Therapeutic yoga is a branch of yoga which is focused on the treatment of people with mental and physical conditions. It acknowledges that yoga is a valuable healing art, and that some people are unable to attend conventional yoga classes due to physical limitations or a lack of awareness about yoga. Practitioners of therapeutic yoga bring the ancient tradition of yoga to environments like physical therapy centers, workshops for trauma victims, and hospitals, in the hopes of reaching people who may be able to benefit from yogic practice.
Yoga has been practiced in India for thousands of years. The practice of yoga includes meditation, breath work, physical poses called asanas, and other techniques which are designed to nourish the mind, spirit, and body. In India, yoga has been incorporated into healing arts such as Ayurveda for centuries; in the West, the idea of integrating yoga into medical care arose in the 20th century.
Several things set therapeutic yoga aside from other yoga disciplines. The first is that it is highly flexible, as it must be, to accommodate the needs of patients with different conditions and physical abilities. Therapeutic yoga can be used to treat someone in a wheelchair with specially adapted poses, just as it can be used to focus a group of young trauma survivors who have full use of their limbs. Therapeutic yoga is also very gentle, acknowledging that participants are not experienced in the practice of yoga and they may not be prepared for the physical strain of intense yoga practice.
Sessions of therapeutic yoga typically include deep stretching, guided meditation, and breath work. This style of yoga can be integrated into physical therapy regimens, the practice of nursing, and other aspects of health care. Yoga helps patients to relax while strengthening their bodies and spirits, whether they are in recovery from an illness or injury or preparing for major surgery. Therapeutic yoga can also be incorporated into health care which focuses on the psychological aspect of human well-being; it is practiced in mental health facilities, for example, or at retreats for victims of trauma and abuse.
Around the world, several yoga schools offer training specifically in therapeutic yoga. These trainings are open to experienced yogis and yoginis along with nurses, doctors, physical therapists, and other people who work in health care. Trainings discuss and demonstrate a range of techniques which can be used as a standalone practice or incorporated into patient treatment.