What is Yoga Therapy?

Remarkably, and essentially, the body heals itself all the time. Sometimes the obstacles to healing are too difficult to navigate alone. Pain persists, areas become chronically irritated, reducing our comfort and ability to fully participate.

Unprocessed trauma can be held in the tissue; the body “keeps the score” of what happens to us, learning to avoid triggers that might cause future pain. This process can get skewed when the body gets over-reactive, defensive and over-protective.

That is when a yoga therapist can be helpful.

A yoga therapist is skilled in identifying long-standing movement and postural habits, reactive emotional patterns, and breath patterns that block healing. Recognizing these patterns is necessary to shifting the whole paradigm in order to remember and rediscover wellness.

Yoga therapy uses asana (yoga poses), pranayama (breath techniques), and mindfulness practices for restoration and realignment. In this process, the whole history and lifestyle of the client is relevant. Injury often is the result of poor movement habits. The injury is often a symptom rather than the primary issue. In other words, movement impairment precedes injury and can persist after the injury heals. Yoga therapy identifies these subtler habits that made the injury possible in the first place and helps to prevent their recurrence.

By widening the lens through which wellness and injury are understood, the yoga therapist can help the client access powerful forces of intention, relationship and attention. These less tangible assets are the framework through which our healing capacity flows.

Sarah’s Approach

Sarah is a structurally-oriented yoga therapist grounded in movement science. Highly detailed and analytical, she is adept at seeing nuances in posture and movement. Trained to detect anomalies in gait and joint function, Sarah often detects patterns of dysfunctional movement far from the site of acute injury. In these ways Sarah “maps” the current territory clients find themselves traversing. The first session is a Postural Analysis or “body mapping.”

Based on her findings, Sarah customizes exercises to retrain the movement faults and shift posture habits. These highly specific exercises take into account the unique anatomical differences of each client. Pelvic tilt, spinal curve imbalances, leg length differences and structural variances in the hip joint are all taken into consideration when crafting these sequences. Daily life habits from sitting to standing and walking are retrained as well.

Breath patterns are the rhythms that set the pace of a client’s nervous system. Sarah has extensive experience helping clients identify areas of weak respiratory power in the body. Tightness in the hips, pelvis and shoulders often prevent a full and dynamic resting breath. Limitations in the diaphragm and structural asymmetries of the spine and ribcage can further limit healthy breathing. By changing to healthier breathing patterns, the nervous system is allowed to rest deeply enough to begin healing.

The final and perhaps most important piece of Sarah’s approach to yoga therapy is a study of the client’s relationship to their pain or condition. Many clients feel their body has betrayed or failed them. Most clients have been quarantining or pushing their pain away. Reframing this relationship is crucial. The body can only communicate with us in limited ways. By listening and respecting the body’s signals, we can start to work with our conditions instead of trying to ignore or dominate them. Opening up a dialog with pain allows the client to listen to a part of them that has been wanting and needing their attention, perhaps for years. This process can be revolutionary.

Working with Sarah

Sarah is available to teach yoga therapy privates 5 days a week at Yogaview Wilmette. There is a dedicated room with wall ropes (for therapeutic traction exercises), mirrors (for posture retraining) and extensive props (for supported poses). Sarah is a Certified Yoga Therapist with the International Association of Yoga Therapists (C-IAYT).

Sarah specializes in yoga therapy for scoliosis and neck and back pain. She has extensive experience working with joint pain including pre- and post-surgical ankle, knee and hip and shoulder conditions. Sarah has considerable success helping clients with nerve pain including sciatica and leg/foot numbness. Sacral instability, post-partum pelvic imbalances and postural imbalances (kyphosis/lordosis/forward head position) are particular areas of interest.

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