Tanaya Ti'en Yoga Therapy

Tanaya Ti'en - Yoga Therapist

“Yoga therapy treats the whole person, seeking to change the attitudes and actions that inhibit the healing process, and cultivate the attitudes and actions that support it.” Gary Kraftsow

What is Yoga Therapy? 

Yoga Therapy (YT) is not something new. It is a tailored approach to wellbeing incorporating the 5000 year old science of yoga.


As a therapeutic practice, YT dates back to the dawn of yoga itself, however, it is reasonably new to mainstream society, and on most parts of the planet, hasn’t yet entered the realm of general conversation. But, with more and more evidence-based research being conducted within the yoga, science, and medical communities, YT is slowly but surely rising up into the forefront of complementary therapies.


One of the great yoga masters of our time, TKV Desikachar (1938-2016), son of Krishnamacharya (1888-1989) - considered by many to be the father of modern yoga - always put great emphasis on the importance of the personalization of yoga, and how each individual requires their own tailored approach in order to discover the stillness, quietness of mind, and bliss, that is yoga.


In an interview with Indian filmmaker, Rajiv Mehrotra, Desikachar spoke of how there are two yogic paths... “One is the path of information, and the other is that of transformation. With information, we can communicate to thousands of people. With transformation, it is like surgery where one dr cannot do surgery for a thousand people. When it comes to transformation, there is a need for one-to-one contact. For example, if I have to teach somebody who has a faith in God, I have to honor the person. If I have to teach somebody else who has no faith in God, we have to respect that person’s view. If I insist, ‘you must believe in God’, we have no connection. That’s why for transformation to happen there should be an intimate relationship between the aspirant and the provider.


That said, the process of YT involves an in-depth inquiry into the whole person (body, mind, spirit), and includes a personalised assessment, goal setting, and specific practices that aim to still the mind, and empower individuals to be active participants in the management of their overall wellbeing, recovery, and/or rehabilitation. The results of this in-depth inquiry are used to generate a detailed picture of a person’s yogic constitution which can be used to help understand physical and metaphysical areas of imbalance, under-activity and over-activity. This information can then be used to help guide advice and develop a treatment program specific to each individual’s unique needs and circumstances. YT may not involve yoga postures in a traditional sense if they are not suited to the individual, and instead draw upon other yogic practices including yoga ethics, pranayama (breath and energy expansion techniques), mantra, meditation, dietary and lifestyle practices. Thus, Yoga therapy is really for everyone and anyone, regardless of a person's physical capacity.


Does Yoga therapy replace other treatment plans or therapy?


YT does not diagnose, or replace any other treatment, but rather complements and works alongside existing health care plans. YT provides individuals with personalised practices, yogic tools, and a deeper understanding of yoga to help individuals self-regulate at any given time.


Does Yoga therapy focus on the physical body alone?


YT is a multi-dimensional, holistic approach that delves into every aspect of a person’s being. Physical, mental and emotional. Working from the subtle to the physical, and the physical to the subtle.


Participants don’t need to have a certain physical ability, or prior yoga experience to benefit from or participate in the process of YT as they are guided through the process by a highly qualified Yoga therapist, usually one to one, but sometimes in a small group setting.


The process of YT can be truly transformative for people from all walks of life, regardless of yoga experience and physical capacity.

“Yoga therapy is the professional application of the principles and practices of yoga to promote health and well-being within a therapeutic relationship that includes personalised assessment, goal setting, lifestyle management, and yoga practices for individuals or small groups.” International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT)

What makes Yoga Therapy different from a regular yoga class or practice? 

In a nutshell, it is the personalised assessment and practice in a Yoga therapy session that sets it aside from a general yoga class. Consequently, Yoga therapy takes a one-to-one or small group approach.


Nowadays, yoga has become a staple in the diet of popular culture. Yoga classes can be found in almost every suburb, every gym, and more and more styles of yoga are popping out of the woodwork. And, with the increasing demand for yoga, it’s becoming easier and easier to do yoga teacher training crash courses, particularly amidst the CoVid craze where many businesses are moving their trainings online. Unfortunately, due to the radical commercialisation of yoga, many yoga teacher training offerings package generic posture based versions of yoga that deliver a cookie-cutter approach of a science and art form that requires careful individualisation for it to be truly transformative.


So what exactly differentiates a Yoga therapist from a Yoga teacher?


Most Yoga therapists will teach yoga classes too, or will have taught classes at some point in their career. Some Yoga therapists however, will specialise in one-to-one YT sessions and/or small group sessions alone, working with clients in a clinical setting toward a specific goal, which may include some kind of rehabilitation, or management of a specific injury or condition.


Where a yoga teacher may acquire a certification to teach yoga with as little as 200 hours of teacher training, a certified yoga therapist upon graduation will have in excess of 1000 hours of training, having studied specific chronic conditions in depth throughout the course of that training, and often will have another specialist qualification under their belt such as psychology, counselling, medicine, naturopathy, nursing, life coaching, or personal training to name a few.


For the most part, a run of the mill 200-300 hour yoga teacher training will cover the basic principles of yoga including elements of yoga history and philosophy, anatomy 101, an introduction to the various yogic practices (postures, breath work, and meditation), and provide and template and process for piecing together a physical yoga practice. A YT teacher training on the other hand, usually requires the participant to have completed a minimum of 300 hours of yoga teacher training, and have been teaching yoga for a specific period of time upon enrolment. The curriculum for YT trainings provide existing yoga teachers, and other health and wellness specialists with the necessary skills to work in a therapeutic, or clinical setting, carry out holistic assessments, and develop unique yoga based programs for individuals, including those with specific chronic conditions, limited mobility, or no mobility at all.

“Yoga therapy is the appropriate application of yoga teachings and practices in a therapeutic context to support a consistent yoga practice that will increase self-awareness and engage the client/student’s energy in the direction of desired goals. The goals of yoga therapy include eliminating, reducing, or managing symptoms that cause suffering; improving function; helping to prevent the occurrence or reoccurrence of underlying causes of illness; and moving toward improved health and wellbeing. Yoga therapy also helps clients/students change their relationship to and identification with their condition. The practice of yoga therapy requires specialised training and skill development to support the relationship between the client/student and therapist and to effect positive change for the individual. Yoga therapy is informed by its sister science, Ayurveda. As part of a living tradition, yoga therapy continues to evolve and adapt to the cultural context in which it is practiced, and today, it is also informed by contemporary health sciences. Its efficacy is supported by an increasing body of research evidence, which contributes to the growing understanding and acceptance of its value as a therapeutic discipline. - Yoga Australia 

Who can benefit from Yoga Therapy with a qualified Yoga Therapist?  

Ongoing clinical research indicates that the participation in a consistent course of YT can significantly reduce - if not better manage - symptoms associated with many conditions, including (but not limited to) neuropsychiatric disorders (such as anxiety, anger, depression, migraine, addictions, and eating disorders), asthma, Parkinson’s disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Cystic Fibrosis, and the rehabilitation of stroke and cancer.


An in-depth YT consult is required to guide advice and treatment for anyone wanting to participate in the process of YT. The information gathered from a consult will assist the Yoga therapist in drawing upon an extensive yoga toolbox of ethical practices (personal and social ethics), asana (postures), mindful movement, pranayama (breath and energy cultivating techniques), mantra, meditation, dietary and lifestyle guidelines, in order to develop a program and regular practice that the client can call upon at any time for self-regulation and support with a myriad of conditions.


Yoga therapy can be particularly beneficial for:


🕉 Anyone looking to gain a better understanding of their Ayurvedic constitution (the energy patterns that flow around our bodies, governing our thinking and behaviour)


🕉 Anyone seeking insights into the mind-body connection and how specific mental and emotional patterns can create harmony or disharmony, illness or wellness within the body


🕉 Anyone with a chronic condition, ailment, or illness who may require additional support along with their existing treatment plan


Along with the latter, YT can help anyone and everyone to better manage the daily stressors of life.

What is the recommended amount of sessions for Yoga Therapy to be effective? 

Every individual, condition, and circumstance is unique and may require more, or less, one-to-one YT sessions before the transformational benefits of YT are experienced.


Clinical research often reports successful trials that run between 6-12 weeks of 1-3 yoga therapy sessions per week.