Last week I talked about the differences between yoga and yoga therapy.  This week I would like to discuss the reason, I believe, knowing the difference is important.

I hear more and more stories about what can happen when someone advised to try “yoga” ends up in the wrong class.  They heard somewhere that yoga is good for back pain, carpal tunnel, MS, depression, etc., so they go take a class.  On the less worry some end, the class was too hard and they decide they hate yoga, never to return. I am reminded of a lady that works at my son’s school. She went to a class labeled “all levels” and it kicked her butt, big time. (Often in “all levels” classes – especially large ones – the class is catered to the more able students and newbies get lost in the mix and their needs not met.) She told me that she will never do yoga again.  This is very sad to me, as there are many styles, teachers and approaches and she would very likely find something she did like. Unfortunately it happens all the time.

On the more troubling end, someone with an above mentioned condition may have heard, even from their doctor, chiropractor or other health practitioner, that yoga would be good for them. If the person recommending that yoga doesn’t know anything about it and suggests it in a general way, their patient could end up in the wrong class and leave feeling worse than before they went. Some examples would be someone with MS wandering into a class taught in a warm room, someone with carpal tunnel taking a class of mostly down dogs and plank poses (hard on the wrists), or a person suffering from depression hanging out in a yin style class. All of these classes are wonderful and offer amazing benefits to the right students at the right time, but they can discourage, worsen or even injure the wrong student at the wrong time.

Although the understanding of the different kinds of yoga may not be all there yet, the wonderful thing is that more and more people, including health care professionals, are understanding the positive healing benefits of yoga and yoga is being incorporated into more hospitals, organizations such as the MS Society, and even corporate wellness programs.

What to do? If you or a loved one has a medical condition, please seek out a teacher/class that is working with that condition or at least has knowledge of it.  If a group therapeutic class isn’t available in your area, there may be a yoga therapist or someone who teaches privately that can work with you.

If you are a beginner, please start at the beginning, in a class that will teach you the ropes, keep you safe and help you to make yoga a continuing part of your life.

Research is the key.  Call studios, Google information and ask around.  Once you zero in on a teacher, ask about their training.  A yoga teacher should have at least 200 hours of  training and a yoga therapist should have at least 500 hours.  In both cases, they should have experience teaching what it is you are looking for.

Take heart! The right teacher and class for you is out there. 🙂

“Alicia has been great to work with. I really enjoy our sessions and I am learning so much. She is very in tune with my goals and has been very encouraging... It truly has been a great experience overall!”

Jennifer R.