As the practices of both Yoga and Occupational Therapy (OT) evolve in our modern culture, the two disciplines find themselves walking along the same path toward health and wellness. While the tradition of Yoga reaches back 5,000 years into antiquity, the profession of Occupational Therapy began to evolve more recently out of a growing awareness in the West of health and healing.
From greatly divergent times and cultures, Yoga and OT have started to merge in scope and intention. Occupational Therapy is meant to help an individual live as engaged and functional as possible. Yoga is also a science of right living. The practices help us to live, work, breathe and play at an optimal level.
More than just a set of exercises, Yoga teaches us how to be in the world in an integrated way. It is about our mind and our perspective. A healthy perspective creates a healthy life. Our habit patterns and conditioning either help us or harm us. The more we are aware of our habits, the more we are able to make informed choices, and the more at ease we will be in the world.
“Health and occupation have evolved to become intertwined. After all, when health suffers, so too does the ability to perform an ‘occupation’ and take part in daily activities.” (1)
In both fields, we are looking to support our student or client in living a life that is whole. In Yoga we say “connected and balanced.” An Occupational Therapist may say “engaged and regulated.” Let’s look at daily practices that support this wholeness.
How to Create Balance, or Regulation
Deep, even breathing – It seems so simple, and yet is it so effective. The quality, length and depth of the breath has an impact on the nervous system. Deep even breathing sends the message to our system to relax.
Routine – Familiarity and regularity are two very important qualities to cultivate in our daily habits. It is through a structure that we find freedom and spontaneity. Mealtimes, bedtime and playtime set the cadence for a healthy, engaged and fulfilling life.
Food/nutrition – Our body is like a fine tuned machine (and so much more!) and it needs the very best fuel we can give it.
How to Create Connection, or Engagement
Karma Yoga– serving others without attachment to the outcome.
Gratitude – Contentment is not the fulfillment of what we want, but the realization of how much we already have.
Prayer/Meditation – Connecting with a power greater than ourselves.
Time in Nature – The cycles of nature are in tune and help us to feel in tune.
Quiet – Spending time alone can be deeply nourishing and soothing.
The formal OT sessions your child may be attending can be supported by a simple daily Yoga practice of coordinated movement, breathing and deep relaxation. Along with the tips above, your child and whole family will be on the path toward health and wellness.
(1) “The History of Occupational Therapy – Where Did We Come From? How Did We Get Here?” The History Of Occupational Therapy. Sensory Processing Disorder, n.d. Web. 03 Apr. 2014.