Many of us look to yoga to soothe what ails us. And now there’s a prescription for that. Welcome to Yoga Rx.
Along the lines of an urgent-care center, the yoga walk-in clinic is now in session. Going beyond Tara Stiles’ book “Yoga Cures” which was controversial for choice of language and antidotal claims, Yoga on the Ridge, a yoga studio in Philadelphia is getting ready to launch their own Yoga Therapy Clinic.
It works very much like your local Urgent Care Clinic their website says:
You come in seeking help in alleviating pain or discomfort, or in nurturing a calmer, healthier life. We listen to you–closely–to help find the best Yoga practices for you. We teach you some Yoga postures, breathing, stretching or relaxation techniques, and create a healing plan for the future.
“I started off thinking of a model for an urgent care clinic, where you can go for something that’s not super serious, like a sore throat, and leave with a plan for how to treat it,” Theresa Conroy, yoga therapist and owner of Yoga on the Ridge told Phillymag.com.
According to Conroy it’s meant to make yoga more approachable as well as more individualized, serving people with issues from joint pain to anxiety to cancer treatment recovery.
“Yoga is so fabulous for people who have injury or disease, or people going through cancer recovery. But it’s also intimidating. This way, people can take a yoga prescription and work it into their life, and it won’t be a scary experience,” says Conroy.
Here’s how it works:
For $45, you’ll get 30 minutes of one-on-one time with Conroy to talk about whatever’s ailing you — stress, osteoporosis, a recovering injury — and get a treatment plan from Conroy consisting of whatever fits, from breath work to yoga postures. “Like a yoga prescription?” I asked Conroy when she explained the concept to me. “Right, like a yoga prescription,” she said.
The next step is to do a private session ($90), join the group classes ($40), get your own special at-home yoga program ($50), or all three. It starts to get a bit pricey, but at just a fraction of what you might pay for doctor visits and actual medical prescriptions, perhaps worth it to some. And you don’t even need insurance. (But maybe you can get insurance to cover it?)
It’s an interesting business model and modern healthcare approach, but does it play too much into the hype that yoga is a cure-all? Yoga therapists have been around for a while, and even Western doctors have been suggesting yoga to patients, but the way this is being presented – as a clinic – feels…different. And, maybe it’s just us, but “yoga prescription” just has an icky ring to it. At its best, the yoga clinic becomes a great resource for one-on-one attention. At its worst, it reinforces the idea that yoga is a panacea. We’d like to think a comfortable balance will be found somewhere therein. Expect to hear more about this type of thing in your own neck of the yogi woods.
No peer review, no accreditation process. Ripe for lawsuits. Yoga should be for yoga. Although asanas done properly can keep the body healthy and offset many ailments, this is a line that should not be crossed. The 200 hour Yoga Alliance model has already shown us that the yoga community at large is not honest or responsible.
This was my first thought exactly. I like the idea, but I think that we really need qualified doctor’s diagnosis sick folks, not yoga instructors!
there is an accreditation process being developed by the International Association of Yoga Therapists. I just graduated with a Master of Science in Yoga Therapy from Maryland University of Integrative Health, accredited with IAYT and with the regional authority that accredits other universities in this region. It’s a rigorous program and is training dedicated new Yoga Therapists.
To yoga teachers who would staff this “clinic”: if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.
My upper body is too weak for your putative “prescription”, particularly in the “royal suites” of yoga poses.
a qualified and properly trained Yoga Therapist would be able to create and help you implement an appropriate program to strengthen the upper body in ways that may not look like “yoga poses” you see in group yoga exercise classes. our purpose is to help you develop your own powers of mindfulness so you can create your own “prescription”; we just provide tools from our training, education, and experience.
How can you treat someone with a medical condition when you can’t even do Vrksasana properly on your web page?
“Medical condition”, such as what I have, still needs allopathic/Western medicine in order to be managed. Many yoga teachers (without their ability to be staffing a “clinic”) teaching a group class, do still agree. Those who would not, tune me out; in turn, I tune them out. Such is the self-preservation instinct.
A model Vrksasana is not the point. This isn’t Instagram.
if you are referring to a royalty-free photo on a commercially hosted website that is not the actual yoga teacher or therapist, how is this comment relevant? I personally look at someone’s training and credentials, I may meet with that person or take their class to see if they actually know how to teach (there are many “yoga teachers” who have beautiful asanas but don’t know how to teach) or I will ask others to see if they know this teacher or therapist and their work. don’t look only at the outside (that’s so Western fitness paradigm) but who they are and what they stand for (do they practice what they teach? or do they only take classes and call that practice?)
What’s “antidotal evidence”?
I think we have to define terms here. Begin with the word therapy. Is it’s only definition the one assigned by Western Medicine? Can we not define what each of us means by “therapy” ( for me it may consist of massage, yoga, meditation, frequent personal retreats, dietary focus, etc.). Prescription is another word that has western medical connotations, but can be used in other contexts.
I for one salute the idea of yoga, meditation and diet being part of healing therapy. I am a western medical professional and know that both eastern and western medicine philosophies can provide help to folks. It is all about the individual and what he/she finds therapeutic to them.
I believe the correct word here is anecdotal evidence.
“Antidotal” is probably not used incorrectly, either; and I believe its use is on a sly, subconscious level, imho. For instance, Tara Stiles—instead of “prescribing” (meant sardonically, of course) more “hair o’ the dog” (Western ideas of homeopathy) or a cuppa joe (Western ideas of a folk remedy) for a hangover; would instead provide her “unschooled” idea of an antidote, which is poses from modern postural yoga—devoid of any spirituality or background.
“Antidotal” is a perfectly valid word, though I don’t recall seeing it before.
My “New Shorter OED” says “antidotal a. pertaining to or of the nature of an antidote M17 [mid-17th century].”
I’m aware of the defitnition of antidotal, and of claims, and I can put one definition in front of the other. I still have no idea what claims Tara was making or why they were supposedly bad. As for this, it’s nothing new, these guys have been going since 1983, http://yogatherapy.org/ and in national news since the late 90s. I found them pretty good, and very honest about their limitations, others found them less so. Like everything else it comes down to the individuals on the day. This will be the same
To maybe help clarify, Tara Stiles’ book is called ‘Yoga Cures’ (http://www.amazon.com/Yoga-Cures-Routines-Ailments-Pain-Free/dp/0307954854) which was presented as providing “cures” to ailments, in other words, antidotes to, in this case, our own personal poisons (diseases). The book wasn’t seen as “bad” but it was met with controversy which her approach/brand often stirs up.
If the assumption “disease” and “poison” and “antidote” and “medicine” are synonymous was hers I can see how people might question the depth of her medical knowledge.
That said her book looks like a lightweight version of iyengar’s yoga, the path to holistic health, which has never been particularly controversial. I’m sure the fact he put his name on it as an older Indian man while she put her name on hers as a young American woman plays no part in the fact hers was “controversial” and his was not.
Personally, I’m grateful to all these people, particularly iyengar given his unassailable status as a “yogi”. Their books drive home a fact too many people would like to forget – some one practicing only asana with no purpose other than improved health is doing yoga
Setting up yoga clinics may create a situation where states can rightly justify a need to regulate yoga.
Yoga Alliance style yoga (200 hour anything goes, charge $4k a pop just to get rich off of Yoga) is in dire need of regulation.
Are there any valid studies to support a claim that “yoga cures!”?
The body is an amazing machine because:
-“Your body is a self-healing organism. By bypassing its natural self-repair process and handing all your power over to a doctor, you might be ignoring the very thing you need to heal. This is not a revolutionary idea. As doctors, we learn that the body can heal itself. Our physiology texts teach us that it is brilliantly equipped with natural self-repair mechanisms that kill the cancer cells we produce every day, fight infectious agents, repair broken proteins, keep our coronary arteries open and naturally fight the aging process.
“We also learn that our autonomic nervous system has two major operating systems — the sympathetic nervous system, which produces the body’s stress response, also known as “fight or flight”; and the parasympathetic nervous system, which produces the body’s relaxation response, also known as “rest and digest.” This is our homeostatic state, when the body is in equilibrium.
But here’s what they don’t teach in medical school: The body’s natural self-repair mechanisms only fully function when the nervous system is in relaxation response.”
I recently strained my back doing a vigorous practice, my doc said “take it easy for a couple of days, let’s see, call me later in the week” I did take it easy and called a few days later, things were feeling better, my doc said “do easy poses, call me in a week”. A week later I felt better and not too long after that was healed completely. If my doc prescribed a drug I might think it was that, if my therapist gave me a few exercises or poses to do I might think it was that, I didn’t do much but back off and give my relaxation response time to do its work. If there are no studies to support claims yoga teachers and yoga therapists make then what is the truth? A self-validating anecdotal “study” doesn’t help the science of yoga.
Yoga teachers/therapists are their own worst students.
there are MANY valid peer-reviewed studies indexed on PubMed – go search for them! yoga has been found highly effective for low back pain, for mild to moderate depression (especially when used with talk therapy or medication), anxiety, and more.
“The health benefits of yoga and exercise: a review of comparison studies.”
In the studies reviewed, yoga interventions appeared to be equal or superior to exercise in nearly every outcome measured except those involving physical fitness.
[note: “appeared to be”]
The studies comparing the effects of yoga and exercise seem to indicate that, in both healthy and diseased populations, yoga may be as effective as or better than exercise at improving a variety of health-related outcome measures. Future clinical trials are needed to examine the distinctions between exercise and yoga, particularly how the two modalities may differ in their effects on the SNS/HPA axis. Additional studies using rigorous methodologies are needed to examine the health benefits of the various types of yoga.
The most common comparison intervention (n = 10) involved exercise.
…81 studies that met inclusion criteria. These studies subsequently were classified as uncontrolled (n = 30)…
[note: “seem to indicate””may be as effective”]
Not wanting to argue here, my point is, and one many national yoga teachers whose workshops I’ve attended gave me a blank look when I challenged their statement “work with me and in 6-8 weeks you’ll see results” with “That’s true, but also, in some cases, in 6 to 8 weeks of doing nothing you could see the same results.” Without controlled studies the attendees/students are just taking the instructors word for it.
sorry, the link: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20105062
here’s one you might find more to your liking:
Vijayaraghava, Ambarish et al. “Effect of Yoga Practice on Levels of Inflammatory Markers After Moderate and Strenuous Exercise.” Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research : JCDR 9.6 (2015): CC08–CC12. PMC. Web. 28 Aug. 2015.
in addition, I teach a university course (Ashtanga yoga 1/2 Primary) twice/year for winter or summer session. winter session lasts 3 – 4 weeks, each section meets twice/week for 3 hours (no they don’t move that whole time, I also teach them yama/niyama during their breaks); summer session meets 4 – 6 weeks, each section twice/week for 2 – 3 hours depending on the length of the course). with that level of activity all students notice changes of some sort – physical, mental and/or emotional from improvements in strength and range of motion to a reduction in anxiety to one non-ambulatory student (she used a scooter to get around) being able to stand unassisted for brief periods of time (when prior to the course she had to lean on the scooter to transfer to the floor and back), to one heavily medicated student being able to wean himself off Ativan (with the full knowledge and assistance of his psychiatrist who had suggested he take yoga to help with that). yes there need to be better designed studies and there are increasing numbers of them in the pipeline. from personal experience of almost three decades of practice I don’t need Western science to validate what I know for myself. These studies are more for others to understand why yoga works and how. If someone is really not interested in yoga even with well designed studies then why bother trying to convince them to try. If someone is very interested why bother trying to dissuade?
I am skeptical about the whole concept of yoga prescriptions without going to a trained medical professional. In my opinion, this could potentially work well only if the person handing out these yoga prescriptions have been through years of training in medicine. In most 200 hours of yoga teacher training, it is a rarity for teacher trainees to spend more than 100 hours on anatomy. Even if a 200 hrs certified yoga teacher chooses to pursue additional 100 or 200 hours of training on anatomy, that is still nothing compared to the professional training and studies that doctors or even physios have to undergo. I think diagnosis should always be done by a doctor, but yoga teachers could play a part by working hand-in-hand with the doctor. I have heard from many people how yoga has helped them better manage pain. With proper training, the idea of using yoga to improve certain health conditions will be a possibility, but I don’t think it’s a good idea to associate yoga with cures.
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