You’re probably getting used to hearing the phase “connection to body”, especially from our team at Hanya House. From leading Functional Medicine experts like Dr. Mark Hyman, to spirit philosophers like Eckhardt Tolle, Gabor Mate, and Martha Beck, the common entry point is that the modern human has become disconnected from her own intelligence, intuition, and integrity.
And common again among these and other pioneers is the belief that the reconnection requires stillness first and then the ability to listen deeply to the wisdom of the body. Simply put: We’re being invited to tune back in.
This belief is at the core of everything that we do at Hanya House. We continue to research and design bridges of reconnection to self and our own intuitive ability to deeply heal. Our latest bridge is called Yoga Therapy and is, in our view (and experience), going to be a therapy that we hear more about across the globe, not just here at Hanya.
It’s always nicer to hear about something new straight from source, so we’ve asked Hanya House Yoga Therapist, Denise Sohandev, to answer 10 questions that we think will do justice to introducing this super-tool to our Hanya readers:
1. How is yoga therapy different from normal yoga?
We approach the client from a unique perspective. They are perhaps referred by their doctor for a physical injury or, often, anxiety or depression, and we teach them how to approach the problem from the bottom up instead of top down. Yoga therapy is usually one-on-one and more often than not, I’ll work alongside other professionals, like doctors and physios, to ensure the patient is receiving the best approach.
2. What is the biggest misconception about yoga therapy?
Unfortunately the media has turned yoga into something that skinny gymnasts do to look good and the true roots of yoga couldn’t be further from that. Yoga, specifically yoga therapy, is about guiding a person to be present in their body and allowing them to use their body in the safest and most meaningful way.
3. They say yoga therapy is for anyone, but can you get more specific? In your experience, who would be a good candidate?
I’d say it’s ideal for the person who knows they need to make changes to their physical or mental well-being. You may have an injury that is persistent that you just can’t sort out, or you might be suffering from chronic anxiety and perhaps, even with medication, it won’t go away. Often, yoga therapy is the last resort for people who’ve been around the block trying to heal themselves. So many clients, after a few sessions, say: “If only we’d come here months ago!”
4. Walk us through the process… if I signed up to yoga therapy, how would the first few sessions look?
The first two sessions are all about getting to know you and your body. Session 1 will be an extensive intake covering your lifestyle, your life experiences, your physical health and mental well-being. In Session 2 we start to move a bit, just getting to know what your body likes and doesn’t like. Session 3 onwards will be an individualised program using the information I have to create a program to suit your needs. It will include breathwork, movement, some mindfulness techniques, and tools for relaxation.
5. What was the first case you “treated” with yoga therapy?
My first case was someone who’d been through a traumatic birth process and, one year post-natal, was still struggling. She had PTSD, physical injuries, and depression. Despite being medicated, having sought psychological help and seeing a physiotherapist, she still needed additional support alongside her treatments. Working with her team we saw that she needed to learn to trust her body again and find tools for real relaxation. The results were amazing and she quickly found that this additional treatment was the final piece of her puzzle. What really surprised me was that she was in Europe and we worked completely online with great results.
6. If you, Denise, were to go to yoga therapy, would you feel comfortable sharing one physical, one mental, and one spiritual thing you would like to “work” on?
I always struggle with my lower back, it is my weak point on my body and demands constant attention so that would be my physical. I sometimes find myself overwhelmed with all my responsibilities and anxiety can be a real challenge for me. Spiritually, I know I operate better when I am in touch with everything around me but it can be difficult to remember that when the going gets tough so I would go to yoga therapy for regular opportunities to meditate and connect.
7. Can you share a common example of progress that you have seen with yoga therapy?
When working with anxiety it was so rewarding to observe a client who was at the point where she couldn’t leave home without a panic attack, start going about daily life as normal.
More than once I have seen anxiety dissipate as the client learns to feel safe in their body and use the tools we learn in session, out in the world.
8. You are more than a yoga therapist. How are you blending all of your healing approaches when it comes to yoga therapy?
In addition to yoga therapy I am a life coach using the techniques of NLP and Compassionate Inquiry. These techniques work so well with yoga therapy, approaching the client from the body up instead of the head down. We use the body to access the deep sub conscious root causes of their issues. A yoga therapy session with me is a combination of mind and body. Sometimes a coaching client reaches an impasse in their process and can’t reach deeper and by using the body they effortlessly flow to where they need to go. Similarly, working somatically (through the body) can bring up a lot of emotional baggage, using my coaching skills we are able to address the presenting issue immediately.
9. What do you think about the word “Yoga”?
I think yoga has been distorted and, sadly, the image in the media of a scantily clad model performing circus tricks puts many people off. The reality of yoga is so different. Yoga allows a person to connect with themselves and the intuitive wisdom of their body, guiding them to self-healing.
10. They say men are more hesitant of healing modalities such as breathwork and yoga. Is that true in your experience, and what happens when men do open themselves up to different approaches?
More and more men are beginning to realise that the old paradigm of “suck it up and move on” isn’t working anymore. Long hours in stressful jobs, family obligations, and life in general takes its toll on you. And it doesn’t discriminate between men and women.
Often men are resistant to yoga therapy because of the misconceptions surrounding the modality, but inevitably after a couple of sessions they realise how powerful it is to start using the breath and relaxation techniques. I often find that the men end up becoming MORE interested in how they can use the tools outside of the studio, and often it is the men who create disciplined daily practices of breathing and conscious rest. The one thing they all realise is that an hour of yoga therapy gives them a boost that enables them to live richer and more meaningful lives.
Interested in Beginning Yoga Therapy?
The Yoga Therapy Entry Program consists of 6 x 75-minute sessions and costs R5200. Sign up by March 31st 2022, and receive 10% off.
Click here to find out more and to sign up.