I’m not flexible. Can I do yoga or yoga therapy even if I can’t touch my toes? This is a common question with a simple answer! One reason to do yoga is to become more flexible (as well as stronger and more balanced physically and mentally). The physical postures are a small part of a complete yoga practice, and modifications for them can help you build flexibility. These changes take time, so remind yourself to stick with it to see the greatest benefits!
What if I have an injury? Yoga therapists certified by IAYT have specific training that enables them to modify poses and exercises safely for injuries, physical limitations, and other conditions. Simply tell your yoga therapist about your concerns, and continue to communicate with your medical professionals.
Is yoga a religion? Yoga is not a religion, although it is a spiritual practice for many. Others use their yoga practice alongside their religious practices without conflict.
What if I am not able to get on the floor? Or out of bed? Therapeutic yoga is not always done on the floor. You could do a class or session completely in a chair or using a chair for support. Yoga therapy can be really helpful when you cannot get out of bed—like during a disease flare or hospital recovery. You can do breathing practices, meditations, or simple movements while in bed, with your doctor’s permission.
Adho-mukha-sva—WHAT?! Yoga poses are sometimes described using their Sanskrit names, although many yoga therapists simply use translations like “downward-facing dog.” Sanskrit is the ancient Indian language in which yoga texts were commonly written. It may be intimidating to hear the Sanskrit terms, these novel sounds and their particular vibrations could be beneficial for your brain health.
I’m not sick or injured, could yoga therapy still help me? Yes! Yoga therapy includes a variety of tools that can help healthy, happy people live even more vibrant and fulfilling lives. For example, evidence supports the use of meditation, which is a component of yoga, for improved relationships, sleep, memory, and concentration. The poses can improve your posture and help you feel more flexible, strong, and balanced.
I tried yoga and I don’t like it! Yoga varies significantly from style to style and teacher to teacher. Give yoga another try with a yoga therapist whose approach resonates with you!
I’ve never done yoga at all… Yoga therapy is great for beginners because it is usually done individually or in small groups. This can be less intimidating and means you can get more attention from the teacher. You don’t need to be able to do fancy poses--or any poses at all!--to benefit from yoga therapy.
What should I wear? You can wear anything that is comfortable and allows you to move! There’s no reason you have to wear a special outfit, leggings, or tight clothing if you don’t want. (Traditionally, yogis actually wore loose, breathable clothing.) Yoga is often done barefoot, so do be prepared to take your shoes and socks off. But even this practice can be adapted to suit your individual needs and preferences, for example, if you need the support of a brace or orthotic device or a certain kind of socks.
Am I supposed to practice yoga therapy on an empty stomach? It is recommended to practice yoga on an empty stomach (for many that means avoiding food 2–3 hours before class). However, everybody is different; if you tend to have low blood sugar, low blood pressure, or some other concern, you may need to eat something small within that time frame. If you’re unsure, check with your physician or healthcare provider.
Do I have to be a vegetarian? Traditional yogis were vegetarians, and many are still today. However, the practice of yoga therapy welcomes all people.
What’s the difference between yoga therapy and physical therapy? Although the techniques used by yoga therapists and physical therapists may look similar in their use of movement, the professions differ significantly in their underlying philosophies, scope of practice, and the “tools” in their toolbox. Physical therapy focuses on restoring function and may use techniques like exercise (which can include postures similar to yoga), manual therapies, electrical stimulation, ultrasound, and dry needling. Yoga therapy, on the other hand, uses its practices to foster regulation, resilience, and well-being. In addition to poses, or asanas, tools of yoga therapy include breathing exercises (pranayama), meditation, self-inquiry, and lifestyle change. (Note that this is a simplified explanation. Many PTs also use the holistic biopsychosocial model to help their patients; some PTs also practice yoga therapy. Read more on our blog.)
What’s the difference between yoga therapy and psychotherapy? Yoga therapists do not diagnose mental health conditions or problems. The assessment tools used in yoga therapy emphasize wellness and overall health and are based in yoga philosophy rather than on the psychological sciences used by psychologists, social workers, and mental health counselors. Yoga therapy care is usually broader and includes asana, pranayama, meditation, and other lifestyle modalities. Your yoga therapist would not, for example, talk with you extensively about the nature of negative thinking or a challenging past; this aspect of mental health work requires skills that are not taught or appropriate to most yoga therapy training programs. Likewise, those offering psychological therapy may not be trained in specific controlled breathing or movement practices that a yoga therapist might use to help alleviate the suffering associated with a mental health concern. (As above, this is a simplified explanation. Also as with physical therapy, occupational therapy, and integrative medicine, in general these aligned professions are wonderful complements to one another; many patients can benefit from having both a yoga therapist and a psychological therapist.)