What is Yoga Therapy
Introduction to Kosha Analysis
Simply put, Yoga Therapy is a practice that uses the Science of Yoga as it was originally intended:
- To align and heal the musculoskeletal system of the body
- To tone and detoxify each of the internal organs of the body
- To bring into balance and harmony all of the body's vital systems (digestive, endocrine, respiratory, circulatory etc.) and
- To bring about mental clarity and balance.
Yoga Therapy relies heavily on Yoga postures (asana) and different types of breathing techniques (pranayama) for its foundation. A daily Yoga practice will start to address all four of the above objectives to SOME degree, but it's not Yoga Therapy until the concept of Yoga as Medicine is brought into play. Yoga as medicine addresses all body systems and functions from the inside out.
Yoga Therapy began 5000 years ago on the Indian subcontinent as a complete health maintenance system that blended the two 'sister sciences' of Yoga and Ayurvedic Medicine. Ayurvedic Medicine was India's traditional healing method; a profound combination of mind/body medicine, natural living and Yogic health practices according to Dr. David Frawley. Dr. Frawley is one of the worlds' preeminent scholars: the author of many texts on Ayurveda. Until modern times, the combination of Ayurveda and Yoga was the predominate method of healing and maintaining good health for the entire continent.
Yoga and Aryurvedic Medicine is vastly different from the Medical Practices and traditions used in the Western world. Our current Western model of medicine is very clinical and evidence based. This means many studies are done over a long period of time before a method of treatment is applied to a certain diagnosis. Once treatment regimens are decided, they become part of the standard of care utilized nationwide.
Ayurvedic Medicine is more individually based. It addresses each persons' medical needs based on concepts that are largely unfamiliar to Westerners. For starters, the human being is looked upon as a collection of layers, similar to an onion. The whole of the onion is made from layers of smaller-to-larger spheres radiating outward from core to skin. Aryurvedic Medicine believes that each layer(or sheath) must be addressed individually AND in relation to all the other sheaths in order to properly prescribe healing diets and Yoga postures for each person. No two patients are treated exactly alike and regimens might be mixed and matched depending on the expertise of the practioner.
This concept of viewing each individual as layers of an onion or as the childs'toy Russian doll where four smaller dolls are nested inside a fifth larger doll is very basic to Yogic and Ayurvedic Medicine. The concept of body as layers of an onion or sheath comes from the Upanishads (Hindu sacred texts). In the Taittiriya Upanishad, this model of self as sheaths (or Koshas), gave rise to the Koshic Conceptual Analysis Model. According to the Taittriya Upanishad, the human body is made up of five Koshas (sheaths). They are:
- Annamayakosha: the physical body which is impacted heavily by Yoga practice (Asana). Yoga balances the tissues, muscles, fascia and connective tissues thru regular practice
- Pranamayakosha: the breath body. Yoga utilizes breath control (pranayama) with each asana to release toxins as gasses and to oxygenate tissues simultaneously with each breath cycle
- Manomayakosha: the emotional body sheath .This sheath contains all our feelings, emotions and thoughts. All experiences, good or bad, throughout our life leave an imprimatur on our total being. Negative ones create energy blockages in the body. Yoga helps us to manage and balance this, important and often neglected sheath (kosha).
- Vijnanamayakosha: the intellectual body. This kosha is where you can begin to use reason, intellect and knowledge to improve your life. This kosha is very powerful because it allows the patient/client to participate directly in improving the quality of their life. Active participation and a feeling of control over ones' treatment is sometimes lacking in the Western Model but very much a part of Ayurvedic Medicine.
- Anandamayakohka: the bliss body. You were created by a higher Perfect being so that you can reach a higher, more perfect state. Yoga and meditation can lead you to this sacred space. Connection with the Higher Being inside of you and becoming one with Pure Consciousness (Purusha) is the most important thing in your life.
Balancing of the Koshas will become an essential technique in the Yoga Therapy toolkit presented later in the website.
The Practice of Yoga Therapy seeks to use the best of both worlds. It recognizes the rich history of Western Medicine and all the good work done by the healthcare systems in Western countries. It also recognizes the rich history of the ancient Eastern Ayurvedic system and seeks to seamlessly blend the two. Yoga Therapy is NOT a replacement for the regimen your MD has prescribed for you. It is complimentary in nature: designed to work hand in hand with your current treatment. It is the goal of Yoga Therapists worldwide to bring these two great systems together so that each and every person treated can move toward balance, peace and harmony in a more organic way.
This introduction of the Kosha Conceptual Model is very basic. For more information on this topic go to the links section. There are a few more concepts that need to be introduced before we can begin unfolding the techniques of Yoga Therapy. These concepts will be presented in the next couple of discussion, hang in there. It's truly hard to condense 5000 years of history, tradition and knowledge into short discourses.