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mantra YOGA I had heartbreaking moments as a newer teacher where people told me they got injured in my class. I knew I didn’t want to be that kind of teacher, and it became clear to me that if I wanted to do this a long time, I needed to learn to help people.

T he R ise

of Yoga T h e r a p e u t ic s

Ross Rayburn on an emerging and important expression of yoga that mindfully aims to reclaim your body and mind.

I n s t a g r a m : @ r o s s r a y b u r n { P h o t o : D r ew X e r o n } I n t e r v i e w : C h r is L ucus , I n s t a g r a m : @ c w l u c u s Chris Lucus: When you talk about yoga therapeutics in your teaching, what exactly are you speaking to? Ross Rayburn: Therapeutics is a tricky topic because the word can mean so many different things. “Therapist” usually implies a medical background, and therapeutic needs are often very serious. At the same time, people use it casually, like “retail therapy.” My approach is that it’s done with a specific aim towards physical, biomechanical, and musculoskeletal health. Yoga therapeutics is an attempt to give an asana option to people who have a present physical injury or to high performers looking to mindfully prevent potential injury. CL: As a seasoned practitioner and inversionlover, is there a resistance to yoga therapeutics at first? RR: Yoga therapeutics generally needs to be slower, more mindful, more precise, and when I was younger, there was less incentive to slow down. But I discovered a wonderful paradox: The precision that’s required to get out of pain and heal yourself is also what enables you to do advanced asana. It turns out that the slowing down and mindful work we do in therapeutics is one of the best portals to deepen our practice.

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You can think of yoga therapeutics as a super fine-tuned way to do all of your practice. CL: Larger classes tend to be the more costeffective for studios, teachers, and students. How do you teach a therapeutic class to a room full of people? RR: When I started out eighteen years ago, I was one of those teachers who wanted to be popular and have huge classes and do sweaty, fun vinyasa, which conflicted with more mindful alignment-oriented yoga that is inherently therapeutic. I had heartbreaking moments as a newer teacher where people told me they got injured in my class. I knew I didn’t want to be that kind of teacher, and it became clear to me that if I wanted to do this a long time, I needed to learn to help people. As with any type of yoga, the more individual attention there is available, the more we can refine and focus on successful individual solutions. Still, large and varied level classes are the norm, so one of my solutions was to offer a lot of short 10- to 15-minute private sessions after class to assist people dealing with pain, and I often learned more than my students in those sessions. CL: Which communities do you find benefit most from this particular expression of yoga?

RR: I recently worked with a group conducting a study on the impact of yoga for veterans with PTSD. I am interested in seeing how physical steadiness and healing created through mindful yoga therapeutics can translate to mental steadiness and the healing of trauma. My husband is a ballet choreographer, so I work with a lot of ballet dancers, and I love supporting them and other professional athletes. Since their bodies are their livelihood, the stakes are high. There is a such a direct relationship between health and athletic performance. CL: What are some of the things a practitioner dealing with injury should look or listen for in a teacher? RR: First, we need to remove a barrier: If a practitioner doesn’t recognize their own pain, or thinks that pain is a confirmation of doing the work, that’s a problem. So, first, examine yourself and your psychology of pain and physical discomfort. As for what to listen for in a teacher, look for someone who is speaking to health, not just how to get into a posture. A gifted teacher skillfully offers options and creates relationships between their instructions and their students’ results, with the overall aim of everyone leaving the room healthy.

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Mantra Yoga & Health Issue 16  

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