Difference between Yoga and Yoga Therapy? What should you choose?
Yoga and Yoga Therapy are related practices, but they have very distinct differences in how they are practised and expectations of the results from each practice. They should not be substituted for one another.
1. Let’s start by discussing the fundamental definition.
• Yoga: As we all know, yoga is an ancient practice passed on to us over centuries. For a fundamental understanding, yoga comprises postures (asanas), breathing (pranayama) and dyana (meditation). It is a practice that helps improve your sense of self, lifestyle, and mental and emotional state. It is also used as a practice for the upkeep of physical health. It helps in preventing many diseases and joint pains. Yoga is a holistic practice that focuses not only on physical health but also enhances spiritual well-being.
• Yoga Therapy: Although yoga itself is one of the most therapeutic practices, we still have a distinct wing called “Yoga Therapy”. The primary objective of yoga therapy is to use yogic techniques to alleviate or manage specific health issues. In yoga therapy, classical yogasanas are modified as per the requirement of the clients/patients, to bring them relief from their existing conditions. Yoga therapists work with individuals to create personalized practices that target their unique physical or mental health challenges. The aim is to improve or maintain overall health and well-being while addressing specific medical or psychological conditions.
2. Difference in the method of practice:
• Yoga: Yoga can be practised in various styles, including Hatha, Vinyasa, Ashtanga, Iyengar, and more. Focus is on getting the posture right, improving alignment, maintaining adequate fitness levels, energising yourself, and increasing flexibility and balance. This is done by practising about 100 yogic postures. Each style of yoga modifies these postures to make it work for their clientele, their age and their expectations from the sessions.
• Yoga Therapy: Yoga therapy involves a more goal-oriented and customized approach. A yoga therapist assesses an individual’s health condition and then designs a yogic sequence for him that may include specific postures which are done with the help of props like ropes, belts, bricks, bolsters etc. A therapist may also use breathwork, meditation, and other healing techniques to address his client’s mental and emotional health, which indirectly has a huge impact on the physical health as well. Yoga therapy primarily focuses on pain management, symptomatic relief, restoration of a normal lifestyle and rejuvenation.
3. Yoga session vs Yoga Therapy session
• Yoga: Yoga is often practised in group classes or individually for general health and wellness. It is suitable for individuals without specific health concerns. A yoga session usually lasts for an hour. Every person attending the yoga sessions matches the pace of the instructor and everyone does the same postures at the same time. There is hardly any scope for customization.
• Yoga Therapy: Yoga therapy is specifically for individuals with health issues like joint pains, hormonal imbalance, insomnia, anxiety, injuries or trauma, diabetes, ankylosing spondylitis, cardiac problems etc. The most common issues that people come up with are joint pains like osteoarthritis of the knee joint, shoulder pain, neck pain, tingling & numbness in the arms, carpel tunnel syndrome, Sciatica pain, herniated disc, radiculopathy/tingling pain in the legs and many other similar issues. Yoga therapy is not a replacement for medicine, but it can certainly help in avoiding many surgeries.
4. Comparing the qualifications and aptitude of a yoga teacher and a yoga therapist:
• Yoga: Yoga classes are commonly taught by certified yoga instructors who may have varying levels of training and expertise. Yoga teachers generally focus on guiding students through asana and pranayama practices.
• Yoga Therapy: Yoga therapy is typically provided by certified yoga therapists with specialized training in using yoga as a therapeutic tool. Yoga therapists undergo in-depth training to understand human anatomy and physiology, enabling them to understand their client’s pathology / medical condition. They also have training experience in taking the case history of the client, doing physical examinations to assess the grade of a problem and assessing their emotional state and stress level. A yoga therapist is well-trained to integrate all these aspects into the therapy and develop customized treatment plans for the client/patient.
To conclude and as a word of advice, ‘if you have a medical problem then you need medical expertise’. You must choose a Yoga therapist or any other specialist who can work specifically on your problem. We do not encourage any kind of “self-help” in such cases either through social media or online videos or family discussions. Yoga is a way of life, it must be practised as a part of our daily regime as we eat, sleep, drink and work. It is as vital as any of these activities. Let’s not make it a choice when things start falling apart!