How yoga therapists work: Supporting empowerment and agency in healing

By Richelle Muscroft

The foundational idea of mind-body therapies is that all parts of us—emotional, mental, social, spiritual, and physical—affect our health. The effects of distress and trauma are not just cognitive experiences: They’re embedded into the body and nervous system. Yoga therapy honors each person as a whole and considers the interconnections of emotions, thoughts, body, and nervous system in a personalized approach to care. 

In my yoga therapy practice, I work privately at an integrative health clinic, and through a chronic pain program at a centralized housing, community services and shelter facility with folks who are struggling with chronic pain, anxiety, depression, PTSD, addiction, grief, and traumatic stress. I offer individualized practices, such as breathing, movement, somatic awareness, self-compassion, mindfulness, and psychoeducation, that support the brain, nervous system, and body to shift out of states of stress and threat and toward experiences of well-being. I help facilitate clients’ discovery of resources that support them in experiencing meaningful change in their lives. They also often learn to build more resilience in their nervous systems and reclaim a more conscious and trusting relationship with their bodies to experience less suffering.

Clients have reported that prior to working with me, other practitioners dealt strictly with the emotional or physical side of recovery—never both at the same time. They appreciate that together we bridge the gap between mind and body with therapies that allow an embodied sense of wholeness. For many, (re)discovering the connection between their mind and body supported recovery and allowed them to find their own management tools, which in turn has nurtured a sense of empowerment and agency in their healing.

Richelle Muscroft, C-IAYT, is the site coordinator of the Squamish Pain Program, where she co-facilitates a pain education and management group and offers one-to-one yoga therapy. She teaches trauma-informed yoga, has taught yoga to first responders, and held retreats for women who’ve experienced the death of a loved one. She maintains a private yoga therapy practice and lives in Squamish, B.C.