Yoga therapy, a specialized and focused approach to using healing properties of yoga for special cases like those with limited physical ability or trauma. Its a tremendous help in rehabilitating those who have just undergone serious surgeries or survived cancer. Our next guest on board for our Livin’ Life the Yoga Way – Interview Series, is yoga therapist, educator and author with more than three decades of religious yoga practice, Nicole DeAvilla.
She is one of the pioneers in Yoga Therapy and gives partial credit of her success to her frequent injuries and surgeries that followed. Nicole is a disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda’s and serves on the International Association of Yoga Therapists Accreditation Committee. She specializes in working with people new to Yoga and in training professional Yoga Teachers and Yoga Therapists so that they too can help people Live The Life They Love and Deserve.
The following are the excerpts from the conversation she had with Workout Trends:
- In what ways has yoga changed your life?
- Why did you give up Yoga initially? Tell us about the time you were struggling with your frequent surgeries.
- Have you always thought of becoming a yoga therapist or took it up after witnessing its healing effects?
- Iyengar yoga has also been found very helpful to people with limited physical capacity gain fullness and reclaim their lives. In what manners, is Yoga therapy similar or different to Iyengar yoga?
- With this, I’d love if you could give us a brief about Ananda yoga and things that set it apart.
- I recently interviewed another woman, who found this ‘affirmation’ practice quite frustrating, stating them as not being real or true to yourself. In her opinion, if one is in agony, one must act on it, express it, let it all out, so it never bothers you again. To her, this was the meaning of yoga. And I must tell you Nicole, there will be many people out there with similar arguments. I’d like to have your take on this.
- What is the motivation behind your book, “The 2-minute Yoga Solution”?
- Tell us something about your yoga practice, not as an instructor but as an individual practice that you do for your own self.
- How do you recommend our readers incorporate yoga in their lives?
In what ways has yoga changed your life?
Nicole: I did some Yoga in college. Then stopped. I began to have terrible back pain and the doctor was of no use. I took a yoga teacher training to help my back and have never been the same since! Yoga has not only helped me to overcome several physical issues, but it has also helped me to be more calm and centered and discover my spiritual side.
It became my career. I not only love helping individuals to live happier, healthier lives, but also to teach others how to be a great yoga instructor or yoga therapist.
And this is how yoga transformed from a relief ritual to a full blown passion. She followed her heart and is now a bestselling author of “The 2 Minute Yoga Solution FAST and EASY Stress and Back Pain Relief for ANYONE at ANYTIME”.
Why did you give up Yoga initially? Tell us about the time you were struggling with your frequent surgeries.
Nicole: When I graduated from college, I got out of my usual routines. I found myself sitting at a desk job and not exercising.
There was always enough time in between surgeries that I fully recovered, and led an active normal life. My first surgery was when I was about 7 years old and the last at age 17. The younger you are the faster you heal and I always had a positive attitude. These experiences have given me an insiders view of operations and illnesses which has helped inform my yoga therapy practice.
Have you always thought of becoming a yoga therapist or took it up after witnessing its healing effects?
Nicole: I never actually intended to be a yoga teacher or a therapist. During the time I was at the desk job, my back started getting worse. I had pain in most of my back and neck, radiating pain down my arms and legs at more and frequent intervals. I knew deep down inside that if I started doing yoga it would help me. I tried going to a yoga class but had trouble making it work with my schedule. However, I did get on the mailing list of the SF Ananda Center. In others words, I took the Yoga Teacher Training to get out of my own pain, not to teach others.
However, that all changed and the day after I graduated from the 3 month program, not only was I feeling better, I started teaching my first yoga classes in my living room. I haven’t stop teaching since then.
Iyengar yoga has also been found very helpful to people with limited physical capacity gain fullness and reclaim their lives. In what manners, is Yoga therapy similar or different to Iyengar yoga?
Nicole: I wrote about this question early on when the idea of yoga therapy as a distinct field first surfaced and it is a question that is still asked frequently today. Traditional Yoga such as Iyengar Yoga, Ananda Yoga and others all are therapeutic in nature.
Yoga Therapy differentiates itself when the Yoga Therapist has additional skills, training and experience which enables them to work more precisely and effectively with a person’s injuries, diseases, and mental, emotional and spiritual states. More people are now turning to yoga because of the scientific research about its efficacy for back pain, breast cancer survivors, and heart disease to name a few. Many of these individuals would not be able to take a regular yoga class when their conditions are moderate to acute. Well trained Yoga Therapists have the experience, knowledge and skills to work with these special populations who tend to need more individualized and tailored care.
(Read: How Yoga helps Rehabilitate Breast Cancer Survivors – study)
With this, I’d love if you could give us a brief about Ananda yoga and things that set it apart.
Nicole: Ananda Yoga (R) is based on the teachings of Paramhansa Yogananda. One of its characteristics is the use of affirmations while practicing the Yoga postures. For example, in the tree pose we affirm “I am calm, I am poised.” Ananda Yoga teaches to the individual and tends to be more gentle than many of the vigorous styles popular today.
(Read: Yoga Lingo for Dummies to pick the perfect yoga for your lifestyle)
I recently interviewed another woman, who found this ‘affirmation’ practice quite frustrating, stating them as not being real or true to yourself. In her opinion, if one is in agony, one must act on it, express it, let it all out, so it never bothers you again. To her, this was the meaning of yoga. And I must tell you Nicole, there will be many people out there with similar arguments. I’d like to have your take on this.
Nicole: This is another good question. If the woman you mentioned is able to act on and express agony to the point where it “never bothers you again” that’s great. To overcome our issues first we need to realistically see them for what they are. Ananda Yoga teaches, as most Yoga teaches that if we deny our emotions and feelings we will not overcome them and they in fact will probably become worse. Purely emoting and “letting it all out” sometimes works, but more often than not, it brings temporary relief and when a similar situation or the old scab breaks open we are right back where we started from.
Successful people in many walks of life use and credit affirmations for taking them far beyond pain, beyond failures and to healthier, happier more successful lives. The affirmations reflect the truth of our potential. In fact Yoga teaches us that, if we affirm our failures and obstacles, we are not being true to who we really are. Attitude is key in the practice of Yoga. If one practices affirmations thinking “No, I am not calm, no I am not poised.” then they will most likely become less calm and less poised and have a negative experience with the affirmations. If instead one practices knowing the truth which Yoga teaches us that deep down inside oneself there is a place of calmness and poise, then the affirmation becomes a part of the path to move into that space. There is no denial, no pretending. Once in that space, answers come and healing takes place.
That, I think this is another wisdom, a different perspective on unlocking one’s true potential.
What is the motivation behind your book, “The 2-minute Yoga Solution”?
Nicole: There are three reason that I wrote this book:
First, people are so busy these days that they think they have no time to add healthy routines into their lives.
Second, many people believe yoga is what they see on the covers of Yoga magazines or what the athletic students at their local health club yoga class do.
And finally, people feel better when they move through out the day.
Since publishing the book more and more research is coming out showing that sitting for long hours is in and of itself is very bad for one’s health – even if you have a long workout later in the day. One study concluded that sitting for long periods of time is as bad for heath as smoking cigarettes!
(Read about it here: How Sitting is the new Smoking)
What the book does, is show simple, easy to do Yoga practices that can be done just about anywhere and at anytime. They can be done at the office, while traveling or taking care of kids. I have had heard people say they don’t have 10 or even 5 minutes a day to practice Yoga either at all or on their own outside of Yoga class. So, I them if they can find 2 Minutes? And the answer is always YES!
To reap maximum benefits of her book, one must not skip the first few chapters, as they’ll teach you how to make the book work for you. After that, just skip and hop your way through it. By the way, the book has been purposely kept very small and crisp, so you can gulp it all in in just one go.
Tell us something about your yoga practice, not as an instructor but as an individual practice that you do for your own self.
Nicole: My Yoga practice has changed as my circumstances and needs have changed over the decades. When I was younger my practice was more physical as is usually the case, I now practice more meditation and work to really deeply incorporate the tenets of the Yoga Sutras in the way I act, think and interact with others. I practice literally everywhere! In business meetings, at the airport, in the car – you name it! My favorite places to practice are at home and outdoors in nature.
How do you recommend our readers incorporate yoga in their lives?
Nicole: My motto “Live the Yoga Life You Love” stems from the fact that if you really want to achieve your goals and reach your highest potential, you need to practice Yoga 24/7. You don’t need to wear different clothes, move, or try to look the models on the cover of yoga magazines or even become a vegetarian. Simple Yoga practices that work for you, done consistently, combined with supportive attitudes such as gratitude, kindness, respect and joy will take you far.
I do recommend that you get a teacher or mentor to guide you. I know I have gone far by working with my mentors and teachers and continue to do so after over 30 years of Yoga practice, teaching and training.
So, if you are looking for more strength and flexibility, relief of pain, stress relief, more calmness, more success, more connection with your higher self and/or just want to see why so many people do Yoga now – simply get started: Take some deep relaxing breaths and you are on your way to “Living the Yoga Life You Love!”