Yoga Therapy Focuses on the Individual
Isn’t all yoga therapy? What is the difference between yoga and yoga therapy? The concept of yoga therapy is not new but the establishment of standards has recently become formalized. It was a leap of faith to
go down the path towards becoming a yoga therapist especially when the guidelines were still not formalized and few people I knew had any idea what this was. Since I began yoga at the age of 47, overweight, sedentary, hypertensive, arthritic and highly stressed, I understood the therapeutic benefits of yoga in a very personal way, so this path made perfect sense in my heart.
According to the website for the International Association of Yoga Therapists: “Yoga therapy is the process of empowering individuals to progress toward improved health and well-being through the application of the teachings and practices of Yoga.” Their mission is stated as “IAYT supports research and education in yoga and serves as a professional organization for yoga teachers and yoga therapists worldwide. Our mission is to establish yoga as a recognized and respected therapy. Founded in 1989, IAYT has consistently championed yoga as a healing art and science.” www.iayt.org
All yoga can have a therapeutic effect; however, the intention of every yoga class or practice is not always therapeutic. A standard yoga class has a set focus and while all good intentioned teachers try to help make
a class accessible to each student that class may or may not provide a therapeutic effect for every student. While I am a yoga therapist, I am also a yoga teacher as well. I always teach with the knowledge and
understanding that I have gained from my yoga therapy education in mind, but my general yoga classes are not yoga therapy sessions.
A group yoga therapy class has a particular demographic with a particular therapeutic focus or goal in mind. The same is true for an individual yoga therapy session although, the therapeutic focus may be more in depth and specific as the client progresses over time. The goal for yoga therapy is also, as the IAYT definition states, to empower the client on their own path of improving their health and well-being. A yoga therapist brings the tools and offers them to the client allowing the client to create their own personalized practice over time based on what supports their wellness goals.
With the establishment of the standards now for yoga therapy the educational and experiential requirements are a significant factor in the difference between the two. Certification is at least 800 hours over an RYT certification. This education includes training in specific conditions and settings as well as experiential hours required. While the cost and time involved seems daunting a yoga therapist is well
prepared to support the mission of yoga therapy being seen as respected therapy. While some may argue that these requirements are nothing more than groups trying to make money establishing arbitrary standards, if we have any hope of bringing what we all agree is a healing practice into the mainstream western medical environment, where practitioners are required to hold standardized certifications, we will need to accept and support this.
Yes, yoga therapy is yoga, specifically focused on the wellness needs and goals of the individual or group guided by a seasoned and well trained yoga therapist, toward the end of empowering them to continue on
that lifelong path.
For more information about yoga therapy you might consider visiting
International Association of Yoga Therapists website, www.iayt.org
Dallas Yoga Therapy