Medical Therapeutic Yoga
to the Journal by Eleanor Liebson, OT
physical and psychological benefits of practicing yoga have been widely known in
the United States for more than 50 years. As a result, many Americans have
taken up the practice of yoga to improve their health and wellbeing and to help
them manage stress.
is considered to be therapeutic for most healthy people; however, it can be difficult
and potentially harmful for people with certain conditions. Medical therapeutic
yoga is often a good option for those who desire to take up yoga but who are coping
with a wide variety of health-related problems that can make the practice of
traditional yoga unsafe.
is medical therapeutic yoga different from regular yoga?
therapeutic yoga brings together the best of Western rehabilitation principles
while maintaining cohesion with traditional yoga philosophy. A medical yoga
therapist is someone who is both a licensed health-care professional and a
certified yoga therapist. The health-care training ensures an in-depth
understanding of anatomy and physiology, which is crucial to safely helping
people with existing health-related issues. This body of knowledge is enriched
with professional yoga therapy studies. My training is with Professional Yoga
Therapy Studies, a rigorous and intensive program that combines aspects of
physical therapy, athletic training and exercise science, nutrition,
psychology, manual therapy, integrative medicine, and Pilates with yoga and Ayurveda,
which is a sister science of yoga originating in India. My practice as an
occupational therapist has been significantly enhanced by my yoga therapy
should consider medical therapeutic yoga?
you have special issues that prevent you from moving freely, such arthritis,
neck and back problems, chronic pain, fibromyalgia, Parkinson’s disease, or MS,
medical therapeutic yoga can help you begin to move again. Medical yoga
therapists use blankets, bolsters, straps, blocks, wedges and other props in
their classes to make it easier for people with certain restrictions to relax
into the various yoga positions. These classes are very adaptive to the
individual needs of class participants. If you cannot get onto the floor, your
yoga therapist can show you adaptations for doing yoga while sitting on a
are the benefits of medical therapeutic yoga?
of the primary goals of yoga is to help people focus on their breathing, which
can help to lower blood pressure, slow heart rate, and enhance peace of mind.
People often report sleeping better after practicing yoga that day. Their mood
is better, depression and anxiety decreases, and they are able to cope more
positively with daily irritations. Yoga has benefits for people with heart
disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), high blood pressure, and
diabetes. People with arthritis and other musculoskeletal issues gain increased
flexibility and find some relief from pain. Honestly, there are so many proven
benefits to the practice of yoga it is difficult to list them all in one brief
you begin practicing yoga at any age?
yoga can improve the quality of your life at any age. If your goal is to feel
better, you can feel better and find a greater sense of contentment through the
practice of yoga. Right now there is an open therapeutic yoga class offered at
Rasa Spa, located in the Island Health Center in downtown Ithaca. You can book
a one-on-one yoga therapy session or you can join this class. To learn more or
to enroll in a medical therapeutic yoga class, call (607) 273-1740 or e-mail
Liebson, OTR/L, E-RYT, PYT is an occupational therapist and medical yoga
therapist on staff at Cayuga Medical Center, Rasa Spa, and Island Health and
Fitness. She specializes in health and wellness and is a member of the
International Association of Yoga Therapists.