If you've landed on this page, you've probably got some questions about Yoga Therapy and how it can help you. This page aims to answer those questions, including:
- What is Yoga Therapy?
- What can Yoga Therapy do for me?
- How is Yoga Therapy different to regular yoga?
- What's the difference between a Yoga Therapist and a yoga teacher?
- How do I become a Yoga Therapist?
The term Yoga Therapy covers many different techniques, approaches and practices. By the time you've read this page, you'll have a much clearer picture of what Yoga Therapy is and how it works.
Defining Yoga Therapy
Yoga Therapy is a rapidly growing, evidence based complementary therapy. Here's how it's defined by the International Association of Yoga Therapists:
Well known Yoga Therapist in the tradition of Krishnamacharya, Gary Kraftsow offers a more detailed definition:
Yoga Therapy takes the techniques of yoga and applies them to meet the needs of each individual student. Because every student is a unique individual, every Yoga Therapy program is different. Even if two students have the same health condition, they are likely to receive very different Yoga Therapy practices. This is because Yoga Therapy does not simply address immediate symptoms in isolation. Instead, Yoga Therapy considers the needs of the whole person, taking into account their personality, health history, lifestyle, attitudes, belief system, preferences and more.
Yoga Therapy is also grounded in evidence-based modern medical research and a skilful Yoga Therapist will blend ancient wisdom with modern science to produce the best possible outcome for the student. The late Georg Feuerstein described Yoga Therapy as follows:
What to expect from a Yoga Therapy session
That depends! No two Yoga Therapy sessions are the same. A skilled Yoga Therapist is responsive to the changing needs of the individual student and adapts the techniques and approach they use according to what is most helpful in any given moment. You'll probably spend some time discussing your health condition - don't be surprised if your Yoga Therapist asks you about things that seem unrelated to your symptoms. Even if you've come for help to manage a knee injury, you might still be asked about your sleep patterns, diet and energy levels. This will help the Yoga Therapist create a pattern of symptoms, preferences and behaviours that will allow her to tailor a practice that meets your individual needs. Depending on your health condition and personality, you may experience any number of practices during your session, including:
- Static Asana (postures)
- Flowing movements
- Moving or seated meditation
- Breathing exercises
- Concentration exercises
- Relaxation techniques
- Bibliotherapy (books and texts to read)
- Physical touch/adjustments
- Journal writing/Self reflection
Don't worry about getting anything 'right' during the session. Unlike regular yoga classes, Yoga Therapy adapts to YOU rather than you trying to adapt your body to the demands of the postures. There is no right or wrong way to do a therapeutic yoga practice - there is the practice that is right for you (something that you and your Yoga Therapist discover together) and everything else. If it doesn't work for you, your Yoga Therapist will find something that does. You're likely to be given some 'homework' - a simple practice to do at home or a short reading assignment. Yoga Therapy works best when you practice little and often!
What can Yoga Therapy do for me?
Yoga Therapy helps people manage a wide variety of physical and psychological health conditions. Yoga Therapy has been successfully used to help people living with, or recovering from:
- Auto-immune diseases
- Musculo-skeletal injuries
- Soft tissue injuries
- Chronic pain
- Eating disorders
- Cardiovascular disease
- Neuro-degenerative disease
- Headaches and migraine
A strong evidence base for Yoga Therapy is emerging as an increasing number of high quality research papers are published. Qualified Yoga Therapists are trained to read and interpret research data and integrate scientific evidence into their practice.
What's the difference between Yoga Therapy and regular yoga?
Yoga Therapy is specifically designed to help individuals manage or recover from health issues. It does not follow a particular sequence and doesn't require any level of fitness - it's accessible and available to everyone. From obsessive compulsive disorder to bulging discs to asthma to palliative care, Yoga Therapy selects from and adapts the many thousands of tools of yoga to support each student. You might not even do any yoga postures during a Yoga Therapy session! Yoga Therapy can be delivered during one-on-one sessions or in small groups. Even within small groups, each practice is adapted to the needs of individual participants. Unlike regular yoga classes, there is no 'one-size-fits-all'. The Yoga Therapist empowers students to find their own way to practice rather than 'instructing' them into particular shapes or ways of working.
How is a Yoga Therapist different to a yoga teacher?
The description 'yoga teacher' can mean many things these days. Once upon a time, yoga teachers spent many years learning yoga from a master teacher and, when their teacher considered they had reached a level of proficiency in their practice and understanding of yoga, they would be invited to teach. The path to becoming a yoga teacher is very different today. Some teachers have only a few weeks of yoga experience behind them when they train to teach. The international minimum training standard for yoga teachers is 200hrs and many teachers complete this training in short intensive courses of 10-14 days. Instructors offering classes in gyms may have even less experience - to offer yoga in gyms, group fitness instructors need only complete a weekend of training in yoga. Because yoga teaching is unregulated, there are plenty of teachers who have not completed any formal training at all.
Yoga Therapists, on the other hand, have completed a rigorous training process. In Australia, minimum entry requirements for an accredited Yoga Therapy training program is 350hrs professional yoga teacher training PLUS 2yrs teaching experience. Yoga Therapy certification includes a minimum of 650hrs which cannot be completed in under 2 years. When you visit an accredited Yoga Therapist, you know that they have a minimum of 1000hrs training and 4 years teaching experience. Many Yoga Therapists have decades of experience and it is common for Yoga Therapists to also hold other allied health qualifications, including physiotherapy, psychotherapy, acupuncture, social work and other disciplines.
How do I become a Yoga Therapist?
Yoga Therapists are yoga teachers with specialist training. That means you need to start by taking a basic yoga teacher training course. You'll need a minimum of 350 hours of recognised (Yoga Alliance or Yoga Australia accredited) basic teacher training before you can apply for a place on a professional Yoga Therapy Teacher Training course. If you have a 200 hours yoga teacher training, you can take a 150 hour Yoga Therapy Bridging Course that will give you the foundational training you need to study yoga therapy.
Yoga Therapy Teacher Training is a 650hr training program that must be completed over a minimum of two years. Some of this training is face to face, many courses offer online components and you will also undertake practicum hours, using the skills you learn in real-world clinical environments. You'll find detailed information of Yoga Therapy Teacher Training curriculum here.
How to find a Yoga Therapist
An accredited Yoga Therapist must have completed a registered yoga therapy teacher training program and be registered with either Yoga Australia or the International Association of Yoga Therapists. You can check their membership of both organisations via their respective websites, or ask to see your Yoga Therapist's certificates. These websites are also a good place to search for a Yoga Therapist in your area.
Yoga Therapy Resources
Adore Yoga offers Yoga Therapy and Yoga Therapist Training in the tradition of Sri T Krishnamacharya, offered by senior teachers who have studied directly with TKV Desikachar and BKS Iyengar. Here are some links to blogs, articles, videos and audio recordings about Yoga Therapy and related subjects. To experience Yoga Therapy for yourself, please book a consultation at our Sydney clinic. To train as a Yoga Therapist, please see our upcoming accredited training programs in New South Wales.
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