Yoga Therapy ~ Embarking on a Healing Journey:
Over the past several years, I have been blessed to study with Felicia and Ante Pavlovic of Yoga Therapy Toronto. This beautiful lineage, as presented by T Krishnamacharya, believes at its core that people have an enormous capacity for healing and that Yoga can play an invaluable role in supporting a healing journey. While group classes provide an opportunity to drop into a sense of community, maintain a practice, and promote health and well being, over time, people often desire a more personalized approach to complement their experiences in group settings.
As your yoga therapist it is my job to observe and listen and question in order to support your healing with the most beneficial tools that yoga has to offer. Since yoga is a journey of self-healing, these tools will help you to connect back with your body and breath and emotions through a daily self-practice that we create together.
At times our life may present profound challenges that need deeper processing and more support. If this is the case, it may be necessary for you to seek the support of a professional psychotherapist who can be by your side as you process. I can help you create your team but my work with you will be centred around the body, breath, and mind through simple, healing yoga practices.
The initial consultation generally lasts 90 minutes so that there is time to get to know you and your history, explore concerns, and establish goals. A personal practice will be developed and taught. You will leave with stick figure diagrams of the practice so that you can practice at home. It is recommended to check-in with me and to maintain follow-up sessions so that your practice can adapt and grow as your needs change. The beautiful part of this process is that it empowers you to take charge of your own healing while feeling guided and supported. Private Yoga Therapy sessions are also a wonderful way to take your practice deeper and to explore tools that are not often offered in group class settings.
Yoga Therapy is a complementary modality and can benefit all conditions. My personal area of interest and focus is a resilient nervous system in order to reduce anxiety and improve sleep.
$140 (includes HST)/90 minute initial consultation
$100 (includes HST)/60 minute follow-up session
The Yoga Therapy Toronto website offers a clear explanation of many Frequently Asked Questions. Some excerpts are included below:
Yoga Therapy (also known as Yoga Cikitsa) is being promoted as the wave of the future by many Yoga professionals, and in Yoga-related books and magazines. It is not a new style or branch of Yoga: it is Yoga. Yoga is and always has been a holistic healing discipline that offers a broad range of tools for supporting health, healing and personal transformation. One of the key advantages of a system like Yoga is that it views the human system as a holistic entity that is made up of different dimensions (physical body, breath, mind, personality traits, and emotions) that are mutually dependent on, and mutually influence, one another.
Though Yoga is today associated mostly with postures, postures are just one of the many tools that Yoga has to offer. Some of the most profound tools that Yoga offers include: conscious breath regulation, meditative practices, visualizations, use of vocal sounds, life style changes and dietary recommendations, among many others. This makes the healing process very comprehensive and extremely specific to the individual.
The other key advantage of Yoga is that it empowers people in the healing process. Rather than being a passive recipient of treatment, the student is actively engaged in the path to well-being and is primarily responsible for their recovery. The role of the teacher is that of guide, directing the student to tools for recovery and teaching the right way to implement these tools. Once this is done, it is then the role of the student to practice it diligently, observe changes, and notify the teacher for any changes. Thus the healing comes from within the student, rather than from the outside. This powerful system has helped many thousands of students who have sought Yoga as the solution to their problems.
Yoga is taught in three basic contexts: the context of a group class (these vary from the very general to classes with a specific goal or designated for a specific group of people), private instruction for developing a personal practice, or Yoga Therapy.
The goals of each category of class (group, private, and therapeutic) vary. However, a principle that holds true for each of them is that when applying the tools of Yoga, function is more important than form. In other words, as teachers, it is our responsibility to adapt the tool to suit the needs and abilities of the student, so that he or she may get the desired benefit from it.
Typically, improvement in “form” will come with time and effort. Improvement does not imply that a perfect forward bend or perfect chanting pitch will be achieved for certain, but perfection is not the goal: improvement in the student’s health and sense of well-being is.
Group classes are for personal maintenance, self-education, and general well being. They also provide students with a positive and enjoyable experience of community. The teacher makes every effort to honor each student’s abilities and needs, however, group classes, by their nature, work at a “common” level, as they need to address a broader range of criteria to keep everyone safe.
Not every group class is for every student. In keeping with the principle of viniyoga (proper and continuous application of the tools of yoga), we should choose a class pertinent to our needs, goals, and stage of life. For example, a pregnant woman will switch from her usual “energizing” practice, which can be quite vigorous, to a prenatal class to support her throughout her pregnancy. An athlete training for a competitive event might choose a vigorous, strengthening class that assists in developing stamina, as well as a meditative class to enhance mental focus.
An Individual Process
To make healing effective and potent, we must understand and interact with students individually, rather than prescribe practices in groups, though some exceptional situations may even allow that. When we interact with students privately we can understand their individual illnesses, their causes and what are the individual abilities of the student, which can help us design practices that will be the perfect fit for them. Can a doctor prescribe the same pill to patients irrespective of their complaint? Similarly, a Yoga Therapist has to interact with the student privately to guide them in their healing. Otherwise it will not be an effective process.
A Self-Empowering Process
A powerful component of the healing process in Yoga is that it empowers the student to heal themselves. Unlike surgery, where a surgeon operates on a passive and often unconscious patient; or massage therapy, where the therapist works on a patient – in Yoga the student has an active and often complete responsibility in the healing process. The Yoga Therapist’s role is limited to one of understanding the student’s illness, and teaching appropriate practices that the student will have to do on their own. An important job is also to review and verify the appropriateness of the practice.
Since much of the healing happens due to the regular practice by the student, a key responsibility of the Yoga Therapist is to inspire and motivate them to maintain the practice. This is often the key to the success of a good healing process.
It is common for health practitioners to fall into a steady stream of routine or random prescription, blank listening and grouping of symptoms…I appreciated your ability to evolve as I evolved, to accompany my journey and provide options and suggestions for change that were gentle, progressive, sustainable, and realistic to me.~M
I was surprised how much my body craved the Yoga movement after only a few weeks of practice…The biggest benefit I’ve experience is regulating my hormones and consequently, given I believe it is the root of the struggles with my skin, my skin has improved which is just fabulous. And quite honestly, I’m surprised that I’ve been able to regulate my cycle without medication—at first I thought it was a small miracle but now I really believe this Yoga therapy has had a significant impact and has changed my life in so many amazing ways.
“I was so touched and honored to be working with these women. It’s ironic that a condition that is so visible to the world is so hard to talk about. The fact that they would sit across from me each month and share their experiences so honestly was humbling and I think I experienced as much healing and growth as they did. My wish for Yoga Therapists working with skin conditions is that they find in themselves an ability to stay present with the person’s raw vulnerability, and maintain absolute faith that healing is possible. It once again comes back to our own practice. Now part of the motivation to get me on my mat each morning is to build the capacity for doing this work well so that each time I look at a student, I stay grounded enough to look them in the eye and reflect back at them how incredibly complex, wise, and beautiful they are.”
~ Dana (written after presenting my findings on my work with women who suffer from acne)