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How to Structure a Yoga Therapy Session

Setting up an effective yoga therapy interview, evaluation, and practice session is the first—and most crucial—step toward teaching your student to use yoga for rehabilitation.

By Timothy McCall, M.D.

Taking It Home

Daily practice is the key to success in yoga therapy. Students are much more likely to overcome dysfunctional patterns (samskaras) by learning new samskaras that can compete with them. When building strong new behavioral grooves, a little yoga every day is generally going to be more effective than longer, more infrequent, sessions.

Therefore, I believe it's ideal to assign your students a short daily session of yoga as homework. While you might be tempted to try more, it's generally most effective to give them bite-sized pieces that they can easily digest. As their abilities and interest in the practice grow, you can slowly increase the prescription. If appropriate, you might recommend that the students also attend a class—but stress that a class is not a substitute for home practice. And sometimes, especially in the case of yoga injuries, not attending class may be a necessary component of the recovery plan.

Follow Up

Whether return appointments are necessary will depend on the particular condition and the student's interest. If the student returns, use this time to assess progress and modify the plan as needed. On repeat appointments, also be sure to ask how much the student has practiced between appointments. If it's less than you had hoped for, it may be worthwhile to discuss obstacles to practice and how to overcome them.

The amount of time you'll need for appointments will depend on how much material you intend to cover, how much yoga experience your client has, and the level of his or her overall health and fitness. An initial interview and evaluation might take 90 minutes or longer. Follow-up appointments might run 45 minutes to an hour.

Dr. Timothy McCall is a board-certified internist, Yoga Journal's Medical Editor, and the author of the forthcoming book Yoga as Medicine: The Yogic Prescription for Health and Healing (Bantam Dell, summer 2007). He can be found on the Web at www.DrMcCall.com.

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