Yoga Therapy

Kundalini yoga and meditation for illness – in-depth guidance and mentoring through the processes of healing.

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Yoga is a very popular complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) and is sought out for a range of different health complaints (Ross, 2015). For thousands of years yoga has been taught as a method to tranquilise the mind and enliven the body. In recent times evidence-based research shows that the practices included in yoga-like body postures, relaxation, visualisation, and controlled breathing and meditation, can normalise an activated autonomic sympathetic nervous system, calm tension in the muscles, lower blood pressure, enhance endocrine system activity, reduce physical and emotional discomfort, and improve general wellbeing (Emerson et al, 2009).

The conclusion of a large meta-study analysing the results of many research studies highlights yoga and meditation as a very effective complementary treatment for severe mental illness, particularly for reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression (Cabral et al, 2011).

The difference between yoga therapy and a yoga class lies in the intention. In yoga therapy sessions for either individuals or groups, the intention is to focus on the specific condition that is being experienced by the client/group, while in yoga classes the intention has a more general focus on strength building, stretching and breath and visualisation exercises.Kundalini yoga, as taught by Yogi Bhajan, was taught to healthy people, while Kundalini yoga therapy has a very specific focus on treating illness.

 After an appropriate intake, and assessment, therapists will focus on the specific symptoms that are troubling their clients and identify methods to help them manage those symptoms. The therapist’s job is less about teaching yogic techniques and more about helping clients to overcome their challenges and gain independence.

As yoga therapy, for various reasons including time and cost factors, is usually delivered in a group setting, it is important to note the positive effects the group setting has on healing. DianePoole-Heller calls it “Healing in Tribe” and I have used this concept, which is not new to Africa, in my workshops to great effect. The “Indra’s Web effect” is echoed in the African Ubuntu, where my healing is tied up in your healing, and if I heal, so do you. Research shows that the effects of healing in a group are promoted through the buy-in that happens among group members,  and the sense of commonality and community which ends isolation and provides a model for holistic healing (Wyss-Flamm, 2012).

Yoga as a form of healing has grown substantially in the past few decades, with many people seeking out yoga therapy to inform their healing journeys. The following excerpts are from an article written on a study called Perceptions of Healing (Kusilka, 2014) that includes thoughts of the healing journeys of 32 yoga therapy students (more excerpts can be found in Resources).

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“I have healed and changed from a person of extreme anxiety, with panic attacks. I did it through yoga, meditation, time and mentorship. While anxiety is still an experience, it is no longer my identity.” (Kusilka, 2014, p.67).

“Learning to trust and commit to an intimate relationship was very healing. Love! A supportive partner who was open to reviewing my past without judgment. Also, a very skilled therapist who provided consistent care over a period of time who helped construct a holistic vision of my sense of self.” (Kusilka, 2014, p.67).

“My dad was taken off his bipolar medication abruptly at age 62—he was then institutionalized repeatedly and essentially lost his sanity. This was an extremely stressful time that brought on anxiety and severe depression. I used self-healing techniques like yoga and chanting to raise my vibration back to normal—it was a very eye opening experience and revolutionised my life.” (Kusilka, 2014, p.71).

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