This article by Saraswathi Vasudevan was published in the Summer 2023 issue of Yoga Therapy Today.
To understand the Yoga Vaidya yoga therapy training program offered by YogaVahini in Chennai, India, we start with coming to know what is required for healing to take place in the system of yoga. According to Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra 4.15, no two people experience an object (or a reality) in the same way. This sutra highlights the fact that each of us is unique, and our context, needs, and challenges differ.
With respect to illness and healing, the picture is more complex because the many dimensions of an individual affect how that person perceives and experiences their illness and how ready they are to work towards their own healing. Yoga therapy practices, therefore, have to be highly specialized and personalized for each individual to benefit the most from the intervention. Depending on the propensity and readiness of the individual, the journey may end with relief from symptoms, or it may inspire a plunge into discovering more than is initially apparent.
Healing has the potential for self-transformation. In fact, illness and the path of healing can itself be a transformational journey. The role of the yoga therapist is important to support a progressive and sustainable change toward better health and well-being.
From our point of view at YogaVahini, a yoga therapist needs to have firsthand knowledge of healing by practicing all the limbs of yoga daily. Doing this with the guidance of a teacher leads to an understanding of one’s own healing process. Our yoga therapists must be committed to continuous learning and practicing, and keeping self-inquiry alive rather than being satisfied with just looking for symptom relief.
This continuous inner cleansing is intended to develop the mind to be steady and attentive, like a freshly washed mirror that will help students (we call them students of yoga, not clients/ patients) see themselves with clarity and compassion.
Healing is not curing. It is about helping people find their inner strength, from which they can work toward healing and learn to live life with the least pain and suffering.
This is the lofty vision we hold for each of our yoga therapists in training. We come together to discover ourselves and embrace all parts of our being. We learn to recondition the various parts of ourselves to bring integration and harmony within and without. This is not an end point, but a process and aspiration to hold at the core of our learning, our teaching, and our practice.
The pedagogy for Yoga Vaidya is based on the traditional wisdom and classical approach. We require students to start their journey with an 8-week Yoga Sadhana program to discover their commitment
to their personal journey of self-discovery. This is followed by an intensive teacher training program of 2 years (1 year on fundamentals of philosophy, practice, and teaching in this tradition and 1 year of preparation for becoming a yoga therapist), which comes before the 2.5 years of Yoga Vaidya training. There is no shortcut in this yoga!
The Yoga Vaidya program has an extensive curriculum that encompasses study of yoga philosophy and practice, drawing references from the Yoga Sutras, Sankhya Karika, Bhagavad Gita, Hatha Yoga Pradipika, and other classical texts. An ayurvedic perspective on health and illness and foundations in modern medical approaches are also core courses in our curriculum.
Our focus is on making the learning practical and experiential, with a large component of in-person training in a retreat setting once a year coupled with 4 hours of weekly online study for 30 months. Eighty to ninety percent of the training is synchronous, with a focus on practice, observation, dialoguing, and self-reflective activities.
Students observe and assist IAYT-certified yoga therapists throughout the training period to understand and apply our personalized approach to healing in various contexts/conditions-in-person and online, in urban and rural settings, and in hospitals and the homes of therapy students. We teach our yoga therapists to care for clients and support them through the healing journey with understanding and compassion.
An internship (150 hours of teaching yoga therapy sessions) is done under the guidance of a dedicated mentor who works with a small cohort of students in the course. The mentor is also responsible for helping the trainee therapists to navigate through their own personal practice progression and healing process, making the learning a deeper, first-person experience. At YogaVahini, be prepared for a beautiful journey into the very essence of yoga!
Saraswathi Vasudevan, E-RYT 500, C-IAYT, has more than 3 decades of practice, study, and teaching experience in the tradition of T. Krishnamacharya, having studied directly with T. K. V. Desikachar for over 17 years. She and her husband, Sundar, founded YogaVahini in 2010.