An interview with Dr. Kausthub Desikachar

Interview by Evelyn Einhaeuser

What is yoga therapy?

It can be described as a process of self-empowerment of the individual in the healing process wherein the underlying problem is identified and a holistic practice is developed and implemented on a regular basis that engages body, breath, mind and emotional layers. In yoga therapy we are not only addressing the disease, but rather the main focus is on the alleviation of the suffering of the individual. In certain cases, yoga therapy can be palliative, while in others it can be preventative. However, in some other cases it can only function as a way in which to manage the illness and prevent it from getting worse. No matter which kind, yoga therapy can always function to improve the quality of life of the practitioner.

What is the difference between yoga and yoga therapy?

Yoga is a spiritual process where we are trying to understand our self, our purpose in life and our potentials with the goal of blossoming into our full capacity. One among the many obstacles that prevent us in our spiritual journey is disease. So the purpose of yoga therapy is to help alleviate our illnesses, be it physical, physiological or emotional so that we can come back to the path of our spiritual evolution. So yoga therapy is a part of yoga and often acts as a platform that supports our spiritual journey through yoga.”

Since when does the term yoga therapy exist?

The concept of yoga therapy is very old. In the traditional yogic context the word “yoga cikitsa” is used. This term is many thousands of years old and can be essentially translated as yoga therapy. So yoga therapy is not a new concept, but rather a very old one.”

Don`t we all have some sort of illness?

In the old times illness was not a regular feature of life, it was seen as an exceptional situation. However in modern times, due to changing lifestyle patterns, professional challenges and economical changes we all have one kind of illness or the other. These could be emotional, psychological, spiritual or physical illnesses.”

So there is more need for yoga therapy today?

Yes. And it addresses illness in holistic manner. It doesn`t see the body as a construct of individual parts but rather as a union of different layers that are interconnected and mutually influence each other.”

Which illnesses can be targeted by yoga therapy?

Illnesses that are essentially born out of bad lifestyle such as stress- induced, metabolic induced, etc. can often be targeted by yoga. In certain chronic illnesses such as cancer, asthma, age related disorders such as Parkinson’s, osteoarthritis, yoga can definitely increase quality of life and in certain cases can also reduce the symptoms.”

Which diseases can`t be addressed?

Communicable illnesses such as those that are carried from virus and bacteria such as typhoid can`t be helped by yoga. But it is possible to engage yoga in three different capacities in terms of healing. Either individually or in conjunction with other systems of healing or after medical measurements have already removed the illness. For example cancer patients can have post treatment with yoga after their chemotherapy. It can often help to regain strength after treatment.

Why is yoga therapy so efficient?

One reason is because it engages the patient in the healing process. When we take responsibility for our health we can take care of ourselves better, because we are actively involved in understanding the causes of our suffering and how to alleviate them. The second reason why yoga therapy is effective is because it takes a multidimensional approach. It views every individual as a collection of different layers and therefore has effective tools to address more layers than just one. The third reason why yoga therapy is effective is because it views every individual as unique and therefore does not prescribe one solution that works for all. It takes into consideration different unique parameters of the patient such as their age, their illness, their strength, their mental capacity, the amount of time they can afford, the other illnesses that accompany them, family circumstances, etc. And then yoga therapy prescribes a unique individual approach that is tailor made for every individual. Another reason why yoga therapy is very effective is also because when implemented in an appropriate way, yoga therapy does usually not create any bad side effects for the patient because the practice of yoga is a non-invasive process that utilizes the international resources of the body such as body, breath and mind. My grandfather T. Krishnamacharya used to refer to it as surgery without surgical instruments.

How can one find a good yoga therapist and what should one look for?

Since the field of yoga therapy is young in the modern era it is not easy to find a competent and capable yoga therapist. However this scenario will change in the future as the field becomes more established. In the mean time a good approach to find a good yoga therapist is to look for a therapist that has good and long-term traditional training in yoga and one who also has time available to offer care in a safe and appropriate environment. It is also very critical to look for a yoga therapist who is also under a supervision of a mentor. Supervision is an important aspect of learning, especially in the field of yoga.

How to become a yoga therapist?

To become a yoga therapist, you have to find a good training program and embark on it in a serious manner. At the same time, work sincerely with a mentor under which supervision your own practice and experience can evolve. The program should be long-term. The program should be a comprehensive program that teaches all aspects of yoga and provides in-depth knowledge about all the tools of yoga and how to implement them in different circumstances. The training must also present how yoga views disease and health and how it implements it`s tools to serve the goals to achieve good health. It is important to remember that the yogic tradition has its own fundamental perspective how to see disease and the human body and this was the base of its development of its tools. Systems that use modern medicine to understand yogic tools will lack the insight into understanding the subtle tools of yoga. And hence such approaches should be avoided. A training that offers practical internships where trainees can observe yoga therapy in process also form a critical aspect of a valuable training.


For yoga therapy consultations go visit www.kausthub.com. Kausthub Desikachar also offers a yoga therapy training on trauma care in 2015. For further details please go to our Visions section.