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Gary Kraftsow Explains It All

Lia Aprile

Full disclosure: I am a yoga teacher, and it’s very possible that I’ve felt a little, um…scoff-y about “yoga therapy” in the past. I’m not admitting anything outright; I’m just saying it’s possible. Because, come on, “yoga therapy”…what is that, even? I imagined that, at best, it might involve sitting in a therapist’s office (all brown leather couches and impressionist paintings of storms) being prescribed some count of down-dogs as remedy for my troubles. Or, at worst, being taken into one of those tiny white “Physical Training” rooms at a doctor’s office and being given postures to perform that LOOKED like yoga, but were actually devoid of the magic and divinity of the practice I have come to know and love.

Well, I have just learned that I was W. R. O. N. G., wrong, wrong, wrong-o about what yoga therapy is, and what it has the potential to do. And my apologies to all yoga therapists out there for my secret suspicion that what they were doing wasn’t quite yoga. Turns out, it is actually more “yoga” than most of the “yoga” that one might find in a traditional western-style class. And how did I reach this stunning change of perspective? Well, by listening to the profound and awesome wise-ness of one Gary Kraftsow in his two-part talk today entitled “Yoga Therapy: Ancient Insights for Modern Healing.”

I’m going to say right away that this guy is a regular font of knowledge and, if you want to go deep (I mean real deep) into the yoga therapy medium, you should check out Gary Kraftsow in the YogaHub community (where there are links to his books and DVDs for sale) and his website, where you can find out about upcoming trainings with Gary.

So, here is the role of the yoga therapist, in a nutshell (as I can figure it). Drawing on many of the ancient teachings of yoga, in particular that what we ARE is not our body or our jobs or our relationships or, in the case of illness or depression, our diagnosis – but instead what we are is the unchanging, ever-present consciousness or atman – the yoga therapist works with patients in a clinical setting to either heal or manage dis-ease (in all its many forms). But, that’s not all!! In addition to the philosophical underpinnings of yoga, the yoga therapist also draws on the anatomical and physiological precepts of the practice – mainly that, through the breath and mantra and asana, we can change and improve our thoughts, mood and physical well-being – and he or she uses these tools to additionally support patients in coping with and treating illness.

Phew, that’s a mouthful! And I’m not even scratching the surface, I promise you, of the depth of knowledge Gary put forth today.

The description he gave of the work that a yoga therapist does really just blew open all of my preconceptions as to what this yoga therapy thing was. I can actually go to a yoga practitioner/teacher/therapist who can both “prescribe” a practice that can help to open me where I’m stuck and AND who can remind me that I am not my (fill in the blank)?! Sign. Me. Up.

It was an incredible thing to listen to Gary speak – having his words beamed into my living room via this incredible medium that is the Virtual World Yoga Conference – and realize that not only is our means of communicating the wisdom of yoga growing and changing, but yoga itself is taking on all of these new and modern forms. The work that Gary Kraftsow does, coined as Viniyoga, is on the cutting edge, not just of yoga science, but also of western science. He pointed out again and again that he and his colleagues are doing as much work as they can, using western medical models of clinical trial and evaluation to prove, in language that even strictly stethoscope and prescription ears can hear, that yoga is a powerful tool in the medical world.

It all felt very 2011.

So, if you’re a yoga teacher who wants to work more closely with people in need of healing, or you’re a healing professional who wants to add in a little bit of magic yoga juice to your work, definitely check out Gary Kraftsow and Viniyoga. From what I can tell from cruising around on his website, he does events, workshops and trainings all year round.

  • Lia is a writer, actress, yoga teacher and the creator of Shanti Town, a blog about yoga, but mostly about life (the messy kind). Please contact Lia Aprile through the YogaHub community.

    [tags]gary kraftsow, virtual world yoga conference, viniyoga, yoga therapy, yoga therapist, American Viniyoga Institute[/tags]

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