Joseph Le Page, Integrative Yoga Therapy, Presented at the First Annual
SYTAR (Symposium on Yoga Therapy and Research) Panel Discussion of "What
is Yoga Therapy," January 19, 2007, Los Angeles.
I founded IYT in 1993, in part as an exploration of this very question,
what is yoga therapy? Rather than being a personal project, this exploration
has enjoyed the participation of many teachers and distinguished mentors
from different yoga traditions and yoga therapy approaches. Through
this exploration, important foundational principles of yoga therapy
Principle #1: Yoga therapy is multidimensional healing. Integrative
Yoga Therapy uses the model of the five koshas to facilitate healing
at all levels of the person, including:
physical body, and all the physiological systems
energy body, including the chakras, nadis, and pranavayus
The psycho-emotional body
The wisdom body, the deeper level of mind where core beliefs are
held and can be transformed
The spiritual body, holding the possibility for recognizing our
true nature as Unity.
healing occurs when yoga therapy brings balance to all of these levels
Principle #2: All the limbs of yoga are equally important and work
together as a vehicle for this multidimensional healing. In relation
to the healing process, each of the limbs has an essential purpose.
and niyama are guidelines for lifestyle alignment and change.
is a vehicle for healthy posture and alignment of the physical body
and also a metaphor for steady and comfortable posture in daily
Pranayama is a vehicle for expansion and channeling of the life
force through breathing and breath awareness to balance the energy
body and subsequently balance the flow of life force to all the
Mudra, often included as an anga or limb in the traditional texts
of hatha yoga, is a vehicle for opening, deepening, and sustaining
channels of communication with the subtle body, which serves as
a deep reservoir of powerful healing energy.
especially in the form of yoga nidra, is a vehicle for relaxation
and deconditioning of all the psychological patterns that feed the
stress response and subsequent stress-related illness.
is focusing awareness, and re-focusing of that awareness toward
the true self, the source of health and healing.
meditation is the path to and state of natural health: integration
of body, breath, mind and spirit.
is our own true nature as Unity, which is the essence of health
and healing from the yoga perspective.
Principle #3: Unity is health; yoga therapy is spiritual healing.
The traditional texts of yoga focus on the ultimate healing that comes
from spiritual liberation, freedom. The day-to-day work of the yoga
therapist often focuses on the need for healing at relative levels,
such as pain relief in the physical body and stress relief in the mind.
These relative needs for healing can be held within the wider vision
of healing as freedom and liberation. Physical healing can be seen as
the freedom of the body to function in its own intrinsic order and wholeness.
Energetic healing is the freedom to explore and integrate fully our
energetic being while liberating it from energy blockages. Psycho-emotional
healing is freedom from constricting thoughts and emotions and the freedom
of the mind to rest in its natural state, serenity and objectivity.
Healing of core beliefs is freedom from all the demands we place on
ourselves and the world to prove, to compete, and to possess, that fuel
the stress response. Spiritual healing is the freedom to simply be who
we truly are.
Foundational Principle #4: Illness is separation. Physical illness
is related to stress, and in yoga therapy the stress response is seen
in the wider context of the five kleshas, or obstructions, that are
the deeper source of illness: The kleshas are:
- a sense of separation that comes from confusing our true self,
timeless Unity, with our changing personality.
- identification with and seeking solutions through the personality,
where the "I", with all of its expectations, is always at the center
of every situation.
- the binding likes and dislikes that form a cycle of craving and
seeking happiness only through the personality.
- existential fear and anxiety that go along with identifying myself
as a limited and mortal.
five kleshas are the fuel for the stress cycle and resulting stress-related
illness. In our everyday work as yoga therapists, we offer stress management
techniques in the form of postures, breathing, etc, but what distinguishes
our work as yoga therapists is our deeper understanding of illness as
separation and health as unity.
Principle #5: Yoga therapy is an art and science that can be applied
specifically to the needs of individuals and particular health conditions.
When we combine all of the foundation principles into an integrated
system, including #1, the model of the five koshas, #2, the importance
of all the limbs of yoga, #3, yoga therapy as spiritual healing, and
#4, understanding that the kleshas and subsequent stress response are
the source of illness, a comprehensive art and science of yoga therapy
emerges. This science can be applied to any individual or group, with
any health challenge.
of Integrative Yoga Therapy learn to unfold this system, both in individual
sessions and in therapeutic group programs, in the fields of healthcare,
education, and spiritual transformation. Using yoga as a vehicle for
healing the individual, society, and the planet, the yoga therapist
is also transformed, coming to recognize his or her own nature as oneness.