What is Yoga Therapy?


Let's situate yoga therapy. Nothing is neutral.

Yoga therapy has a socio-political-historical context which for decolonial purposes, is important to know.

Yoga therapy is relatively new, as India gained independence, male doctors collaborated with male Swami's to critically evaluate Western medicine in public health strategies as well as use modern science to present the value of ancient methods.  Due to the power dynamics of the time and the patriarchal mindset driving the formation of a new state, yoga therapy, like other aspects of Indian culture was gauged in the light of western science.  In reading texts from this period, there was much creativity and thinking surging about yoga therapy .

                                                                                                   

Nowadays, White centered institutions in Europe, UK & US exude authority in researching and disseminating yoga and yoga therapy. The vast majority wield an unacknowledged power differential, so epistemic violence, racism & cultural appropriation continues. A push back from nationalist -religious right figures and teachers situates yoga into a highly intellectualised or romantic narrative. Both these hegemonic representations of yoga seem cut off from embodied realities of race, gender and caste. 

Given this context there are efforts being made to create change. Certain yoga organisations are waking up to integrate diversity, equality and inclusion strategies. 

What are some of the current definitions of yoga therapy?


                    

                   The IAYT seeks to "establish yoga as a recognized and respected therapy and

                                             to champion yoga as a healing art and science".          

                   Kaivalyadharma defines "Yoga as a tool for healing;  to help people find meaning in their lives,                                                                  to mend their ways, to find solace in their loss,                                                                                                    to derive positive energy and to be fully human".

Sattva Gaia presents yoga therapy as the means to:   

 Realize the Divine spark/Absolute within and the worth of every Human being.         

 Cultivate our inner world into sacred space: transforming fear/hatred to trust-tenderness

Maintain the body as a microcosm of the macrocosm- with gratitude for divine intelligence

Facilitate an alchemical process in body/mind to foster harmony and balance of the attributes (gunas) 

Support cleansing and clearing to nourish and restore  

Preserve our vital energies and discernment 

The use of Sanskrit classical texts.

Many of the teachers and healers I have learnt from utilise Sanskrit texts and as such we have a deep respect for these words that relay knowledge in poetic ways. Vedic chanting and sutra recitation is ingrained into Indian cultural-spiritual tradition. However the reality on the ground shows that Sanskrit has been weaponised for caste supremacy and its use can be triggering and alienating. Other mediums that have conveyed Yoga in written form include Tamil, Kashmiri, Bengali, Marathi and vernacular languages. The situation is complex and I am still in the process of finding an ethical way through this dilemma. For more info on caste see this Dalit-Bahujan guide:

                                                                                    The Dalit-Bahujan Guide to Understanding Caste in Hindu Scripture