Demystifying Yoga Therapy
Updated: May 2, 2021
What does a Yoga Therapy session look like? Here I'll break down what happens in a session and how it is different from a more traditional yoga class.
A bulleted sequence of events in a session can look a little like this:
Breath and Movement
Playing with "Edge"
Listening for Insight
Insight into Action
Any of the above core pieces of a session can happen at any time in a session and not necessarily in that order. Also, there are some yoga therapy terms that might not be common knowledge, like "edge" and "dropping in", which I describe in more detail later on in this post. In short, they are keywords for when you're in the zone!
Yoga Therapy is a client-based practice, which means the client decides what to focus on. Instead of students following along with a yoga teacher like you would see in a yoga class, the practitioner is trained to tune in to what the client needs and acts as a sounding board throughout the session.
Breath is one aspect that remains throughout the entire session. Awareness of the breath can come and go, but the practitioner encourages returning to the breath and the body throughout the session. The practitioner will guide the client in going back to the movement if applicable, for example when thoughts become distracting.
The goal is to get out of the head and into the body, for as long as possible.
This leads to playing the edge, which can be a physical edge, a mental edge, or an emotional edge. The act of guiding the client back to the breath/movement/body, could possibly illuminate an edge of any variety, since distraction or loss of focus can be a sign of discomfort or a desire for change. The practitioner encourages the client to stay vigilant despite the discomfort or desire for change, as this encapsulates playing with edge, or staying with edge. The more we can stay with edge, the more we can learn about ourselves. Edge can happen at any point during the session, and there may be times when a client is experiencing edge and the practitioner is aware of it, or not aware. What matters is that the practitioner is present with their client.
Everyone's experience of edge is personal and individualized.
Dropping in typically happens somewhere near halfway through the session, or even later. Dropping in happens after embodied movement is over, and when the client is able to sustain a pose for an extended period of time. Meditation can happen while dropped in, but typically happens after the sustained poses have come to a close. Listening for insight can happen any time throughout a session, but more emphasis is put on this piece toward the end of a session. Insight into action comes next, which is when the practitioner helps the client to integrate what happened in session, or anything else that may have come up for them. Integration can also happen after the session, when the client has had more time to process. This could be hours, days, or weeks after the session. Processing can also happen, or develop further, in follow up sessions.
Each session lends to more clarity and awareness.
While any one session has its benefits, multiple sessions allow for a deeper overall experience. The more familiar you get with how a session flows, the more you may be able to get out of the session and fully immerse yourself in the process.