Have you wondered what the difference is between a yoga class and yoga therapy? They both involve a mind/body connection.  They’re both embodied practices.  They both can help you find stress relief and improve your mental state. However, there’s one really big difference. One is led by the yoga teacher and the other is client led.

Yes, it’s the class that’s led by the teacher. Yoga therapy is led by the client.

What do those two things really mean?

In a yoga class, there will be people of all different skills and abilities.  You’ll usually have one teacher and multiple students.  The students will have different reasons for coming to class but you’ll all do pretty much the same class with minor adjustments to accommodate different abilities.  Thus, a group class is tailored for a group and not you as an individual.  It is led based on what the teacher thinks that you need or want that particular day.  You might have a theme around a particular area of the body or maybe the goal is to work on strength or balance.  Maybe it’s a class around a particular sentiment or idea like ahimsa (nonviolence).  Whatever it is, the entire class will be working towards similar goals in any given class.

Attending a yoga class is also a great way to learn individual yoga poses.  When you become more familiar with the poses, then you can take that class experience and begin to practice yoga on your own as well.  Again, you’ll be working towards things like strength, flexibility, balance or another goal that you might have.

A yoga therapy session is very different from a yoga class.  I received yoga therapy training through Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy.  In this tradition, a yoga therapy session is going to be a one on one experience.  A session is led by the client instead of the therapist.  What that means is that I will ask you what is going on in your life.  I”ll ask you how your body feels and I’ll take my cues from the responses that you give to me.  I tailor the session around what you need in that particular moment.  A yoga therapy session will help you to examine the connection between your life and your body in a way that a class won’t. You’ll be leading the session as you bring your awareness to your body and to your life.

If you are tired of other people telling you what will make you feel better or how to get past a traumatic event, then yoga therapy could be just what you are looking for in your life.  A yoga therapy session will help you connect to your inner wisdom.  You’ll feel empowered to navigate your own path to healing with my support, of course.

Both traditional yoga classes and yoga therapy have their places.  If you are wanting to sweat and stretch, grow stronger or relax in a group setting, then a yoga class is for you.  The community feeling that you get from a traditional yoga class can be so very enticing as well.  You’ll get to know each other as you grow in your yoga practice.

If you are wanting to work on a particular issue such as anxiety then a yoga therapy session can help you narrow down where the anxiety is originating.  You’ll then be empowered to create a way for you to begin to heal from the anxiety.  In each therapy session, I’ll support you on this path.

Yoga therapy also is really helpful for coming to terms with past trauma.  If you’ve experienced a traumatic event in the recent or even distant past, then it is often stored in the body somewhere.  If you bury it and refuse to deal with it, then that trauma can turn into body aches or irritations.  When this happens, your body is trying to tell you that there is a memory that needs to be acknowledged or released.  As with the example of the anxiety above, when you are acknowledging a traumatic event, you will feel empowered to create your own healing path and I’ll support you as you move forward with this change.

I’ve experienced both yoga classes and yoga therapy sessions.  I’ve found them both to be incredibly helpful.  They are not the same.  I work on different things in each of them.  What I find great is that they compliment one another.  In a session I can become very clear about an issue that is bothering me and I can work out what I need to do about it.  In a yoga class, I get to explore just what my body can physically do on any given day.

So, which do I recommend?  I recommend them both.  Get to know your body and what it can do.  Get to know what your body is telling you about your life.  Become aware and reap the benefits.

What is your body telling you today?

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