MISTY 2011: leeann carey & supported yoga

In anticipation of the first Montreal International Symposium on Therapeutic Yoga (MISTY 2011) on October 29 & 30, I’ll be presenting a series of conversations with symposium faculty. Here is an email interview with Leeann Carey, the California-based founder of  the Yaapana Yoga who is often known as a “teacher’s teacher.”

Leeann Carey has been practicing yoga since the 70s and she describes her style as “an eclectic blend.” She has studied with such teachers as Kofi Busia, Donna Farhi, Eric Schiffmann, and Judith Lasater, and is certified to teach Iyengar yoga but ended up studying Phoenix Rising Yoga. According to her students, her style of teaching is direct, with a focus on personalizing the practice to meet individual needs.

How did you become interested in therapeutic yoga?

I became interested in therapeutic yoga because at some point I experienced the value of an asana practice as being more than a physical workout.

How would you describe your approach to therapeutic yoga?

My approach to therapeutic yoga is a process of self-inquiry for meeting what’s happening now, and supporting and extending the life of reconciliation.

I understand that your teaching style involves the use of a lot of props – what are the benefits of props? And why do you think that some yoga students are resistant to receiving support in the form of props?

The benefit of using yoga props can either be to awaken dull areas of consciousness in the body/mind or calm overworked ones. My teaching style is called Yaapana Yoga, a practice that includes the use of using yoga props to provide strategic support to extend the life of poses, which supports and extends the nature of one’s experience while in them.

Yaapana is an ancient Sanskrit word meaning “the support and extension of life.” Yoga students may be resistant to receiving support from yoga props because it is a pointer back to themselves, but in my opinion, isn’t most everything? Students who assign a negative attitude toward prop support may feel as though they are “cheating” in their practice and may generally oppose support in other areas of their life.  Or perhaps requiring additional support shines a light on a shadow that they would prefer not to address. This I know for sure, if yoga instructors do not value using props their students won’t either. My experience over decades of teaching is that those instructors are only lacking in the skill of how to intelligently and creatively use them.

Your sessions at MISTY incorporate dynamic and therapeutic yoga ~ what is “dynamic supported yoga”?  What are the differences between this and therapeutic yoga?

The words “therapeutic yoga” seem to be the new buzz phrase in the yoga community. All yoga is therapeutic, whether it is passive or dynamic. What makes an intelligent yoga practice therapeutic is not one or the other, but rather whether or not it addresses the needs of the students. Yaapana Yoga incorporates both “dynamic and relaxing” yoga poses held with support for an extended period of time. The practice meets people where they are. It is designed to encourage self-inquiry and adjustment. It is a gateway to discover how to apply its therapeutic outcome on and off the mat. The objective is to promote both balance and a positive and enduring effect on students when they are supported in both the heat-building and passive phases of the practice. Simply stated, therapeutic yoga is about reconciling differences.

What is your hope for the future of therapeutic yoga?

That it grows into its largest and most creative expression without losing its pure intention, purpose or direction.

Leeann will be presenting at MISTY 2011 on Saturday, Oct 29, 1:30 – 3:30 pm for Dynamic & Therapeutic Yoga: Assessment and Treatment Planning and at 4:00 – 6:00 pm for Dynamic & Therapeutic Yoga: Practice.