ENLIGHTEN UP! a blog
Self-awareness stories: lighting our way to clarity, contentment and resilience in a complicated world.
ENLIGHTEN UP! a blog
So you’ve decided to make an appointment with a yoga therapist to begin dealing your issue, whatever that may be. You may be wondering what to expect. This post will answer some of the basic questions you may have and will share the Four-Step methodology for yoga therapy recommended by Integrative Yoga Therapy founder, and my teacher, Joseph Le Page.
Step I: Description of the Condition/Population
When you make your first appointment with a yoga therapist, they will ask you to share your reasons for making an appointment. They will take your information and do general research on your condition or issue before your appointment. This will give them background and context from both the western allopathic model (ex. your demographics, description of your condition or issue, body systems affected, any symptoms and treatments that may apply etc.) and add in aspects from the yoga traditions in which they have trained. This helps them better understand how this general information might apply to you as a unique individual.
Step II: Evaluation & Assessment
As the time of your appointment approaches you may be asked to fill out an intake form and/or agree to an interview to gather additional and more detailed information about what you want help with. In addition to physical or health concerns you will be asked about any stress you may be experiencing on all levels (body, breath and mind). Here the yoga therapist may use the general information they’ve researched to develop questions for the interview or intake form. As a client or student, it will be important to provide complete answers so the yoga therapist will be able to meet your needs.
Here’s an example of what can happen when clients or students leave out key information on intake forms or during an interview. Early in my work as a yoga therapist, I was facilitating a therapeutic class for eight women transitioning through menopause. I gave each an intake form to fill out prior to the class and double-checked with each of them before the first class to make sure I had the information needed and that they knew what to expect. Everything went as planned until the final relaxation. As they lay on their mats, I first worked on encouraging relaxation of the body part-by-part, then moved to slowing and relaxing the breath. When I moved to a visualization, I asked them to see themselves rising from their bodies and observing the room, the other participants, the walls, ceilings etc. and then move outside to feel the air and the ground under their feet. Next I had them retrace their steps, and relax on their mats to music.
When I brought them back to sitting and asked them to share their experience one woman said she’d been fine during the body and breath scan but did not like the visualization and asked that “I never do that again!” Two others spoke up in agreement. Of course, I was taken aback but immediately asked why that had upset them. It turned out that those three women experienced anxiety and panic attacks and had a hard time staying in their bodies when fully alert and that taking them out had made them uncomfortable. That information had not been provided in either the prior intake forms or conversations. When I asked them why they had not given me that information, the women told me they didn’t think it was important!
So as a client it is important to share all key information about your health issue or situation to your yoga therapist. Needless to say, that going forward, I made sure to ask for this information more than once or twice!
Step III: Selection of Wellness Objectives & Yoga Tools
As your appointment time approaches the yoga therapist takes the information gathered about your concerns from steps one and two and develops a list of ideal wellness objectives to be shared and discussed with you when you meet for the first time. Some of the wellness objectives they consider might look like this:
From that general list your yoga therapist might come up with specific objectives such as:
Step IV: Organizing the Session/Class
According to this methodology, your first session (in-person or on Zoom) will likely contain the following components as appropriate:
1. Intake/check in
3. Centering & body awareness
4. Breath/energy awareness
6. Yoga postures
7. Guided relaxation
8. Silent relaxation
9. Breath exercises and meditation
10. An opportunity for you to give feedback
Keep in mind that the yoga therapist will change or adapt their program plan on the spot depending on your needs and state of mind when you arrive for the appointment. The yoga therapist’s goal will be to meet you where you are and give you:
The amount and content of what your yoga therapist will provide will depend on where you are in your journey and what you are willing to work with, accept and integrate in any given moment
BETH GIBBS started her yoga practice in 1968, four months after her son was born and she’s been practicing ever since. She currently teaches all levels therapeutic yoga classes for adults, and specialty classes for seniors in the Hartford, Connecticut area. Beth is a certified yoga therapist through the International Association of Yoga Therapists and is guest faculty at the Kripalu School of Integrative Yoga Therapy. She writes for the blogs, Yoga for Healthy Aging, and Accessible Yoga. Her master’s degree from Lesley University in Cambridge, MA is in Yoga Therapy and Mind/Body Health.