Fundamental Principles of Integrative Yoga Therapy
Fundamental Principal no. 1: Yoga Therapy is multidimensional healing
Integrative Yoga Therapy uses the model of the Five Koshas to promote the re-establishment of balance and resultant healing through all dimensions of being, including:
- Physical, including all physiological systems
- Energetic, including the nadis, prana vayus and chakras
- Psycho-emotional, including everyday thoughts and feelings at the level of the personality
- The Witness, including the ability to perceive and transform thought patterns and emotions, removing obstacles to healing
- Spiritual, including the possibility of recognition of, and progressive identification with, our true Being whose very nature is wholeness and healing.
True healing occurs when Yoga Therapy guides a person towards balance at all dimensions of being.
Fundamental Principle no. 2: All Eight Limbs of Yoga as presented by Patanjali are equally as important and work together to guide us toward multidimensional healing.
In relation to the process of whole-person healing, each step has an essential focus:
- Yama and Niyama (ethics and observances) – highlight fundamental values and attitudes that guide our lifestyle and actions within society.
- Asana (postures) – cultivates a posture that is both stable and comfortable as the foundation of an attitude of comfort and stability in daily living.
- Pranayama (channeling of breath and energy) – serves as a vehicle for the expansion and channeling of vital energy, prana, through specific breathing techniques which promotes the re-establishment of energetic balance that’s fundamental for the health of all physiological systems.
- Mudra (hand gestures) – frequently recognized as one of the angas in traditional Yoga texts, mudras are a vehicle for awakening qualities such as self-care, self-nurturance and confidence that are an essential facet of the healing process.
- Pratyahara (internalization of the senses) – which is commonly experienced in meditation and in Yoga Nidra, serves as a vehicle for deep relaxation and deconditioning of mental and emotional patterns that cause the chronic stress response and subsequent dis-ease.
- Dharana (concentration) – one-pointed concentration allows for the release of disparate and constantly changing thoughts and feelings, thereby reducing stress and supporting healing.
- Dhyana (meditation) – the harmonious integration of body-breath-senses-mind is a reflection of our fully healed self.
- Samadhi (complete absorption) – recognition of our true Being, the essence of healing from the Yoga Therapy perspective.
Fundamental Principle no. 3:; Yoga Therapy is ultimately recognition of our true Being
The traditional Yoga texts focus on the deepest cure that can exist, which is recognition of the true Self through spiritual liberation. The day-to-day activities of the Yoga Therapist are often focused on the need to heal on various relative levels, such as the relief of physical pain, mental anxiety and emotional confusion.
All of these areas of healing are actually expressions of a deeper vision of Yoga Therapy in which all healing is ultimately a reflection of the recognition of our true Being.
Fundamental Principle no. 4: Illness is separation from our true Being
From the Yoga perspective, integral health is a result of balance among all dimensions of being, and illness reflects imbalance within one or more of these dimensions which are always interrelated. The Yoga therapist focuses on all levels of being, beginning with whatever the client is presenting, but within an understanding that, at the deepest level, dis-ease is always a reflection of separation from our true Self, whose very nature is health. This separation from our true Self is reflected in the model of the Five Kleshas (obstructions) which are:
- Avidya – this is literally a lack of knowledge whose essential characteristic is the failure to recognize that we are already whole, complete and free in the form of purusha, our true Being, and that we are ultimately not the personality, with its perceived wants and needs.
- Asmita – this is identification with the limited personality as the all-powerful center from which all expectations and solutions originate, but since this is a misperception, the result is invariably suffering.
- Raga – this is the realm of likes, inclinations, attractions, attachments as a perceived source of happiness at the level of the personality, but since the personality is not our authentic being, these desires will never provide what we seek.
- Dvesha – this includes all that we dislike or reject, the realm of aversions that are an expression of the frustration of trying to find happiness, success, fulfillment and peace at the level of the personality, where they ultimately do not exist in reality.
- Abinivesha – this is existential fear and anxiety as a result of identification with the individual personality as limited and mortal when in fact, we are timeless true Being.
The five Kleshas are the fuel that feed the chronic stress cycle, “the cycle of separation from our true Being”, which is the root cause of dis-ease.
Our journey as Yoga therapists is to combine Yoga tools including asanas, pranayamas, prana vayus, mudras, bandhas, chakras, to initially manage the symptoms of chronic stress and gradually align with our inner Being whose very nature is health and healing.
Fundamental Principle no. 5: Yoga Therapy combines art and science to specifically address individual needs at all levels of being.
The Yoga Therapist requires an in-depth understanding of anatomy and physiology, both from a Yogic and a Western perspective, together with experiential knowledge of all of the Yoga methodologies and techniques. The Yoga Therapist also requires an experiential understanding of the healing process, gained along their own journey, which allows them to see that healing is a path that we all share. This shared journey of healing for practitioner and client is the path of Integrative Yoga Therapy.