Yoga therapy is classified by the National Institute of Health as a form of complementary and alternative medicine. It is a form of mind-body medicine that integrates the physical, emotional and spiritual aspects of health.
This healing modality incorporates various tools such as pranayama (breath work), mudras (which facilitate the subtle flow of energy), and visualization, in addition to physical postures. The patient is given an intake form and an individual plan is created. Tools are provided by the yoga therapist to the client, which empowers them in their own recovery process. Numerous studies, including those by NIH have concluded that yoga therapy is effective for healing various injuries and chronic lower back pain. According to a study in the journal Spine (September 1, 2009), yoga therapy can reduce pain and improve function in people with chronic back pain. Pain is an inhibitory component of healing. The anticipation of pain after an initial injury prompts the sympathetic nervous system, which increases tension, blood pressure and heart rate. Chronic pain creates a hypersensitivity, and a vicious cycle is created. The addition of pranayama in a yoga therapy treatment plan helps to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system. This increases the efficacy of the yoga treatment plan by decreasing the perception of pain. Yoga therapy is meant to be an adjunct treatment. The role of the yoga therapist is to create an individual plan, meeting the client where they are and allowing the patient to take an active role in recovering health and well being