By Amruta Kulkarni, CYT 500
When did Yoga therapy begin? The earliest references to Yoga come from four texts known as the Vedas. The Vedas are historically recognized as humankind’s earliest existing form of scriptures. Additionally, the Vedas explained and regulated aspects of life, from supreme reality to life on earth. Shastras were also orally passed from guru to disciple for thousands of years before being written down.
Evolution of Yoga Therapy
The art of Yoga is known as a relaxing yet energizing technique of stretching the physical body and enhancing spiritual awareness. Over time, Yoga has evolved into a combination of techniques and passive treatments. Today, these also include medicinal treatments, which we call Yoga therapy. The first recorded use of yoga as a therapeutic practice was in the 4th or 5th century BCE. Indian physician Sushruta Samhita recommended using yoga poses and breath control to treat various medical conditions.
Tracing the Origin
The first recorded use of yoga as a healing practice was in the Vedic scriptures, which date back to 3000 BCE. These texts describe yoga as a way to promote physical and mental well-being. The Yoga Sutras outlined the Eight Limbs of Yoga, and healing methods, which are still practiced today. Yoga began to spread to other parts of the world in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, thanks to Swami Vivekananda and Krishnamacharya’s pioneers.
Connection to Ayurveda
Yoga therapy is a system of care that is based on the ancient Indian medical system of Ayurveda. Ayurveda is a holistic approach to medicine that focuses on the mind, body, and spirit. Yoga therapy helps to bring balance to the three doshas, or energies, in the body. It is believed that when these energies are in balance, the body can heal itself. Yoga therapy can be used to treat a wide variety of conditions, including anxiety, depression, and chronic pain.
Moving to the UK
The history of yoga therapy in the UK can be traced back to the early 20th century. Several Indian teachers came to the UK to teach yoga at that time. One of these teachers, B.K.S. Iyengar, is credited with popularizing yoga in the West. He founded the Iyengar Yoga Institute in Pune, India, which is still one of the most respected yoga schools in the world. Iyengar’s teachings emphasized the therapeutic benefits of yoga, which helped establish yoga as a form of therapy in the UK.
Introduction to North America
Yoga was introduced in the United States in 1893 when Swami Vivekananda of India spoke at the Parliament of Religions in Chicago. The goal of the Parliament was to integrate the religions and sciences of East and West cultures. At that time, Yoga would grow with the creation of the Vedanta society. Early North American Yoga was guided by the Vedanta society but would be nurtured mostly by female gurus.
Sri Tirumalai Krishnamacharya
Back in India, the guru of gurus was born on November 18, 1888, in Muchukundapura in Karnataka. Sri Tirumalai Krishnamacharya is the father of modern Yoga and contemporary Yoga Therapy. He was the teacher of BKS Iyengar, A. G. Mohan, and TKV Desikachar, three of the most well-known Gurus of contemporary Yoga Therapy. Additionally, Sri Tirumalai Krishnamacharya left a permanent imprint on Yoga today.
In the 1980s, Yoga therapy was re-introduced to North America in a publication by Dr. Dean Ornish concerning the study of the effects of lifestyle intervention on heart disease. Research has proven that yoga breathing exercises (pranayama) used in a therapeutic context help manage disease symptoms and make ailing patients feel better.
Yoga therapy has relieved some of the many conditions: Depression, insomnia, breathing difficulties, carpal tunnel syndrome, fibromyalgia, mourning, sciatica and muscle tension, autoimmune illnesses, nervousness, perfectionism, and many other ailments.
Yoga therapy, also known as restorative Yoga therapy, helps individuals loosen joints, ease sore muscles, and tone internal organs. With a combination of passive or assisted Yoga, acupressure, reflexology, energy work, and massage techniques, students experience a healing transformation. During the Yoga therapy session, the energy lines (sen) and energy centers (marma points) are activated to create vital energy (prana), which alleviates symptoms of discomfort on physical, mental, and emotional levels.
The Traditional Method
In ancient times gurus passed their knowledge to disciples. Many schools and online Yoga teacher training programs offer generalized and specialized Yoga therapy training. General Yoga therapy training enables therapists to treat a wide range of conditions.
Modern Specialist Training
Yoga therapy is a process of using the ancient practice of yoga to help people heal physically, mentally, and emotionally. However, Indian teachers had treated physical ailments for centuries before that. In the West, yogis such as Krishnamacharya and Iyengar began to popularize Yoga therapy in the 1930s and 1940s.
Yoga Therapy Today
In recent years, there has been a growing interest in Yoga therapy in treating conditions such as anxiety, depression, and chronic pain. Equally important, modern Yoga therapists undergo extensive training to safely and effectively treat their clients. Specialized therapy training focuses on one specific condition at a time, such as depression, back pain, insomnia, and many others. Programs combine healthcare, anatomy, Yoga, business, and management classes. Additionally, courses are often 900 hours or more in length with the goal of certification.
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