What is Yoga Therapy?


Yoga therapy is the process of empowering individuals to improve health and well being through the application and practice of yoga. Yoga therapy is different from yoga classes where clients are usually not coming to learn yoga, but to get help with or relief from some symptom or health condition that is troubling them. In most cases, the instruction focuses on their condition and how the yoga techniques can help them feel better or improve their function, rather than on the techniques or methods of yoga practice.

Yoga tools and techniques are adapted for individuals or small groups with similar conditions and 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, and follow-up process. Yoga offers tools that touch on the whole spectrum of human experience, and in a yoga therapy setting, a range of tools and techniques are used such as movement, breathwork, meditation, contemplation and reflection, use of sound, ritual, prayer, and more to address an individual’s needs—physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Subsequent follow-up sessions and practices reflect the evolution of the individual 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, yoga therapy practices help individuals learn how to help themselves as they develop 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 and clients learn to use this work to increase their well-being and become acquainted with a natural state of calm, clarity, and balance.

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. 

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.

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