What is Life Balance Yoga Therapy?
An interview with founder Stacy F. Renz
What is behind the name, Life Balance Yoga Therapy?
I founded the Life Balance Yoga Therapy 200-Hour Yoga Teacher Certification in 2007. In choosing the name I thought about the purpose and intention behind my teaching. It really is all about helping people balance out their physical structures, their emotions, their thoughts, their breath, and their lives.
How does Life Balance Yoga Therapy differ from other alignment-based yoga styles?
My perception is that many other styles of yoga are oriented toward the yoga the not the person practicing it. Often the person is left to find their own way toward the advanced version of the pose without proper guidance and safety. The problem with this is that it does not take into account individual differences, alignment, and safety. It can also leave the individual feeling like a failure unless they produce a pose that "looks like the picture." The result is the development of a yoga practice based on ego instead of awareness. To me this not only misses the point of yoga practice but it can also lead to injury either in the short-term or in the long-term due to going beyond one's limits or practicing out of alignment over time. Life Balance Yoga Therapy, in contrast, is about awareness and alignment, meeting each individual exactly where they are in the moment. This leads to life-long health and balance and minimizes the chance of injury.
What style of yoga is Life Balance Yoga Therapy?
Life Balance Yoga Therapy is an alignment-based style of Hatha yoga that incorporates my training in physical rehabilitation as an occupational therapist, the therapeutic application of the tools of yoga as taught by Joseph LePage in the Integrative Yoga Therapy Program, and intuition about what students need on a particular day.
So Life Balance Yoga Therapy is gentle?
Only for those who need a gentle practice. The whole point of Life Balance Yoga Therapy is to provide the right amount of challenge for each client. Options for modifications are given for beginning students and instruction for increasing challenge are given to advanced students. Regardless of the level of experience of students in the class, Life Balance Yoga Therapy seeks to address weaknesses – that makes the practice challenging no matter how advanced of a student one is.
You talk about "giving students just the right challenge to help them progress." What do you mean by this?
This is a concept from my occupational therapy training. With each individual client, you want to grade an activity up or down to provide them with enough challenge to progress but not so much challenge that they are overwhelmed by it. In the context of yoga, I always begin each asana with the student in optimal postural alignment. We then add more advanced elements of the asana while still maintaining this optimal posture. In this way we progress in a good orderly direction toward advanced postures while avoiding injuries that would set the student back. In this way the student is able to progress toward their highest potential.
Can you give an example of how Life Balance Yoga Therapy is challenging for an advanced yogi?
Sure. First let me say that oftentimes yogis can go through years of practice without true awareness of or proper guidance in alignment. Right now one of my students who has been practicing yoga for about 35 years came to my class because of bursitis in her left hip, pain in her left knee, and a frozen right shoulder. What we discovered is that over the years her body has found the path of least resistence in her poses leading her to do many poses out of alignment. Her repeatedly practicing yoga out of alignment has led to her current injuries. In class, I give her lots of hands-on guidance to retrain her brain regarding what true alignment is. As a result, she is experiencing a relief in her symptoms and is beginning to perceive a greater sense of correct alignment in her body.
And does this advanced student feel challenged?
Let me put it this way – When this particular student showed up in my class I explained to her that it might not be what she is used to. She then explained to me about her injuries. Last week in the middle of class she said to me, "And you were worried about this class being too easy for me!"
What about beginning students? How do you approach them?
First I try to talk with them before they attend so that I can direct them to the class that seems appropriate for them. We recently added levels of Life Balance Yoga Therapy classes to better accommodate beginners. We also offer some therapeutic classes that are appropriate for students dealing with physical or emotional conditions.
How do you direct students to a particular class?
If they are beginners who have no major physical injuries or conditions and are interested in straightforward yoga classes, I direct them to Life Balance Yoga Levels 1-2.
If they are dealing with stress or anxiety or if they have some physical limitations that need a tender approach, I direct them to the Gentle Therapeutic classes, Yoga for Stress, or Restorative Yoga.
If they are looking for greater challenge in terms of strength, endurance, and intense stretching, are more experienced in yoga, and have no major physical limitations, I direct them to Life Balance Yoga Level 2-3.
Is there ever a time that you recommend private work instead of a class.
Yes. If I determine in talking with a potential student that it would be unsafe for them to participate in class, I do recommend private work. Sometimes after the initial assessment and one or two sessions, I can safely transition them into the yoga for stress class. I try to work with each client according to their budget and needs.
You offer classes on the schedule that are not Life Balance Yoga Therapy classes. Can you explain this?
Yes. Only those who have graduated from my teacher training program can be called Life Balance Yoga Therapy Teachers. The other teachers on the schedule have skills and philosophies that are consistent with the Life Balance Yoga Therapy philosophy of seeing clients as individuals and addressing individual differences. In this way, these teachers and classes serve our clientele well.
Can Life Balance Yoga Therapy help athletes?
Absolutely! This type of work usually requires at least some private sessions. I have worked with runners, golfers, tennis players, and ballet dancers to correct muscle imbalances from the repetitive motion of their sport and to strengthen/stretch muscles needed for performance improvement. I really love this type of work – It is so gratifying when the student comes back to tell me how their performance has improved since they began their focused yoga practice.