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Cikitsa - Yoga as Therapy

Looking back through study notes from my training Paul Harvey I thought I’d share this particular section. When I design a practice for an individual I can consider all of these in a way that is just not possible when teaching a group. Considering these factors means we can use therapy in a holistic manner: to treat the person whilst respecting any problems, rather than treating a problem whilst trying to respect the person. We can also respond to change as it occurs and keep the practice relevant and appropriate. Without these considerations we limit our ability to support people who, on paper, may have a similar problem or illness they wish to address, but in person may need something very different from their Yoga practice:


Notes from Yoga Practitioner Programme from Oct 2013: Therapeutic Possibilities of Yoga – Diagnostic and Therapeutic models


1. Deha – the BODY. Height, weight, shape, constitution etc. These all affect the possibilities for movement as well as physiological tendencies that need to be respected.


2. Deśa – the PLACE. Physical as in climate and environment, but also social as in culture and background.


3. Vŗtti – ACTIVITY. What are the usual mental and physical demands on the student? What can they do at what time of day? Where are they coming from / going to? How do they transition from one activity to another? This is particularly hard to observe in a group situation.


4. Vayu – AGE. At a very basic level this is linked to our scope for change and indicates the appropriate focus for our practice. The body should not be an obstacle to learning, however the focus of our practice must be appropriate to our time of life:

i. Sŗșṭi – Early years: rapid change, growth, expansion. Intense physical changes can be supported by intense physical practice: Āsana (postures) for strength, memory, co-ordination. Children also have a huge capacity for learning so we can teach a wide range of postures and link them using numbers and sequences.

ii. Sthiti – To hold on, sustain. The middle years. At this stage of life energy and stress are often the main problems, we are wired and tired. Therefore our practice focus needs to shift from the purely physical to the energetic and psychological i.e. Prānāyāma (breathing practices): Prāna – that which sustains. Our Āsana practice should support this journey promoting strength and resilience, not weaken or deplete us.

iii. Antya – to contract. As we age our fire reduces, the system has a tendency to dry out and weaken. We also tend to have less responsibilities. Our focus moves inwards with the primary practice being Dhyānam (meditation). However in order to access this we need to have cultivated the skills at the earlier stages by preparing the body and the breath.

This follows on from the traditional Hindu model of stages of life: Brahmacārya (student) – Grahasta (hands full!) – Vanaprastha (withdrawal).


5. Śakti – POWER. Our Physical and Mental energy, our drives and our relationship to them, but also our vulnerabilities and how easily we are distracted or disturbed. Some Śakti is necessary for any Yoga practice, but if the practice demands too much we will deplete ourselves rather than reinvigorating.


6. Kāla – TIME. What time do you have available? How can you make time within your situation? We cannot expect to just find time, we need to be realistic. When are you going to practice? How long have you got? How can you protect that time? To create time somewhere you need to consider what you will give up somewhere else.

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