To feel light and happy


A yoga therapy session with Mark Yeo

What is Yoga Therapy? Perhaps it’s the feeling of lightness when you step out of class after a major hustle on a busy day or that satisfactory feeling because you just nailed a full forward bend in today’s session. But then this begs the question: Aren’t all types of yoga therapeutic to a certain degree? After all, that’s the reason we keep coming back to our mats.

Mark Yeo, from Chiang Mai, Northern Thailand, conducts yoga therapy workshops at LoveYoga World studio in Skyrise 2, IT Park. Yoga therapy, as he explained, is a combination of correctly practiced yoga postures (asana) and manual techniques performed on the student to achieve certain common goals: movement of stagnant energy and tension out of the body, to improve ease and range of movement, and to help the body feel light and happy. At least, that’s how one should feel
after yoga.

Take the morning stretch as an example. No book advises how long a morning stretch should be. If you are told to stop in the middle of your stretch, it just wouldn’t feel right. This is the body communicating. This is body intelligence. Yoga posture or asana should be closely linked to body intelligence. A good practice of yoga is listening to the body.

As Mark repeated throughout the workshop, good yoga posture is characterized and defined by stability through and with ease. He emphasized this because yoga, as he explained, is universally taught with excessive effort and tension. He had us perform two common yoga poses: upward and downward-facing dog. From there, he brought to our attention the inherent tension of these poses when done the way it is conventionally taught.

He demonstrated how the purpose of asana very much differs from the yoga poses we see today. Many push themselves too hard when the body tells them otherwise.

Many sacrifice the benefits of yoga poses for the sake of achieving the same pose as seen from someone else’s practice when not all body structures are built the same.

Each has a different road map. We are used to practicing according to form, by what we see, rather than what feel or what our body tells us.

We tend not to feel, much less have faith, in the sensations our body tells us about the reality of what we’re making it do. This kind of low quality of yoga practice makes the body tired and irritated.

If we carry on with the same practice, yes, there may be the appearance of flexibility and that perfect yoga body but there could be soft tissue injuries and irritation.

The more it is practiced according to form and ego-desires the more it creates problems inside the body—the practitioner might feel good but
also not so good at the same time.

And so as we did our upward and downward dog, our stomachs and lower backs and hips were too tense. With a few simple corrections, Mark helped to free up these two postures which then became much easier even though we felt mentally resistant at first because it wasn’t what our body was conditioned to do. But good asana, as Mark said, is very much about letting go, thinking less and feeling more.
The yoga therapy also taught the novel techniques characterized by compressive pressure to move tension and stagnation. We found ourselves, quite humorously sitting with full weight on each other’s legs in a side-lying or supine position gently encouraging the flow of energy in the body. And better yet, not only did receiving this kind of therapy have a very calming effect on us (many of us reported feeling so relaxed we wanted to sleep), but our legs felt refreshed and lighter after.

We significantly improved our flexibility and ease in difficult postures through his therapeutic techniques. This was another aspect of the workshop which left an impression on all our minds. We were all hurting or uncomfortable to some degree but had simply learned to ignore those sensations. The tensions and blockages building up caused the muscles to quiver. If there’s a slight discomfort, make adjustments. If breathing is labored, make adjustments. This is the body telling something. This is body intelligence. We were to set aside the perfect yoga poses we were so conditioned to follow and tried so hard to achieve.

Mark is based in Chiang Mai, Northern Thailand. He first started yoga in late 1995, having been inspired by the late J. Krishnamurti and has practiced almost daily since then.

His first classes were taught freely at the Temple of Fine Arts, a well-known Indian cultural arts organization in Malaysia, and as his knowledge and skills developed, he moved on to teaching yoga internationally, and later got into yoga therapy, mostly as a result of his dissatisfaction with the results of conventional yoga styles.

He wanted to find answers to the frequent aches and pains that his yoga students and himself were experiencing, and he wanted to find a more sensible and helpful way of practicing yoga. He now believes he has and travels regularly to help people through practicing yoga therapy and teaching yoga.

Mark Yeo is set to be back in Cebu to hold a 50-Hour Yoga Therapy Intensive Course in June at LoveYoga World.

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