Yoga Therapy in America

- Ashwini Surpur

About twelve years ago, when I got a severe back pain, I met Shri.N.V.Raghuram from Vivekananda Yoga Research Foundation (VYASA) from Bengaluru in a friend’s home at San Ramon. Raghuramji gave an excellent therapy session for a week before he departed to India. Since then, I have plunged into yoga and then into yoga therapy. After getting Yoga Teachers Training, some of us at Yoga Bharati enrolled into VYASA’s PGDYT (Post Graduate Diploma in Yoga Therapy) course. After getting a hands-on training at VYASA’s health center – Prashanti, we started yoga therapy sessions in the Bay Area in 2008.

Our Therapy Model

We have conducted numerous sessions and workshops since then and have so far conducted yoga therapy for over 200 people in the Bay Area, California. Yoga Therapy concept and model developed by VYASA and adopted by Yoga Bharati follows a holistic approach to health. We believe in World Health Organization’s definition of health as a positive state of well being of the entire body and mind. Modern medicine has however influenced the societies to think of health with a reductionist approach and yoga is a victim of this culture today. While modern medicine deals with diseases, holistic practices like yoga deal with health. In our therapy interventions, this concept of health is taught to people so that they can practice yoga effectively.

We also teach our therapy participants that yoga is a conscious process of going back to one’s own nature of bliss and harmony. Since mental agitation is the main cause of stress, we explain to them that yoga helps by calming down the mind. In our therapy classes, we help them build awareness so that when they are about to overeat or indulge in a bad habit, they will have enough awareness to stop.

With this concept, we have been able to make a significant impact on those who have attended our classes for their therapy needs. We usually recommend a three-month workshop with two classes per week and a home practice regimen so that the participants see an improvement in their condition. We have noticed that regular and committed participants experience a steady improvement in their overall health, develop a positive outlook, decreased episodes of illness and reduced pain levels.

Our Yoga Intervention involves:

  • Asanas and Pranayama for their conditions
  • Relaxation Techniques developed by VYASA such as Deep Relaxation Technique(DRT), Mind Sound Resonance Technique (MSRT), Cyclic Meditation, OM Meditation, and Pranic Energization Technique (PET)
  • Yogic Concepts

Some Statistics of our Yoga Therapy Classes:

  • Male to Female ratio – 30:70
  • Adults (20yrs-60yrs) – 210
  • Kids/Teens (6-19) – 60
  • Seniors – 70

Positive Change among participants:

  • Backpain and Neckpain – 90% report reduction of pain level by half or more. In two cases, a complete recovery from the back pain was reported.
  • Obesity – 50% reported weight reduction.
  • Diabetes – 90% report reduced sugar levels if they keep up the classes and practices. One guy said “Up to two days after every class I attend, my sugar level is normal”.
  • Asthma and Allergies – 30% report progress. Commitment is lacking in this case, as we see many people with seasonal allergies and attacks during such times.
  • Stress and Anxiety – 99% reported progress. Complete recovery reported in a couple of cases. One of them is our yoga teacher now.

From Illness to Spirituality

Our goal is to spread global health and peace through yoga therapy. As our Guru Raghuramji expected, I came to yoga with a back pain and took home yoga philosophy. We believe that this should be the case for all and we have practically seen it happening with our therapy experience. Although we do not make tall claims about curing anything, some of our yoga participants have been cured; most have taken yoga to their families and some even vowed to take it to their community by becoming our teachers and volunteers. Through yoga, we are serving the society to achieve peace – first at the individual level (Vyashti) and then to the entire society (Samashti).

Ashwini is a Director of Yoga Therapy at Yoga Bharati Bay Area Chapter. She has worked at Oracle as a Software Engineer for 15 years and quit her job 3 years ago to join Yoga Bharati as a full time volunteer. She is a passionate yoga practitioner and therapist. She has spoken at various conferences on yoga and philosophy. She writes articles for various magazines and news media on yoga. She is pursuing her MA in Sanskrit and composes poems in her free time. Visit Ashwini at LinkedIn Page