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Difference Between Normal Yoga Class And Yoga Therapy Session

By: Manjaree B Bhatt

I would like to discuss the particular difference between the yoga poses practiced by the normal healthy individual and the poses practiced in yoga therapy; by 1) a person suffering from any disease or disorder, 2) poor performance of the body or any part, as a result of an accident, 3) after effect or permanent limitations due to major surgery and 4) age related wear & tear.

First of all I would like to discuss the various classifications of yoga poses. They are as under:

  • The position of the body: One can practice yoga pose in a) Standing, b) sitting and c) laying down position.
  • The purpose behind the practice: for spiritual or for physical fitness. So they are classified in mainly two sections; a) Meditative poses, b) cultural poses
  • Cultural poses are classified in four areas: a) For vertebral column, b) For extremities, c) For abdominal compression, d) For relaxation.
  • For vertebral column further they are divided into six sections: a) Upward stretch, b) forward bending, c) backward banding, d) sideward bending, e) Twist and torsion, f) inversion.
  • As per the joints and muscles involved in activity: a) Flexor, b) Extensors, c) Abductors, d) Adductors and e) Rotators.

So in other words, it’s very clear that for what purpose the poses are performed and they are going to be useful in which part of the body or area or any particular organ!

(1) Traditionally cultural pose is performed for few minutes whereas in yoga therapy the pose is performed for few seconds and still gets the same benefit.

(2) In normal cultural pose practice, the breathing pattern is involved as per the movement of the body and the position of the rib-cage with rhythm of inhalation, retention, exhalation and suspension but in Yoga therapy breathing has to be according to the targeted problem and capacity of the patient, in very specific problem/case retention and suspension of breath are completely avoided.

(3) In yoga therapy, more relaxation poses are practiced then the meditative. In meditative poses, longer duration of inhalation n exhalation, initially full concentration of the incoming and outgoing breathe and thus slowly breath is controlled. In deep meditation the movement of breathing also becomes even obstacle.

(4) In yoga therapy, looking at the age, flexibility of the body, interest of the person, life-style & routine and problem faced, has tobe focused first and then plan for the sessions are designed and drafted. In normal yoga class one can set-up the program for the whole season or for a year.

(5) In yoga therapy the pose is modified and simplified as per the problem and requirement of the patient. For example Talasan will be practiced very differently for a patient suffering from respiratory problem than the cardiac problem. Even the breathing pattern involved during the practice is different.

(6) Normal yoga could be practiced in a group session but in yoga therapy one-on-one session is advisable as constant monitoring is required depending on the symptoms, problems and severity.

(7) Group sessions are also recommended for yoga therapy e.g. case of severe depression or when all participants are on the same level to perform all the practices and techniques covered in the same session.

(8) Normal yoga teacher or instructor’s class could be pre-designed but yoga therapist has to consider the patient’s mood, physical condition, weather, routine, effect of drugs or medicines and many more aspects. So in most case, yoga therapy sessions can’t be a pre-set program.

(9) In normal yoga class the more emphasis is given on the perfection of the pose, in yoga therapy more emphasis is given to the function of the body; capacity, capability, recovery, positivity and motivation for the practice.

(10) In normal yoga class the goal is physical fitness; in yoga therapy the goal is to achieve optimum benefit in recovery, proper function of the affected part and restoring overall health.

(11) Normal yoga class is attended by the participant willingly. In yoga therapy sometimes they are forced to attend in order to recover as other help or treatment doesn’t work and as a last option, try or with some hope they come to yoga therapy session!

(12) One most important difference is that yoga therapist must have is the First Aid and CPR training. As the therapist can face any problem dealing with the patient so must be ready to provide basic treatment before even EMS arrives. In normal yoga class teacher / instructor may not face such problem as they deal with normal healthy people.

Well, I can keep on going adding many more differences but one thing is most clear that yoga therapy is nonspecific. It can only work if other techniques and factors are practiced and considered; cleansing techniques, relaxation techniques, change in routine, diet, attitude, and acceptance of the facts, willingness to learn anything new and practice it on a regular basis. Once if any positive results are achieved, one can’t stop it. Yoga is a life style so once adopted; it has to be practiced and lived for a life-time!

Conclusion: The way when a family doctor doesn’t cover all the treatment in his/her practice and send patient to the specialist doctor, the same way yoga instructor /teacher should send their student / client to the yoga therapist if they find that the participant’s problem they can’t tackle or within their program. It is advisable that if the person him/herself has recognized any physical, mental or psychosomatic problem, and still wants to practice yoga, then should attend yoga therapy session and not the regular yoga class. Otherwise it could result into more harm than the cure.


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