Yoga Therapy is a more holistic form of Talk therapy. Psychotherapy no matter the modality practiced, is about talking to someone. Cognitive Behavioral, is at its core a “talking” therapy between the therapist and the client. They explore how the clients thoughts affect his behavior. Cognitive distortions are sometimes viewed as thoughts gone crazy. A very simple thought distortion might sound like this in a session;
Therapist: What brings you in today, and how can I be of help?
Client: I feel like I should be achieving more at my age then I am.
What would follow would be finding out from the client his back-story which would include his role-models, most likely his parents and what they passed down to him when he was a child from their beliefs and experiences of the world.
Therapist: So what I have been hearing and understanding about how you were raised, is that you were made to feel, that unless you met your parents expectations of progress and getting ahead by a certain age, you were a failure.
This theme has its variations, but the clients basis of information is referenced on how his parents made their careers and lives together over 40 years ago. If a client believes that his parents thinking and his identity are one in the same than chances are he’s going to be in therapy for a long time.
Yoga Therapy at its most RADICAL, tells us first, that thoughts, for the most part, are not real. What makes them real is the energy and time that we pursue them as our own. One of the goals of this kind of therapy is to realize that we are not what we “think”
The therapist teaching from the Yogic perspective might teach the client to meditate and rather than follow their thoughts or react to them. One would observe them as if one is watching a play. In therapy with a client who is already steeped in the belief that he or she is what they think to the point that it causes them to have anxiety or panic attacks, I would teach them diaphragm breathing which is a slow inhale and exhale through the nostrils down into the pit of the belly causing it to distend on the inhale and become flat on the exhale. This kind of slow, deep filling of the stomach cavity brings more oxygen to the blood and releases dopamine; which is the feel good brain chemical that we all naturally have.
In Eastern medicine when ones life enegy becomes blocked or stuck, the accupuncturist skillfully applies the tiniest of needles to stimulate the pulses, thereby allowing the energy/chi to flow smoothly again.
In Kali Natha Yoga there is one asana which I share with my clients that touches and opens every pulse in the body. I was taught by my teacher that when the pulses are closed or inactive there is sickness. So in the 15 minutes that it takes to do one Natha Worship of the Sun, a client will feel the relief as a flow of energy from a system which is now open. It is a very practical tool that I will encourage them to memorize and hopefully become a part of their daily routine.
Both physical and mental health is discussed with the client in Yoga therapy and the tools which are shared with them address the mind and the body.