By Faye Martins
Does Power yoga have a place in yoga therapy? Power yoga is a generic form of physical yoga that tends to emphasize physical fitness over yogic philosophy and wisdom. However, although power yoga attempts to be a challenging series of poses that even the most in-shape or athletic beginners will struggle with, part of achieving and maintaining physical fitness means that most power yoga instructors incorporate poses to balance the mind with the body. Often power yoga, despite its focus on the practice as exercise, does concern itself with personal transcendence, a form of self-actualization.
What is Yoga Therapy?
Yoga therapy aims to heal the body of any physical, mental, emotional or psychosomatic ailments by identifying the root of a dysfunction and practicing a set of techniques (asana, pranayama, meditation or relaxation techniques) intended to address the problem. It seems obvious to yoga teachers that people who suffer from problems ranging from persistent lower back pain to depression have been flocking to our classes in an attempt to alleviate their symptoms.
For example, a person suffering from intense lower back pain as a result of a ruptured disc might see a physical therapist and come away with some exercises that help stretch the back and correct any misalignments. Similarly, someone who sees a yoga therapist for the same problem will likely come away with a series of yoga techniques to practice in order to accomplish the same purpose of stretching the back and correcting the body’s bad habits. The difference is that physical therapy is truly focused on the physical, whereas yoga therapy works holistically to address the health of entire person on all levels of existence. In turn, student become more aware of methods to reduce or prevent pain.
This self-awareness is also a reason that people with psychosomatic ailments like depression or anxiety try yoga. Not only are there physical and hormonal benefits derived from the exercise part of yoga, but achieving personal balance and more complete awareness can lead to the improvement of problems rooted in the psyche as well as the body.
Can Power Yoga be Practiced as Therapy?
Due to the fact that power yoga is a physical challenge, the answer to whether it can be used as therapy depends on the problem as well as the approach of the instructor or therapist. Many therapists prefer to work through poses at a slower pace to allow for more concentrated effort on each pose, but some advocate power yoga for certain cases. Clearly, because of the individualized nature of yoga therapy, power yoga can also be used as a form therapy, or adjunct therapy, for mental and emotional balance. However, it is not always the preferred school of yoga for cases where students have physical ailments.
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