Paige Gilchrist weighs in on the benefits of yoga therapy at Asheville Family Fitness.
It’s true that all yoga—whether you’re taking a class (especially at AFF) or practicing on your own—has the potential to be good, healing medicine for the body and mind. Yoga helps you breathe and stretch (not to mention balance and strengthen) in joyful ways that create a sense of openness and ease in your joints and muscles—and often in your emotional state and thoughts.
At AFF, we’re expanding on yoga’s inherent healing potential by offering one-on-one yoga therapy sessions that more directly apply the tools of yoga—physical postures, breathing practices, mantras, meditation, and more—to conditions ranging from chronic pain and insomnia to stress, anxiety, and surgery recovery.
Here are the top 9 reasons to give yoga therapy a try.
1) A private yoga therapy session is all about you. We’ll take time to listen—to your goals and objectives, to the specific needs of your body, to your energy level and emotional state, to your whole story—knowing that what’s going on in the rest of your life and in your mind and emotions has an affect on your body.
2) AFF has staff yoga therapists, which is pretty innovative for a PT clinic and wellness center. In addition to being certified yoga teachers, we’re graduates of a rigorous 300-hour yoga therapy training program at Asheville Yoga Center. We’ve also each completed a three-month clinical internship at AFF, which exposes us to a broad range of conditions and treatment plans and helps ensure that our approach is consistent with and complementary to other AFF treatment you may be receiving.
3) We’re backed by facts. Scientific research on the effectiveness of yoga therapy is growing, and we’re paying close attention to what it has to say. Clinical trials and other studies have focused on yoga therapy as an effective part of a treatment plan for addressing mental health and cardiovascular, respiratory, and musculoskeletal issues and in mitigating cancer symptoms. Researchers have also found therapeutic yoga beneficial for many chronic and lifestyle-related conditions, from diabetes and heart disease to headaches and high blood pressure.
4) Even given that research, we won’t pretend to have all the answers—but we’ll ask a lot of questions: Is this comfortable? Does your breath get shallow or ragged when you try this? Do you experience a little more ease when we make this adjustment? In other words, we’ll explore and experiment together, knowing YOU are the key to what treatment is most supportive and effective for you.
5) Speaking of adjustments, we’ll modify like crazy. The goal is never to have your body look or behave a certain way in a specific pose, but to use variations of yoga poses and sequences (and other tools, such as breathing) to help you meet your goals, whether that means easing lower-back pain, lifting your mood, or something else entirely. As the yoga therapy saying goes: It’s not whether you are ‘good’ at yoga, but whether yoga is good at you.
6) And speaking of modifications, we’ll likely use a lot of props – yoga blocks to bring the floor closer to you in a standing forward fold, for example, or a chair to make a balancing sequence more accessible. We can also draw on other props or tools that are a wonderful aspect of yoga, such as breathing and relaxation techniques, guided imagery, and mantras or affirmations.
7) We’ll work in a way that supports other practices you may be doing or care you may be receiving. If you’re a PT patient at AFF, we can collaborate closely with the PT staff to build on treatment plans that have been beneficial (see #2 above). But regardless, we’ll help make sure yoga therapy is a unifying aspect of your wellness plan that complements all the rest.
8) If it’s among your goals, we’ll help you develop a home practice, feel ready for a yoga class, or empower you to get more of what your body and mind need in the classes you’re already attending. Creating a simple homework plan is a standard part of a yoga therapy session.
9) Perhaps best of all, in a yoga therapy session, we have the luxury of sinking into yoga’s holistic model of healing. We’ll welcome you as a whole and unique person, not a collection of symptoms. We acknowledge that the physical aspect of who you are is not separate from who you are on a mental and emotional level. We’ll consider all the different layers and try to bring them into balance in an integrated way, in a way that you can continue to access yourself.
To find out more about yoga therapy — and even try it out for yourself — attend any of the following free classes, going on all month at AFF.
Paige Gilchrist is a staff Yoga Therapist and teaches a weekly Restorative Yoga class at AFF. She completed her teacher training at Asheville Yoga Center, is Yoga Alliance certified, and holds advanced certification in Therapeutic Yoga. Her warm and welcoming style will invite you to stretch, strengthen, balance, move energy, release stress and tension, and cultivate peace and joy you can take with you back into the world.