Yoga Resources for Everyone and Every Body

The many types of yoga and commercialized images of yoga postures can be daunting to the average consumer. Someone said yoga “is good for you.” Maybe your doctor even suggested it. Then you went online and froze with all the choices you found.

That’s why we created Smart, Safe Yoga… a resource where you can learn to ask the questions and make decisions about how to start or continue a yoga practice without fear or embarrassment.

Below are resources to help you keep your yoga smart and safe. If you don’t see what you need or have an idea for additional resources, please contact us directly. We want to work together to make yoga available and safe for everyone and every body. You can help us do just that!

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Click on the links below to be taken to the appropriate section.

Finding the Right Yoga Class

You thought there were a lot of choices at the ice cream parlor!?

Yoga history is long and varied with many types of yoga developed through the years. Then it hit the 21st century and look out! Everyone in the West is branding their own yoga version through powerful media outlets, so how do decide what yoga is right for you?

Because there are so many types of yoga available, we believe that you could benefit from having some guidelines based on being both smart and safe. Doing your homework first dramatically increases the odds of finding a class or teacher that meets your needs. With that mind, here’s a free a shopping checklist to follow as you set out to find your teacher. This document has been under development for 15 years and your feedback will help us further. So after you’ve used it, please let us know what would have helped you more or what you liked best please. If you still have questions, please contact us.

Healing a Yoga Injury

Unfortunately with the popularity of yoga, there has also developed a whole series of yoga-related injuries. Luckily, most are more in the minor recurring aches and pains category. There are however occasions of significant injury that can bring about long-lasting pain, suffering and disability. Either way, if you have a pain or movement problem you believe are related to your practice of yoga, it’s time to change.

In our modern yoga practice, the emphasis has been on doing the physical practices as an exercise form. There may be a little breathing exercise or a quiet meditation at the end of class, but largely it’s about performing the postures (asanas). Like any movement prescription, there are risks for training injury dependent on a number of well known training principles from sports medicine science. These include but aren’t limited to: Moving too fast, hard, far and often. Coupled with limited or impaired movement capabilities and the will to do what everyone else is doing, it’s the perfect storm for a musculoskeletal problem that won’t go away.

In order to heal, you need to change your practice. In our online courses we offer a free instruction in things to check with your teacher or a health practitioner that is trying to help you. When these things are evaluated and addressed appropriately, many of these pesky pains finally clear up. If they don’t, then you might benefit with a consultation with Dr. Taylor, which can be done privately or with your teacher/health professional. Do NOT settle for “I’m just not cut out for yoga” or “I guess it’s just part of doing yoga.” It isn’t!

If your yoga injury is debilitating or the result of what you believe was negligent instruction, then you should review the resources under our page, Safety Expertise and Legal Witness. Proper management and coordination can hopefully avoid any prolonged legal battle and get you the relief you need for the injury and the related suffering involved.

Down dog adjustment
Yoga wall stretch for shoulder

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Communicating with Your Health Professional

How do you let your health professional team know you are doing yoga? And what do you tell them?

Revealing your interest in yoga isn’t as daunting as it was just a few years back, but you likely will still find plenty of eye-rolling or worse in some offices. Please understand that almost every healthcare provider is genuinely concerned for your welfare. So if they don’t understand yoga, or have knowledge of problems others have encountered, or understand some of the claims about yoga, then take that as a well-intended sign vs. a criticism of you and your choice to participate.

Part of our mission is to help you understand the science/evidence behind why hopefully the yoga you come to understand as Smart Safe Yoga is an appropriate part of your healthy lifestyle. Providing you with articles such as this one that answers ‘what is yoga therapy’ will make it easier for you to communicate with your valuable healthcare team. Signing up for our free newsletter will build your understanding of how to keep your practice smart and safe…and communicate those benefits with your team.

What is Yoga Therapy vs. Yoga?

Dr. Taylor wanted to know too what the difference was when he was appointed to the board of directors for the International Association of Yoga Therapists in 2007. The organization hadn’t formally defined what yoga therapy is, so he joined the committee that after exhaustive research from experts around the world came up with this straight forward definition:

“Yoga therapy is the process of empowering individuals to progress toward improved health and wellbeing through the application of the teachings and practices of Yoga.” -The International Association of Yoga Therapists

Key differences between a general yoga instruction and yoga therapy:

  • The intention in yoga therapy is to begin an ongoing process of change to improve health and wellbeing. People start yoga for all kinds of reasons from spiritual enlightenment to finding a mate.
  • Properly provided, yoga therapy leaves the participant more in control of their health and wellbeing, rather than dependent on the teacher’s personality, instruction or technique.
  • Many yoga classes focus only on asana/postures. Yoga therapy emphasizes, in fact names first, “the teachings” before practices. This is critical as most Westerners arrive with the cultural bias of the therapists = the fixer. The teachings refute that pointing toward the already present integrity of the student despite the current health challenge.
  • “Process” is a key word too. Yoga therapy is an unfolding series of discoveries (rememberings?) that does not have an end point, rather becomes a lifestyle of healthy living, even in the face of terminal illness. The current complaint is only the beacon that summons this transformation in lifestyle, it isn’t the goal.

A key difference between yoga and yoga therapy is the acknowledgement that when yoga instruction begins with the intention to address health challenges, there are a great deal of additional professional responsibilities and skill sets that are required by the schools that teach yoga therapy and their students.

There are now standards for these schools that are far more intensive and rigorous than that of the Yoga Alliance registry. The standards are here. Soon there will also be standards for the individuals wishing to call themselves yoga therapists. All of this is being done in order to achieve IAYT’s goal of making yoga a recognized and respected therapy. The word “respected” implies credible standards and practices in order to maximize ahimsa, or said in modern language, “protect the public welfare.”

To learn more about yoga therapy, you can read here. Do know that just because a book or DVD claims to be yoga therapy, as a consumer you should know anyone can legally claim to be a yoga therapist so buyer beware. That’s another reason for Smart Safe Yoga, where you can ask questions and learn how to interpret consumer products/claims. An example would be this article on how to buy a yoga DVD. Signing up for our free newsletter will help you grow in understanding about what yoga therapy is and what yoga can safely and can not so safely do for you.

Yoga Support for Common Health Challenges

A quick online search will “reveal” there’s yoga for everything from backaches to bi-polar disorder care.

Certainly it can’t all be true. That’s where Smart Safe Yoga delivers a valuable service. On a regular basis we will review various claims and products, teaching you how to better discern related claims. In the online courses we will also be offering some educational products of own. These products will be based on Dr. Taylor’s expertise or that of vetted colleagues of his that share the same passion for smart, safe yoga in the sea of endless claims of the open market.

In addition to the educational training, there will be regular open-access information such as this article on yoga and breast cancer. If there is a particular topic area you would like to see us address, please use the contact page to let us know and we will either address it or point you to already existing resources. The future of yoga is very exciting! Our job is to keep it smart and safe now for you.

Matthew Taylor