What is Yoga Therapy?

Yoga therapy is the process of empowering individuals to progress toward improved health and well being through the application of the philosophy and practice of yoga. Specifically, yoga therapy is the appropriate application and adaptation of different aspects of yoga for individuals or small groups. In these settings, conditions and goals are carefully considered, and a therapy practice is then customized to address conditions, goals, and progress through an extensive evaluation, assessment, practice, and follow-up process. Yoga therapy practices are not generic protocols but rather are customized for each client.

Yoga therapy in North America is overseen by the International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT). Their goal is to bridge yoga and healthcare with the mission of establishing yoga as a respected therapy. IAYT has a governing board of healthcare practitioners who specialize in western medicine along with master yoga educators bringing yoga therapy to the forefront of western healthcare. IAYT supports the field by setting high standards for the training of yoga therapists, accrediting training programs that meet those standards, and certifies individual yoga therapists who meet their standards. IAYT also supports yoga therapy research through the International Journal of Yoga Therapy and an annual Symposium of Yoga Research. Currently, yoga therapy is not a licensed healthcare profession in the state of Colorado, but IAYT is in discussions about the licensure of the profession. 

Techniques such as asana (movements on their own and in and out of postures), pranayama (breath practices), meditation, use of sound, contemplative practices, prayer, and ritual can be offered in singular form or in conjunction with each other to appropriately address an individual’s or small group’s current condition and needs. Subsequent follow-up sessions and practices reflect the evolution of the individual(s) and their changing needs and condition as techniques are honed to increase the effectiveness. Therefore, the practices change with the individual, and align with the individual’s specific symptoms and condition creating a profound positive effect on the body, physiology, mind, and emotions to assist an individual in gaining greater health and well-being.

Through customized yoga therapy practices, one learns to explore their condition creating an environment of recovery, healing, balance, and empowerment as the practices allow one to become intimately involved with their own self-care and evolution; thus, the tools and techniques of yoga practices help individuals learn how to help themselves. This experiential process requires and develops self-awareness and regulation as the foundation for healing. Yoga therapy serves an individual on all levels and adaptations to the practice are offered to support comfort, safety, and function. Clients learn to use this work to increase their well-being and become acquainted with a natural state of calm, clarity, and balance.

Click here to learn more about the distinctions between yoga therapy sessions and yoga classes and yoga therapists and yoga teachers to help you select the best services for your wellness.

Based upon research, case studies, and clinical experience, yoga therapy has been shown to positively affect conditions such as:

  1. Structural conditions including back pain and other structural pain, discomfort, and asymmetry
  2. Chronic pain and pain management
  3. Stress Management
  4. Pre and post-surgical preparation and recovery
  5. Psychological disorders including depression, anxiety, trauma, anger management
  6. Neurological conditions such as Multiple Sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease
  7. Physiological conditions such as chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, recurrent migraines, heart disease, Crohn’s disease, and Irritable Bowel Disease and Syndrome
  8. Endocrine disorders including pre and post menopausal conditions, diabetes, and metabolic disorder
  9. Respiratory conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, and allergies
  10. Body weight conditions including obesity and eating disorders
  11. Bone health including osteoporosis, osteopenia and sustaining bone health
  12. Healthy aging
  13. Pregnancy and post-childbirth
  14. Cancer including pre and post treatment


Examples of Common Conditions Applicable for Yoga Therapy

Common examples of Physical Conditions:

  • Overall health related to spine
  • Back pain/health
    • Herniated discs
    • Thoracic kyphosis
    • Lumbar lordosis
    • Osteoporosis
    • Spinal stenosis
    • Spondylosis
    • Spondylolisthesis
    • Other vertebral disc conditions
  • Bone Health
  • Hip instability and muscular imbalances
  • Knee pain and tightness
  • Neck and shoulder pain/health
  • Plantar fasciitis
  • Pre and post surgery therapy – e.g. hip replacement surgery, ACL reconstruction, knee replacement surgery, rotator cuff surgery
  • Healthy Aging

Common Examples of Psychological Conditions:

  • Anxiety
  • Anger
  • Chronic Stress
  • Depression
  • Eating disorders
  • Healthy Aging

Common examples of Physiological Conditions:

  • Cancer
  • Cardiovascular Disease
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
  • Chronic illness
  • Chronic Pain and Pain Management
  • Diabetes
  • Digestive conditions including IBS, IBD, chronic constipation, Crohn’s disease
  • Endocrine system disorders – adrenal fatigue, thyroid imbalances
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Headaches
  • Immune system – allergies
  • Metabolic Disorder
  • Migraines
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Prostate Health

Editor’s Note: Please note that all words are written by Barb Gibson, C-IAYT, and requested permission is required to use content