Friday, 7 September 2012

Yoga Therapy with John Grimes

I recently spoke to one of my fellow therapists at BAYoga Studio in Berkhamsted, John Grimes, about yoga and yoga therapy. Here's what I found out.

Me: How were you first introduced to yoga?
John: In 1997, I was recovering from chronic fatigue syndrome following pericarditis. To help me manage the stress of returning to work, I took up yoga and, after that very first session, I felt happier and healthier.

Me: Was teaching yoga a natural progression, or was there something that prompted you to take that step?
John Grimes Yoga Therapy
John Grimes, Yoga Teacher and
Yoga Therapy Practitioner
John: Yoga has changed my outlook on life and aided my recovery from illness – and that is something I would like to share. I started teaching in 2003 and have been practising yoga therapy since April 2010.

Me: What is yoga Therapy
John: Through a series of one to one sessions, yoga therapy provides you with a yoga sequence to practise regularly at home to promote a healthier way of life, taking into account your specific health concerns including lower back pain, high blood pressure, breathing problems, chronic fatigue, migraines, stress and anxiety. It is practised by yoga teachers with specialised training and experience in the therapeutic adaptation and application of yoga, and is recognised by the NHS and regulated by the CNHC (Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council).

Me: What drew you to yoga therapy?
John: Yoga therapy helps you take responsibility for your own health and I find that attractive and empowering.

Me: Could you describe your own yoga practice?
John: I try and practise every day for 20 to 30 minutes. I have my own one to one teacher who helps me create the practise which includes relaxation, breath work, postures and meditation. I also attend a weekly class with the same teacher.

Me: What is the difference between yoga therapy and a yoga class?
John: Essentially in a yoga class there is a group of people following the teacher whereas yoga therapy is designed specifically for one individual taking into account their specific medical history and personal requirements.

Me: Is yoga therapy an alternative to going to classes, or can the two be combined?
John: They are not mutually exclusive but it depends on the circumstances. A student in the early recovery stage of a herniated disc would have a yoga therapy practise and not come to class but would probably join the class in the later stages of recovery. Some of my yoga therapy clients with Asthma attend my classes as well as having a yoga therapy practise. Yoga therapy clients recovering from surgery tend to only have a yoga therapy practise with the aim of joining a class when they have recovered. One of my students decided she wanted to develop what she had learned in my class and focus more on her fibromyalgia and so left the class and only has a yoga therapy practise now. It really depends on the individual circumstances and what the person wants to do.

Me: Do you need to have some knowledge of yoga to start yoga therapy?
John: No experience of yoga is necessary. My approach begins with very simple exercises, so that you can begin to practise and benefit straight away. Yoga therapy is appropriate for a wide range of ages, lifestyles and levels of fitness and takes into account your specific health concerns.

Me: How often do you think a newcomer to yoga should practice for it to make a difference to them? How long does each session need to be?
John: In yoga therapy we are looking for little and often – typically 3 -4 times a week. The length of the practise is determined by how much time the student has – there is no point in a practise length of 30 minutes if the student only has 10 minutes. Most practises are between 15 and 30 minutes but they can be longer or shorter depending on the individual circumstances.

Me: Could you explain some of the common issues that yoga therapy can help people with?
John: For me, yoga therapy covers three broad areas, stress, breathing and lower back pain. 

Stress: Yoga is widely recognised for being helpful with stress and anxiety. So any condition which may be related to stress could be helped with yoga therapy.

Breathing: Yoga works extensively with the breath. It believes it is the link between your mind and your body, is linked to your emotions and is linked to the energy in your body. I have worked for a number of years with people with breathing difficulties including COPD and Asthma.

Lower back pain: There have been some recent studies which have shown yoga to have a positive effect on lower back pain. I conduct a full assessment of the person’s back and then devise a yoga sequence which progresses over time as the back becomes stronger.

Me: What could someone expect if they sign up for yoga therapy?
John: Working with yoga therapeutically is about the whole person and so I begin with an in-depth discussion and assessment of the person’s condition(s) and lifestyle, to be able to create their personalised yoga plan. The easy-to-follow plan, with detailed descriptions and diagrams, will be based on yoga postures, breathing exercises, relaxation and meditation, personalised to meet their specific needs. We will refine and update their plan as they progress.This is usually achieved in 3-5 sessions. The first session typically takes an hour and a half and subsequent sessions about an hour. 

Me: What would you say to someone who is unsure whether yoga therapy is right for them?
John: Give me a call. I would be delighted to talk to anyone to discuss their situation and whether yoga therapy might be appropriate.

John’s Yoga Therapy clinic is at BAYoga every Thursday from 2 – 6pm. He also teaches gentle and therapeutic classes in Berkhamsted, Northchurch and Aylesbury. If you would like to know more, John can be contacted on 07775 531502 and or visit his website

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