Living with a chronic illness takes a toll on us physically, but also mentally and emotionally, affecting our ability to live life the way we want. Pain, poor sleep, inflammation, mental health challenges, loss of self and identity are some aspects to consider working with. Kundalini Yoga as a therapy offers tools and techniques to assist with the management of living with a chronic health condition.

The National Institutes of Health scientific evidence shows that Yoga as a therapy can support relaxation, mental health, pain management, mindfulness & quality sleep. Yoga encourages us to relax, steady out the rhythm of breath and focus on the present. This shifts the balance from sympathetic nervous system and the flight-or-fight response to parasympathetic system and the relaxation response. The parasympathetic state is calming and restorative, allowing us to lower breath and heart rate which helps to; decrease blood pressure, lower cortisol levels, increase blood flow to the intestines and vital organs.

Through the centuries Yoga has been taught and practiced as a way for healthy people to reach their excellence. Even though there are Yogic texts on the therapeutic applications of Yoga, it is not historically a therapeutic method or intervention. Dr Shanti Shanti K. Kalsa Ph.D. discusses how Yoga therapy developed from her work in the 80s working with the HIV population, alongside other teachers in a similar position teaching Yoga to specific health populations,

“Over the past twenty years, Western medicine has influenced the delivery of our Yoga therapy programs and how we work with clients. In turn, we are influencing Western medicine. There is more widespread acknowledgement of the contribution the practice of Yoga brings to health, and the ability of the body/mind/spirit to restore health. In addition, popular books such as Yoga as Medicine by Timothy McCall, MD, and Meditation as Medicine by Dharma Singh Khalsa, MD, have brought the practice of Yoga and the Yogic way of living as a therapy to a broader audience.”

Benefits and studies of Yoga as a Therapy for Chronic illness and associated symptoms:

  • When practicing Yoga, the foundational emphasis is placed on accepting one’s moment-to-moment experiences, creating mindfulness, and not forcing the body past its comfortable limits. Having this healthy sense of acceptance and mindfulness is important for individuals dealing with chronic illness as it decreases the stress one experiences from unpleasant symptomology.
  • Practicing yoga and meditation consistently, as a means to manage and relieve both acute and chronic stress, helps individuals overcome other co-morbidities associated with diseases and leads to an increased quality of life.
  • Numerous studies show that asana, meditation or a combination of the two can reduce pain and disability while improving flexibility and functional mobility in people with a number of conditions causing chronic pain.
  • Results from another study showed patients experienced significantly lower levels of pain and fatigue, and higher levels of invigoration, acceptance and relaxation following participation in a yoga intervention.
  • Yoga, breathing exercises, and meditation can reduce stress, promote healing, increase energy, decrease adverse treatment effects, and enhance quality-of-life for patients with cancer.
  • Regular practice of yoga resulted in a significant decrease in the time taken to fall asleep, an increase in the total number of hours slept, and in the feeling of being rested in the morning.

Meeting the client where they are at is crucial in the form of Yoga therapy. That means titrating the given treatment, starting with a little and building upon that over time. The key is to foster a sense of vitality (Praana) slowly and surely, rather than overwhelm or create unrealistic expectation.

A Yoga Therapist is a highly trained health practitioner and a companion to walk side-by-side with on your healing journey, offering:

  • an individualised health program tailored to personal needs
  • a clear path forward with check-ins & measured results along the way
  • ongoing support providing the momentum to continue & achieve health goals

In Yoga Therapy, the aim is to empower the individual that they have control over their health and their body, introducing tools and techniques that are suited to where the individual is at. A Yoga Therapist aims to provide support and highlight results so that the individual becomes aware of their progress and continues to improve.

Yoga Therapy for Chronic Health Conditions – upcoming program with Joanna

Yoga therapy for chronic health conditions – with Joanna Nation – skilfully utilises the pillars of Kundalini yoga- movement, breath work, mantra, meditation- to create a container of support in managing chronic illness. Learn more about this three part course beginning on 17 July 2024.

In this video, Joanna talks about the upcoming Yoga Therapy course for Chronic Health Conditions and how it is specifically structured to offer a container of support:

– The first four weeks is the Fundamentals stage, where participants are introduced to Kundalini Yoga as a therapy and reintroduced to their body as well as learning about Prana/ Life Force and mantra as tools for health and healing.

– During the Integration period of 2 weeks following this, participants are encouraged to develop their own home practice and observe the benefits, with guidance and support offered via emails or online as needed.

– The final four weeks are the Consolidation period in which all is tied together and participants are invited to go deeper into their experience, understanding how regulation of the nervous system assists with the ability to find ease, rest and respite.

– Throughout the 10 week course, Joanna also offers 2 x 1:1 health consultations to assist more specifically with your health challellenge and symptoms, offering individual support as well as lifestyle, diet and herbal medicine remedies as needed.

Please feel free to get in touch with Joanna for any further questions or comments

Joanna Nation

Joanna is inspired by the bridging together of both science and spirit in her work with clients and the overall wellness community, seeing the integration and dance of the two as her life-long purpose. She considers herself a multi-disciplinary healthcare practitioner merging traditional and eastern healing modalities with western medicine and modern therapies. Joanna holds a Bachelor’s degree in Health Science; a formal qualification in Counselling; soon to complete a 3+ year course to become a Certified Yoga Therapist; and has spent two decades exploring Yoga and somatic movement, enriching her knowledge and quenching her curious nature with more than 2,000 hours of professional training both internationally and locally.

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Woodyard C. Exploring the therapeutic effects of yoga and its ability to increase quality of life. Int J Yoga. 2011 Jul;4(2):49-54. doi: 10.4103/0973-6131.85485. PMID: 22022122; PMCID: PMC3193654.