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Marketing and the Yoga therapy trend

Updated: Apr 17

Most people come to their first Yoga class motivated by the desire to feel better. This desire expresses itself in various forms: to get fitter, may lose a bit of weight, or release that shoulder pain that is getting worse. Others may have injuries or conditions that don’t respond to traditional therapies and Yoga is recommended as a last resort by someone who benefitted from it. 

In my case, it was an attempt to calm my overactive mind and manage panic attacks. It worked remarkably well.

Whatever the initial motivation, it is all valid. Even the more apparently superficial goals (‘I want more defined abs’) are completely valid, in my opinion. It is a trigger that makes you move towards something that is good for you.

However… what happens when the initial motivation becomes the only focus on the practice? When we are presented with Yoga as a quick fix for health conditions? Yoga for neck and shoulders. ‘Hormonal’ yoga ( no, I don’t know either), Yoga for knees, Yoga for this, Yoga for that…

We have heard many times that Yoga is a holistic practice. From ‘Whole’. Complete. 

It is a complete, comprehensive and extremely sophisticated system that encompasses science, art and philosophy. It is a technology that enables human beings move towards their highest potential, phsyically, mentally, emotionally. It is preventative, even if we don’t know exactly how it works.

Yoga in a class is the same Yoga that they are selling you now under the guise of ‘Therapy’. All Yoga is therapeutic. Of course, serious conditions are to be handled with care by very experienced Yoga teachers*. Those require close supervision and appropriate sequencing and modifications of the classical asanas and pranayamas. There is a place for these and that is the remedial class. But these situations are the exception.

A ‘Yoga’ that is split and packaged as a remedy for certain conditions (the number of which is growing by the day) is not truly Yoga. It is doing a disservice to Yoga and ultimately to the students. It is creating false expectations of what Yoga teachers can (and should) for the health of their students. It is also making money to the modern Yoga gurus out there. Is ‘Do this to get That’ Yoga.

I think everyone without exception should have access to Yoga. But Yoga as a practice, as a system that the student explores and understands through consistent attendance to class and personal practice. If you learn under a competent teacher, you will know what to practice when and what to avoid when your back is off. But if you subscribe to Yoga as ‘Therapy’, something to do when you are unwell, you are accepting the false premise that a) only the sick benefit from it b) there is something wrong with you. You are also making yourself dependant on others to ‘fix you’. You will be lead to think that Yoga is to be practiced only when sick or injured.

Yoga practice is the most natural thing: it works with the human body and mind to harmonise, optimise and sustain all the natural physiological processes at all stages of a person’s life. 

Having practiced for over twenty years (almost ten of those teaching), my advice to anyone looking for Yoga as a way to keep well is very simple: go to class. Just do it. Pick a group class with someone competent and stick to it. You don’t need shiny, expensive therapy-themed Yoga workshops to deal with a dodgy knee or a sore back. Communicate with your teacher and make them aware of whatever is bothering you: they will guide you accordingly. 

Do Yoga, be well. 

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