Qualities of a Yoga Therapist
What you think, you become. What you feel, you attract. What you imagine, you create.
These are the precepts of Yoga that I seek to weave into my practice. As with all things, they are a goal and a guide towards the divine in oneself. While we cannot be perfect, we can be our best selves in the striving for it.
"These twenty-five qualities unfold gradually through a training program that places equal emphasis on both wings of yoga therapy—understanding of the tools, techniques, and methodologies, as well as awakening the vision of yoga therapy as a lifelong journey of healing.”
Selfless Service (sevā)
The yoga therapist receives fair compensation for professional services, but also cultivates an attitude of selfless service, a vision of healing larger than his own personal goals, wants, and needs. Through this expanded vision the therapist recognizes his contribution to the healing of other beings as well as to the community and all of humanity.
Grounding (dṛḍha bhūmiḥ)
The yoga therapist cultivates grounding and stability at all levels of being. This begins with the physical body where they develop the strength and stability to assist confidently with poses. Grounding extends to the psycho-emotional level, allowing her to meet challenges presented by care receivers from a place of stability and centering.
Self Healing (svacikitsā Recei)
The yoga therapist upholds the inherent capacity of all care receivers for self-healing. This process begins with the therapists themselves as they experience their own healing through yoga. The therapist can then inspire the care receivers to trust in the power of inner healing.There is a more essential process, healing ourself body mind and spirit. In order for that to happen
Conscious Presence (upasthiti)
Conscious presence is living in the present moment. The yoga therapist is aware of the care receiver’s history as well as goals for healing. Yoga therapy, however, only takes place in the present moment, with the therapists remaining fully conscious of all that is happening both within themselves and within the receiver at all levels of being.
Careful Listening (śravaṇaṃ)
In effective yoga therapy, the therapist seldom offers advice or opinions; rather, he listens carefully and sensitively to what his care receivers are communicating in order to respond optimally.
Skillful Speech (vāca kauśalaṃ)
Individuals in the process of healing may be highly sensitive. This is helpful in that they are more open to new ways of seeing and being. This also requires the yoga therapist to exercise skillful communication that is carefully attuned to the receiver’s needs.
Skillful Means (upakaraṇā kauśalaṃ)
The yoga therapist utilizes a wide range of tools and techniques and understands the principles that underlie them. The yoga therapist has the ability to apply these techniques at all levels of being—physical, energetic, psycho-emotional, and spiritual. Most importantly, the yoga therapist adapts and simplifies techniques to meet the needs of the individual.
The healing process is unique for each individual. It cannot be rushed and, like the butterfly’s wings, must unfold as part of a process in which all of the stages of healing occur naturally. The therapist must be mindful of allowing this process to unfold, never rushing forward in the name of achieving short-term goals.
The yoga therapist is familiar with all aspects of yoga as a healing modality. A yoga therapist who cultivates his strengths and areas of interest is passionate about his particular area of concentration, whether it is the physical body, the subtle body, or the psycho-emotional body, and is better able to inspire healing in the receiver.
Committed Personal Practice (sādhanā)
A practice designed for the needs of the individual generally provides optimal healing. The most effective way for the therapist to create a personal practice for others is to develop her own consistent individual practice, and to assess carefully how it meets her needs.
Study of Self and Scriptures (svādhyāya)
The yoga therapist is engaged in an ongoing process of self-exploration based on the traditional texts of yoga in which he explores areas of limitation, pain, and suffering in his own life. This process enables him to facilitate care receivers in widening their perspectives of themselves and life as whole, which is one of the most important dimensions of healing.
When we begin to practice yoga therapy, there may be a tendency to offer too many tools and techniques in order to provide “the most healing.” For effective yoga therapy, however, less is usually more, and offering a few tools and techniques fully and authentically is generally most helpful.
The yoga therapist maintains appropriate boundaries of time and energy. At the same time, she offers yoga generously by showing the care receivers that knowledge of yoga is universal and belongs to all of humanity to be shared freely.
Compassion is seeing clearly that everyone, including us, is on a journey of healing. For some suffering is physical, while for others it is emotional or spiritual. Rather than perceiving care receivers as ill and therapists as well, the quality of compassion allows us to recognize that we are all on a unique healing journey.
Witness Consciousness (sākṣitvaṃ)
In yoga therapy, a full range of feelings, emotions, and sensations may arise in the care receiver. The yoga therapist learns to witness these feelings in the receiver, as well as to witness and manage reactions to these feelings within himself.
Equanimity is resting in the calm depths of our inner being regardless of what is happening at the surface level of sensations, thoughts, and feelings. Through equanimity we never lose our connection to our deeper being no matter what challenges arise in yoga therapy.
The essence of integrity in yoga therapy is providing optimal yoga practices for healing at all levels of being, rather than prescribing specific yoga techniques to cure disease. Integrity also requires that we recognize when we are able to work with a receiver effectively and when it is appropriate to refer the person to another care provider.
Multidimensional Awareness (pañca kośa darśana)
The yoga therapist holds a vision of the whole person, so that even if she is focusing on the care receiver’s physical body, she is also seeing, sensing, and responding at the energetic, psycho- emotional, and spiritual levels. This multi-dimensional perspective respects the care receiver’s cultural and religious framework, while cultivating greater holistic awareness within.
The yoga therapist develops a wide range of tools and techniques for assessing and meeting the receiver’s needs. Intuition plays an important role in knowing how and when to employ these tools and techniques. These intuitive skills are developed through an approach to training yoga therapists that places equal emphasis on developing cognitive and intuitive learning skills, with a focus on the physical, subtle, psycho-emotional, and spiritual dimensions of being.
Yoga therapy is an art and a science, and with each group or individual we meet, we learn and teach something in a completely new way. This openness to yoga therapy as a field of infinite possibilities allows for tremendous creativity and keeps our teaching fresh.
Self Nourishment (svapoṣaṇa)
Yoga therapists nourish themselves by maintaining their own regular practice, receiving healing therapies, and setting aside time for playing and exploring life’s mysteries. As we bring balance into our own lives, we naturally cultivate self-care in our receivers.
Gratitude is embracing all of life, including its challenges, as a journey of appreciation and learning. The ability to accept and embrace life as it presents itself contributes to healing at all levels of being.
Inner Freedom (kaivalya)
Through integrating the essential qualities of yoga therapy, we live and work with a sense of inner freedom, reflected as lightness and ease in all of our activities, even those we find most challenging. This sense of inner freedom is the essence of healing.
Surrender is the recognition that there is an all-encompassing intelligence at the heart of creation that guides our life journey. As we align with this source energy, we are naturally guided to healing.
Faith is an unshakable knowing that yoga is a process of transformation that has healed us at all levels of being. We also have faith that we will be guided to offer optimal techniques for healing to each care receiver we meet.