Yoga Therapy also called “Yoga Cikitsa”
has been a part of the discipline of yoga. The aim of Yoga Cikitsa is to
promote health and facilitate healing in a holistic manner, by allowing
the healer to design and teach appropriate and unique practices that empower
the students in their recovery.
A Holistic Process
Yoga does not look at our individual system as one that
is made up of parts. Rather it looks at our human being as one holistic
entity that is made up different dimensions (physical body, breath, mental,
personality traits, and emotions) that are mutually dependent on and mutually
influence one another. It propounds that an illness at the body level, need
not exist because of a cause in the body level, but could also manifest
because of a problem in another dimension of the body.
For example, it is now proven that one possible factor
that could contribute to heart attacks could be stress. And one cause stress
could come because of emotionally unstable relationships. Thus an emotional
cause may manifest as a physical symptom. The contrary could also be true.
So are innumerable other possibilities. Thus Yoga Therapy teaches us that,
in choosing and designing practices for healing, we must understand such
dynamics in the student (patient), before coming up with a unique solution.
Understanding this situation, the ancient masters presented
tools of yoga, that were able to influence multiple dimensions of our human
system, rather than just one. Thus an practice administered at the body
level, may not only have an impact on the body, but has the potency to impact
the other dimensions as well. Similarly a deep meditative practice may not
only influence our mind or emotions, but may also have an influence on our
physical body. Thus a good yoga practice empowers the whole human system,
rather than parts of it. This is the beauty of yoga, and hence its potency
in healing. Thus a Yoga Therapist needs to be competent in the wide range
of yoga’s tools, rather than just a few of them.
Some of the common tools used in yoga therapy include
postures (asanas), special breathing techniques (pranayama), meditative
practices (dhyanam), social attitudes (yama), guided self inquiry practices
(svadhyaya), symbolic gestures (mudra), use of vocal sounds (mantra), dietary
recommendations (ahara niyama) and lifestyle changes (vihara niyama). This
list is not comprehensive, but is indicative of what is possible in yoga
therapy. Also, often these tools may not be taught in isolation, but may
be grouped together to come up with an effective practice.
An Individual Process
To make healing effective and potent, we must understand
and interact with patients individually, rather than prescribe practices
in groups, though some expectational 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
help heal themselves. 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 in 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 it themselves.
An important job is also to review and verify the appropriateness of the
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.
For a more detailed understanding of Yoga Therapy,