Critical Alignment Yoga Therapy

Critical Alignment Yoga Therapy: Relaxation > Movement > Strength

The Reality

Let’s face it…at one point or another throughout our lives most of us have delt with pain, injury or postural issues. These issues have likely led us to seek assistance from a professional. In most cases it was a physiotherapist, massage therapist, chiropractor, acupuncturist, Chinese or Western medicine doctor or we may have even tried yoga or Pilates. Maybe you received full relief or maybe you were one of the many who found mild but temporary relief and are still seeking something that can provide full, reliable relief or at least aid in better management. In this article we will take a look at what is Critical Alignment Yoga Therapy and assess if this is a good option for you.

What is Yoga Therapy?

There are several definitions of yoga therapy. Each revolving around the application of yoga techniques to improve, restore and prevent health issues or ailments.

Yoga Therapy is the process of empowering individuals to progress toward improved health and well-being through the application of philosophy and practice of yoga.

International Association of Yoga Therapists

Yoga therapy consists of the application of yogic principles, methods, and techniques to specific human ailments. In its ideal application, Yoga therapy is preventive in nature, as is Yoga itself, but it is also restorative in many instances, palliative in others, and curative in many others.

Art Brownstein, M.D. 

Yoga therapy, derived from the Yoga tradition of Patanjali and the Ayurvedic system of health care refers to the adaptation and application of Yoga techniques and practices to help individuals facing health challenges at any level manage their condition, reduce symptoms, restore balance, increase vitality, and improve attitude.

Gary Kraftsow American Viniyoga Institute

What is Critical Alignment Yoga Therapy (CAT)?

Critical Alignment Yoga Therapy was developed by Gert van Leeuwen, author and founder of the Bharata Yoga Institute in Amsterdam, to assess and treat dysfunction in the musculoskeletal system by releasing and mobilizing the thoracic spine. This system of therapy is suited to effectively treat repetitive strain injuries.

Critical Alignment Yoga Therapy

In differentiating between surface movement muscles and deeper postural muscles, this unique form of therapy targets built-up tension from injury, stress or strain.

By utilizing specialized yoga tools and breathing techniques you will learn to stabilize and balance your structure through a process known as R.M.S. This acronym stands for Relaxation> Movement> Strength.

Further described by Van Leeuwen in his book “Yoga Critical Alignment”, the methods of Critical Alignment Yoga Therapy CAT are based on the theory of movement chains. With everything in the body being linked,communication between all parts is necessary in order to form chains in which small movementsare passed along making open, free movement possible.

The concept of movement chains shows how problems that manifest in one part of the body can originate in an entirely different part. This is known as referred pain and is illustrated by Van Leeuwen in the following chart (progression from top to bottom).

Tension in movement muscles

Atrophied movement muscles


Vicious circle exacerbating immobility

Obstruction of movement chains

Movement compensation

Onset of problems in other parts of the movement chain

A common example of this is the stiff, lower back that frequently develops as a reaction to the stiffening and bending of the upper back.

Critical Alignment focuses on the spine because it is here that the most important structures and tissues for movement are found: the vertebrae and discs, the postural muscles around the spine, and the nerves that leave the spine and integrate  (control and provide information to) the muscles and their blood vessels. When the spinal column functions well, the extremities – the shoulders and arms and the pelvis and legs – also function well. If the spinal column does not function well, then the extremities will also suffer.

When injuries occur the body will try to avoid pain through compensation. These repetitive, compensatory movements tend to overwork movement muscles, lead to buildup and storage oftension, create imbalance within the body, and eventually cause breakdown or dystrophy of supportive postural muscles.

Through the method of R.M.S one learns to first work towards using awareness and the breath to create more relaxation. This allows more free movement and access to deep postural muscles. The final step comes through reactivation or re-engagement of these muscles in order to build strength and coordination necessary to prevent further tension buildup or potential for further injury.

Critical Alignment Yoga Therapy always applies the three steps together and in this order. This is the basic requirement for breaking habitual movement patterns and creating the possibility of free movement.

Other therapies that treat physical problems have fewer steps and different interpretation. Physiotherapist, chiropractors and massage therapists, for example, only use the steps of relaxation and movement. The problem with omitting the strength and coordination step is that the client is treated passively, so there is almost no change to posture and movement. The body is not invited to learn new patterns. Other physical therapies only use the steps of movement and strength and coordination. These therapies are often directed toward the movement muscles, so they increase the chance of stiffness and immobility.”

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Is Critical Alignment Yoga Therapy for me?

This unique therapy is for everyone and anyone wishing greater access to freer spinal movement.  It has also proven itself ideal for those suffering from chronic pain caused by injury, stress or repetitive strain. Whether your pain is in your back & neck, shoulders, elbows & wrists, pelvis, hips & legs etc., the consistent practice of this therapy will benefit you with greater freedom and ease in all aspects of movement and develop strength and coordination in your postural muscles to maintain this critical spinal alignment.

Critical Alignment Yoga Therapy

These sessions are designed to help you find relief from your chronic pain, to regain freedom of functionality in everyday living and to assist in restoring you to a state of wellness where you are empowered with the tools to stay pain free and make this your new reality. Relieve your back, shoulder and neck pain through the subtle movement of the spine giving you relaxation and full body mobility. Ideal for beginners and no experience is necessary.

How Can I Try Critical Alignment Yoga Therapy?

Start by speaking with your doctor and yoga instructor about any existing health concerns, conditions and/or injuries you may have. Then contact me to schedule a private CAT session and consultation, or if you have any questions regarding  these therapy sessions.

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