Yoga Biomedical Trust

Yoga Therapy for Common Ailments

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Yoga Therapy

Yoga therapy is the application of yoga to health problems.  While general yoga can help with some ailments, specialist yoga therapy is needed for others.  This is important not only because yoga therapy can be more effective than general yoga for such ailments but it is safer.   Certain conditions can be exacerbated by general yoga.

     Yoga therapy can help in the management and prevention of many different ailments (see under “Yoga Therapy” and “Research”).  At present this website is focussed primarily on low back pain and sciatica.

     Yoga has a great wealth of practices that can be drawn upon for health purposes.  This enables yoga therapists to select practices which are appropriate for different ages and conditions.  In their hands yoga is safe and effective for children and old people, as well as for those in the middle age range. It can also be of great benefit for pregnancy and childbirth. 

     There is no need to be fearful of yoga if you have never tried it before.  The commonly-seen pictures of difficult yoga postures are misleading.  Yoga therapy can be beneficially utilised by people with no prior experience of yoga, as well as by those with years of yoga experience.  Yoga therapists adapt the practices to each person’s level of health, fitness, flexibility and prior experience of yoga.

   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 

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.

     Yoga therapy is provided by yoga teachers who have undergone additional training in anatomy, physiology, pathology and the application of yoga to medical conditions.

     Several courses, provided by different organisations, are available for such training. They vary in the techniques they use and the amounts of medical knowledge they impart.   Some courses cover a wide spectrum of different conditions and last two or more years.   Others are limited to specific conditions (e.g. cancer or low back pain) and may last just a few weekends.  We term people qualified by the broad spectrum courses, yoga therapists, and those qualified by the specialised courses, specialist yoga teachers.

     It is important to choose a yoga therapist or specialist yoga teacher to suit your condition.  We are currently building a database of yoga therapists and specialist yoga teachers, who are qualified to work with low back pain and sciatica.  Through this, together with our CALBA assessment system, we are beginning to provide a service for finding the nearest, suitable yoga therapist or specialist yoga teacher to suit each person’s condition.   If there is none in your locality, we can provide yoga therapy for low back pain and sciatica over the Internet.

     We can, also, recommend yoga therapists and teachers for other health problems but not in such a precise manner, as for low back pain.

Closely-related Iinformation

Yoga Therapists and Teachers specialising in LBP     (sub-heading under Home/For Health Professionals)

Yoga therapy normally starts with an assessment of your condition. This enables your yoga therapist to work out a suitable course of action. 

     For low back pain (LBP) and sciatica the initial assessment consists of completing a set of forms in CALBA, our advanced system for Computer-Assisted Low BackAssessment.   Since CALBA is available on the Internet, these assessments can take place anywhere at any at time.  You receive a report on the condition with recommendations on its management, and categorisation of it according to whether a normal yoga class (with precautions) is likely to be safe and helpful, or a specialist yoga therapist or teacher is needed for safety and effectiveness.  If a normal yoga class is recommended, we can brief your teacher about your condition and appropriate precautions.  If a yoga therapist or a specialist teacher is recommended, we can help you find one (see Who provides yoga therapy).   We can also provide ongoing advice, through the CALBA monitoring system, if the healing of your condition is likely to take several weeks or months and require different levels of treatment and precautions over this period.

     To start with you register as a Client Member.  This opens the pathway to:

         (a) CALBA assessment

         (b) Finding a suitable yoga therapist or teacher

         (c) Monitoring your condition during treatment

         (d) Expert consultancy

         (e) Information on yoga therapy

         (f) Chat groups with other clients

     Client Membership is for free.

     There is a charge of £12 for the CALBA assessment.  There will then be additional charges if you ask us to find a suitable yoga therapist, monitor the LBP or provide consultancy.  Further details are available on request.