What Does an Ayurvedic Yoga Therapist Do?
By Dr. Marc Halpern (Siva)
Originally published by Sivananda Yoga Camp. Reposted with permission.
An Ayurvedic Yoga Therapist is a specialist capable of utilizing yoga therapies to alter the physiology of the body in a manner that supports the healing process. As such, Ayurvedic Yoga Therapists are uniquely placed to participate as a health care team member as the work they do compliments the work of all other therapists.
Ayurvedic Yoga Therapists utilize asana, pranayama, pratyahara, and meditation as their main tools. Each practice and the manner in which it is practiced affects the physiology of the patient differently. The language of understanding how the physiology of body is changed is the language of the three doshas. The foundational knowledge of the Ayurvedic Yoga Therapist is the knowledge of the 10 pairs of opposite qualities, five vayus, the doshas, the chakras, and the nadi. Understanding how these energies and energy centers function is the key to the restoring balance to the physiological systems of the body and supporting the healing process.
In practice it is really much simpler. An Ayurvedic Yoga Therapist does a consultation to determine the patient’s constitution and the nature of the doshic imbalance that is present. Sometimes this is done by an Ayurvedic practitioner who then refers the patients to the Ayurvedic Yoga Therapist. Once the nature of the patient and the nature of the imbalance is known, the Ayurvedic Yoga Therapist is ready to prescribe and teach the patient the practices to restore balance. This occurs during weekly visits or visits every two weeks. Most sessions last an hour to an hour and a half. Ayurvedic Yoga Therapy is much like a personal yoga session. The difference is the specificity with which the practices are prescribed.
Imagine an asana practice that restores balance to the nervous system (majja dhatu). Or a practice that helps reduce a tendency toward mucous respiratory conditions. This is Ayurvedic Yoga Therapy at its best. Ayurvedic Yoga Therapy is both preventative medicine and a part of the curative medicine model. When working with serious conditions, the Ayurvedic Yoga Therapist is a team member working alongside other practitioners and physicians bringing their combined knowledge together for the benefit of the patient.
Ayurvedic Yoga Therapists also have the opportunity to pioneer bringing vata, pitta and kapha pacifying classes to their local studios. In this way, large groups of students can benefit from classes that teach yoga practices that restore balance to their dosha.
The world of yoga therapy is growing and as it does it is becoming more sophisticated and turning back to its roots within Ayurveda. This is because Ayurveda is the healing side of yoga. Classical yoga therapy followed the Ayurvedic model. Classical yoga therapy focused on the overall physiology of the patient and not just physical injuries.
Marc Halpern (Siva), DC, is a chiropractor, Ayurvedic doctor, and Sivananda Yoga teacher. Founder and President of the California College of Ayurveda, he is the author of the popular book Healing Your Life: Lessons on the Path of Ayurveda and the creator of the bestselling recording Yoga Nidra and Self-Healing. A leader in the field, Marc is also cofounder of the National Ayurvedic Medical Association and President of the National Council on Ayurvedic Education. He authored three textbooks and co-authored several published research papers, receiving numerous awards for his service in Ayurveda in both India and the United States.