What Is Yoga Therapy?

Most yoga can have therapeutic benefits, but what distinguishes yoga therapy from regular yoga? Here are a few differences…

As yoga has become more and more popular in the West over the past few decades, more and more medical practitioners have begun recommending it to their patients to help with certain health conditions. However, while just about all yoga can be therapeutic if practiced correctly (mindfully and with care and respect for the body and the self), not all yoga qualifies as yoga therapy.

You can experience the many benefits of yoga on your own or in a group yoga class without engaging a professional yoga therapist, but if you are seeking a specific outcome or improvement for a specific health concern, formal therapy may be something to consider.

Here is a bit more information about yoga therapy, from YogaInternational.com:

Yoga therapy has been defined by the International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT) as “the process of empowering individuals to progress toward improved health and well-being through the application of the teachings and practices of yoga.” I believe that the key word in this definition is “application.” Yoga therapy does not offer the teachings of yoga simply for their general benefit but specifically to help facilitate improved health and well-being. Yoga therapy sessions are often conducted one-on-one or in small groups of people with common goals and challenges (e.g., trauma survivors, or those living with cancer or recovering from surgery).

Three main features that help to distinguish yoga therapy from yoga teaching are: 1) intake, 2) plan of care, and 3) assessment.

A thorough intake ensures that the yoga therapist has a full and appropriate understanding of the client on all kosha levels (levels of being). A plan of care ensures that the client and yoga therapist have a mutual understanding of the concerns and priorities that will be the focus of care, and assessment ensures that the plan of care is appropriate and designed to facilitate progress toward the health and well-being that the client seeks.

Yoga therapy does not operate from a biomedical model or biopsychosocial framework, and is therefore distinct from modalities such as physical therapy or psychotherapy. Yoga therapy does not “treat” a condition, but works with the whole person to help restore more balance to the system wherever it is needed…


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