatment, and holistic, complementary, and alternative therapies with an emphasis on compassionate support is part of our mission and promise to each person entrusting us with their care. Yoga therapy, physical therapy yoga, and integrative yoga therapy are available as part of our comprehensive treatment care programs for a wide range of addiction and mental health disorders. Contact us to learn more about how yoga therapy can help with the healing journey.