Yoga is a ‘mind/body’ system. It works at both mental and physical levels, aiming to foster harmonious functioning of the whole person. Just as mental actions affect the physical body through psycho-somatic processes, so physical actions affect the mind through somato-psychic processes. Accordingly, yoga therapy utilises the following broad range of physical and mental practices:
· Physical postures and movements
Simple yoga postures gently stretch and strengthen muscles, improving mobility, flexibility, respiration, circulation, digestion and elimination. These consist of both simple movements and held postures, which promote a general sense of health and well being.
· Breathing practices
Breathing is at the interface between body and mind. It continues automatically from the moment we are born to the moment we die without a break. It is, however, constantly being influenced by our emotions and activities and (unlike heart beating) we can consciously modify it. Yoga therapy uses simple breathing practices to help harmonise body and mind, manage stress, and reduce energy blockages which are often associated with health problems.
· Relaxation practices
Learning how to relax is another central element of Yoga Therapy. Relaxation is the body’s way of recharging, and helps to ease physical and mental tension. Yoga therapy uses very effective relaxation techniques, which can often be of great help in the relief of stress and renewal of energy. They can also help in the management of pain.
Meditation can help one step back from the pressures of daily life and look objectively at one’s habitual patterns of behaviour, enabling one to cope better with situations that put the body and mind under strain. The two most-widely-used meditation practices in yoga therapy are ‘mindfulness meditation’ and ‘emotion culturing’. In mindfulness meditation one gets to know oneself by observing one’s thoughts and emotions without judging them. In emotion culturing one explores the reduction of fear and other negative emotions by replacing them with positive emotions. Negative emotions often play a part in the perpetuation of health problems.