A while back before Atlanta Yoga Scene was even a website, I was contacted by Marlysa Sullivan, who wanted to tell me about yoga therapy.
Confession: I was skeptical. Really skeptical. I’ve heard all sorts of strange pseudo-therapies like music therapy, dance therapy, narrative therapy, and drama therapy and it’s all a little strange to me. If I were struggling with a mental issue, I’d go to a psychotherapist. If they referred me to a drama therapist, I’d probably find a new person to work with.
However, after learning about Marlysa and yoga therapy, I’m a believer.
Marlysa is a former physical therapist, and her yoga classes are a true indication of this. We started out the class with the intention of working with our shoulders. I’m sure you’ve been in one of these classes, where the focus of the class is on some aspect of your body or experience. Unfortunatley, they tend to only be about that focus for a few minutes. Marlysa, in contrast, stuck by the shoulder theme through every single breath, explaining what we should be feeling in the shoulders, how to feel the right place, where to move to feel the right alignment, etc.
Marlysa is one really smart cookie, and I think I’d have been crazy not to listen through a breakdown of yoga therapy. We sat down after class to talk about yoga therapy, and there, within a couple of minutes, I was sold on the idea.
The principle of yoga therapy is that some of the pain in your body is caused by stress, depression, and lifestyles like working at a desk. Where physical therapy can release the tension in your lower back, for example, that tension will return so long as you allow the stressor that caused the tension to remain. Yoga therapy works to harmonize mind and body to help you identify that stressor and deal with it appropriately.
Using her connections to physical therapists, Marlysa gets a healthy amount of referrals for people who suffer from neck and back pain, anxiety, and multiple sclerosis, among other ailments. They work with the limits of their own body, mind, energy, and spirit to overcome their pain symptoms using yogic postures and breathing techniques.
Marlysa works extensively one-on-one with these people, bringing them from not being able to sit on the floor comfortably all the way to basic yoga classes. Teaching strength, stability, flexibility, range of movement, alignment and meditation, she shares with people the tools to manage their pain for the rest of their lives, by being fully in tune with the sources of pain and methods to deal with it.
And that, to me, is profound!
Further, this field is rapidly emerging into a standards-based, research-based practice through the International Association of Yoga Therapists, on which Marlysa sits as a contributing practicioner with scores of doctors, nurses, physical therapists, PhD’s, researchers, most of whom are registered yoga teachers as well.
If you see yourself as someone with chronic pain, depression, stress or anxiety, and you think you could benefit from this, I feel 100% confident in Marlysa as Atlanta’s go-to-gal for yoga therapy. She made a believer out of me.
Thanks for this article. As a yoga instructor also currently studying yoga therapy under Marlysa and the Pranakriya Yoga Therapy Program, I am learning basic physical therapy principles and marrying them to yogic breathing and philosophy. It is this combination which provides such beneficial and effective healing techniques to people with many different health challenges. It’s so nice to see yoga therapy becoming more known and utilized!! I am looking forward to completing my certification as a yoga therapist so I can better serve my students from group classes to individual sessions.
Thank you for writing this blog Leah as a soon to be Yoga Therapist under Marlysa and the Pranakriya Yoga Therapy program, I came to this practice needing yoga as therapy myself for a back injury and dealing with stress due to a couple of losses all in one year. Yoga helped me physically, mentally and emotionally! I received the best therapy I could ask for through this beautiful way into my own body!