IAYB goes back to school: bodywork for yoga therapy (YTTT)

yoga-therapy1So this was it, the final weekend of re:source‘s yoga therapy teacher training (YTTT) program! The seven month journey, guided by the irreplacable Carina Raisman, has come to a close. But it’s not over yet – while the 200 hours of classroom training is complete, there still remain another 100 hours of workshops, case studies and clinic work to finish up before I can call myself a real yoga therapist.

The weekend module focused on bodywork and solidifying everything we’d learned in the training. We reviewed the previous six modules: Anatomy, Posture Correction, Physiology, Immunology, Pranayama/Chakras and Meditation/Mentality. The 10 students in the group were asked to articulate what we remembered, what we learned and what stood out for us.

Along with reviewing material and listening to final presentations (we were asked to pick an imbalance or body part to focus on for our case studies; mine was yoga for arthritis), we studied a bodywork technique called Manipulations. This method of manual joint release was founded by Butoh dancer Min Tanaka, which he adapted from a massage technique developed by Chinese acrobats. The Manipulations technique has seven variations and is used as a warm-up for Butoh dance.

yoga-therapy4After a detailed introduction to the technique, we then spent the rest of the weekend exchanging massages! Our process began by studying the basic sequence of the massage; then refining our eyes to look for how the body responds to the movements; and finally, practicing how to adapt the sequence as part of an hour-long therapeutic practice.

Generally, the massage is meant to follow a therapeutic yoga sequence. Manipulations is an articular (meaning it works the joints) technique, rather than muscular – the gentle manipulation of the joints softens the tissues to further open up the joints. It’s an opportunity to apply our understanding of the biomechanics of the body to understand what movement is possible.

In a therapeutic context, bodywork assists in kinetic feedback and helps the process of release go deeper. As with everything else in a yoga therapy relationship, the student (or client) is expected to be active and engaged during treatment.

One piece that was unfortunately missing from the bodywork was a discussion about consent. We didn’t learn a strategy for asking for consent until one of the YTTT students in the group asked about it. Until that point, we had been operating under the assumption that if people are coming for therapeutic yoga classes, consent is implied.

yoga-therapy2Even though touch is healing and powerful, it can trigger memories and emotions (Andrea of moonlitmoth gives an excellent explanation about the relationship between consent, the body and trauma). As practitioners, we shouldn’t assume that people want to be touched, just because we think we are healers.

Despite this missing piece, I’m always looking for ways to improve my ability to assist and adjust. This simple and intuitive massage technique will benefit my practice in many ways.

Finally, we wrapped up the weekend by reviewing the key messages of the training and our basic understanding of yoga therapy. The takeaways:

* Everything we do in yoga therapeutics retrains the nervous system and affects the ability to respond to stimulus. Our job is to keep things basic and clear.

* As therapists, we think about what the symptoms say about the person and how to problem solve. The basic essence of yoga therapy is align and meditate. We’ve learned how to recognize imbalance in a person and we’ve studied the proper techniques to bring someone back into balance.

* Our number one tool: to observe, accept, act accordingly.

* We are teaching as much as treating – we facilitate a re-education of body/mind patterns and the active learning of conditions that favour health. We encourage and provide resources so, in between sessions, students can work on replacing old habits with new ones.

* As therapists, we need to know what we know, and what we don’t know. Carina told us, “Clear your mind and let the answers arise. Keep it simple. Trust your intuition.”

Re:source’s YTTT is comprehensive, transformative and professional. At the end of the final weekend, I felt not only relaxed (thanks to the multiple massages) but ready to dive into the remaining work and prepare to grow into my new role as a budding yoga therapist. The next training session starts in September 2013 – if you’re looking for a challenge and ready to take your yoga teaching to the next level, I highly recommend it.

This post is the final piece in a series as I participate in the 300-hour Yoga Therapeutics Certification course at Re:source Yoga. Read the firstsecondthirdfourthfifth and sixth installments.

  1. Good one. Thank for sharing.