Despite a sweeping misperception in the West that yoga is something you do for exercise alone, it actually extends well-beyond the physical practices (asanas); encompassing mindfulness, meditation, relaxation, breath work and philosophy.
And when applied therapeutically using practices tailored for the individual, yoga’s benefits can be vast and far reaching.
Having personally benefitted from major enhancements to my own mental and physical well-being through a breath-centered yoga practice, I’ve felt it my duty to help expand the public’s understanding of the depth, breadth and therapeutic application of yoga; and it was with this intention, that I set out five years ago to create YogaMate; and now the Yoga for Better Health app and the first Global Yoga Therapy Day.
The simple truth is, if you can breathe, you can practice yoga and it does not matter if you are young, mature, in a bed or a wheelchair, slender or not. Yoga can be tailored expressly for your needs and can have profound implications for your health and wellbeing.
Yoga vs Yoga Therapy
While yoga as a practice can be therapeutic, there is a significant difference between yoga and yoga therapy.
Both certainly have their place, but gaining clarity between the two can prove very helpful for the public and yoga professionals alike.
If you’re like 1 in 2* people experiencing a chronic health problem, a general yoga class could prove more harmful than beneficial if the teacher isn’t fully trained in how to keep you safe in your practice!
Below we have identified a few of the differences between Yoga and Yoga Therapy, Yoga Teachers and Yoga Therapists.
Yoga is a group of physical, mental, and spiritual practices or disciplines which originated in ancient India. … The term “yoga” in the Western world often denotes a modern form of Hatha yoga, consisting largely of the postures called asanas (Wikipedia). Yoga is:
- Mainly considered a physical practice in the west
- Practiced in a gym, health club, yoga studio, community center or at home
- Most teachers have ~200-350 hours training (though some much more)
- Relationship between teacher and student is loose and based on convenience of class time, location teacher personality.
- Teacher may not know the student
- Student aim is usually relaxation or exercise; have heard yoga is good for them & “feel” better after the class.
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 (International Association of Yoga Therapists). Yoga Therapy:
- Uses Yoga to address mental, emotional, physical and spiritual imbalances (dis-ease) in the individual
- Yoga Therapists work across hospital settings, in outpatient clinics, physical therapy, rehabilitation centers, aged-care facilities, military and in private practice
- Yoga Therapist assess and craft individualized practices for their clients which may include:
- Breath practices
- Meditation and/or relaxation
- Lifestyle advice
- And physical movement
- Through a dynamic, therapeutic relationship, practices are crafted to empower the client in their own journey towards greater well-being
- Certified therapist have 1000+ hours training
- Clients often come to yoga therapy after exhausting many other health alternative
What to Expect When You Work with a Yoga Therapist
Yoga Therapists are highly qualified yoga professionals specifically trained to work with individuals working through various health concerns (everything from mental challenges like depression & anxiety to chronic pain, cancer, sleep challenges and cardiovascular disease).
Many are licensed in other healthcare modalities (i.e., PT, OT, RN, Psychologist, etc) and they use the biopsychosocial medical approach to care.
Sessions will either be one-to-one; or in small therapeutic groups (some also conduct online sessions reaching remote populations).
Yoga Therapists will work with you to understand your needs and objectives and create a tailored practices to address physical, mental, emotional & spiritual challenges.
Connect with a Yoga Therapist Near You!
Yoga therapy is a small, but growing field. In 2019, as this e-book is being created, there are a few thousand certified yoga therapists through the IAYT, but there are many more yoga-therapists-in-training and healthcare professionals integrating therapeutic yoga into their practice.
The app, Yoga for Better Health, was created to help educate about safe(r), therapeutic yoga practices and connect the public with qualified yoga therapists and specialists. Download the app freely at www.yogabetterhealth.com
We also encourage you to reach out and connect with a yoga therapist participating in the Global Yoga Therapy Day on August 14, a day where yoga therapists around the world are sharing and educating about yoga therapy with the message that if you can breathe, you can practice yoga!