What it’s like to work one-to-one with a yoga therapist

By Caroline Giles

You may have heard about or attended a group yoga class, known to have a generalized effect on your body, breath, emotions, and mind. The class may include anywhere from 5–35 people, the teacher may give general practice options, and perhaps there’s time to ask questions at the end.

A yoga therapy session is different. This is a one-to-one session in which the yoga therapist will get to know you and your personal goals before “doing” or practicing anything! No specific previous knowledge of yoga or level of physical fitness or mobility is assumed. A yoga therapist deeply listens to understand more completely the challenges you are facing in various areas of your health and well-being, and crafts an approach tailored to your unique disposition, needs, and wellness goals.

Knowing yourself through initial sessions

An essential ingredient in the first few yoga therapy sessions is understanding how your current physical, emotional, mental, and relational circumstances are impacting your life. Everyone is unique and even those with similar symptoms or conditions may require different therapeutic approaches. In these initial yoga therapy sessions a yoga therapist will seek to gain insight into your life in order to develop a yoga therapy program tailored to your specific situation.

In short: Before developing a tailored program with you, a yoga therapist will ask you relevant questions about wellness-related areas of your life including sleep, eating, relationships, and work; observe your movement, breath, and mood; listen to your story; and, with your consent, speak to other members of your health team for relevant information. 

Committing to change

Creating change through shifting habitual patterns and stuck behaviors asks that you take the driver’s seat with your own health. This type of self-directed therapy is about your commitment to change. Individual yoga therapy sessions offer support; they also ask that you do the work—in other words, practice! Your yoga therapist may focus on helping you understand the power of choice and how choices affect your health and wellness. You might cultivate this understanding over the course of your sessions.

A yoga therapist assesses your readiness for change, motivates a commitment to practice, and offers support through listening, guiding, providing printed or recorded practices, and follow-ups. Yoga therapy clients are not expected to “muscle” or “push” through change alone. The yoga therapist may ask questions focusing on your home space to practice, daily rhythms, how you learn best, and what motivates you to continue.

Long-lasting steps toward well-being 

Health and well-being sometimes sound like states that can be acquired or lost in an all-or-nothing way. A yoga therapist, however, focuses on supporting you through gradual, sustainable changes you can work toward over time. The intent of earlier sessions and practices is to increase your self-awareness and the capacity to be present. This invites you to shift your relationship to your current situation and take actionable steps toward change.

A yoga therapist offers a toolkit of practices that you can use consistently to support sustainable transformation in your well-being. The yoga therapist may ask questions focusing on how you wish to live your days through the long term, what enriches your life, and what holds meaning and value for you. They may support you in celebrating your successes and tweaking practice approaches along the way—all to meet you where you are on your individual healing path. 

Caroline Giles, C-IAYT, is a senior yoga teacher in Brighton, Australia, who loves applying the modern science of mind-body behavior through yogic practices.