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. You will work with a certified Yoga Therapist to develop a therapeutic plan within the yoga framework based on your needs, medical diagnosis, physical and emotional state, and lifestyle factors. In Yoga Therapy, you are viewed as a multi-dimensional being with your own body, breath, mind, emotions, and interactions.
The overarching goal of Yoga Therapy is to eliminate, reduce, and/or manage symptoms that cause suffering; improve function; help to prevent the occurrence or recurrence of the underlying causes of illness; and move toward overall improved health and well-being by bringing forward the body’s natural ability to heal.
Extensive research has shown that yoga has beneficial effects on at least 101 medical conditions. Proven benefits include decreased pain, anxiety and depression; increased flexibility, mobility, balance and strength, restful sleep, increased energy and better organ function. Positive effects are long-term and ongoing when you practice tools for dealing with your daily symptoms and stresses.
The practices of Yoga Therapy calm the body and still the mind and put you in a more nurturing space. When you live from this place, your physical disabilities and suffering may diminish. You may still have a disability or health condition but your relationship with your body becomes friendlier and more compassionate. The condition ceases to define you. You gradually shift from self-judgement to friendliness and loving kindness toward yourself and begin to make more choices that move you toward joy and health.
You may have found that regular yoga classes are not suitable for you- too challenging or a“one-size-fits-all”approach that has not caused a significant shift for you. A Yoga Therapist will carefully and skilfully consider your individual nature, needs and level of ability. Classes and private sessions are designed to gently and compassionately teach your body and mind to unfold and stabilize. The complete system of yoga, including asana, breath awareness, mindfulness and meditation, and nutrition are used to help you become an active participant in your own healing process.
Yoga Therapists have undertaken specialized training beyond that of a Yoga Teacher and are trained to have a basic understanding of disease states and associated symptoms, the effects of medications and associated contraindications.
Included in that training is over 1000 hours of education and clinical practice to gain a deep level of expertise in the body, as it relates to anatomy and physiology. Yoga Therapists are specifically trained to help with injuries and pain, mood disorders, grief, trauma, cancer, heart disease, aging, addiction and many more conditions.
Yoga Therapists are certified by the International Association of Yoga Therapists and will have a C-IAYT behind their name if credentialed. Some Yoga Therapists may use a C-IAYT Candidate behind their name if they are in the process of getting credentialed.
Yoga Therapists draw from the principles of yoga and a full range of yogic practices and assessment skills as well as familiarity with biomedical and psychological foundational knowledge. Your Yoga Therapist will work with you to develop and implement a self-empowering therapeutic plan appropriate to your needs and oriented around prevention and health promotion.
Included in working with a Yoga Therapist, are regular check-in intervals, articles and education about Yoga Therapy and your condition or needs, Yogic lifestyle and dietary advice (that falls within the Yogic framework).
Your Yoga Therapist also has a basic understanding of different treatments and procedures from a variety of sources, and can identify and source credible and relevant information on other healthcare modalities for you, as needed. Your Yoga Therapist may ask to review your health reports with you depending on your needs.
Yoga Therapy is delivered in individualized one-on-one or group sessions. Your Yoga Therapist will clearly outline next steps during your initial meeting.
One-on-One Yoga Therapy Session (s)
Small Group Yoga Therapy:
Group Yoga Therapy is a session(s) in which your Yoga Therapist works with a small group of people who have a similar conditions or symptoms (s), or with people who have a variety of health or health-related conditions.
These sessions are typically offered in your home, a local studio, in a clinic, the Yoga Therapist’s office or other setting.
A hallmark that differentiates group yoga therapy from group yoga classes is the presence of an individual intake and assessment for each person from Group Yoga Therapy session prior to commencing the class, personalization of the practice (s) based on the individual assessment, and re-assessment at regular intervals throughout a series of classes.
Yoga classes at a local studio are most often generalized so that most of the class can enjoy it and feel better after they leave. Although they treat everyone in the class the same, the classes are quite beneficial especially if the primary interest is in increased flexibility, mobility, and strength.
In the long term, yoga therapy may have better effectiveness over regular yoga practices due to its individualized and comprehensive focus.
Physical Therapy focuses on the specific anatomical injury with specific exercises and a set number of appointments at the practice and usually will provide take-home exercises.
Yoga Therapy treats the specific injury/illness along with the rest of the attributes that make up the individual as discussed in the “What is Yoga Therapy?” section.
For example, if you have knee surgery, physical therapy will provide exercises for the knee only. Yoga Therapy will provide movement and postures for the entire leg, hip, and work to balance the entire body – as well as any emotional challenges that may be arising such as anxiety or depression that may have stemmed from the surgery or a change in lifestyle.
Most likely. Most Health Care Providers think of Yoga as what they see on TV or in advertisements about bending and folding with power yoga classes, etc.
It is very rare for some type of Yoga Therapy to be contraindicated for any condition or ailment. There are specific postures that may be contraindicated based on your condition or needs, however, your Yoga Therapist will not include those in your therapeutic plan.
The best approach would be to connect your Yoga Therapist with your Health Care Provider either over the phone or over email. The Yoga Therapist can provide a written and descriptive therapeutic plan for them.
Your Yoga Therapist may also request a letter from your Provider to clear you for Yoga Therapy consultations.
With your consent, your Yoga Therapist will contact your Health Care Provider with an outline of your Yoga Therapy Program and Progress Notes as you work together.
Your Yoga Therapist creates a specialized and tailored therapeutic plan for you that supports any prescriptions, may help mitigate side effects of treatments, recommendations, or treatments that your Provider may be treating you for.
It varies. Your condition, disease, and overall therapeutic plan will dictate what and how your sessions are created, including the number of times per week or length of time. Your yoga therapist will give you a home practice to follow if appropriate.
For example, the published literature suggests for people with breast cancer, a minimum of 2 times/week for 60 minutes provide substantial benefit for managing side effects of treatment, whereas for people rehabilitating after heart by-pass surgery, the recommendations are 5 days/week for 60 minutes for a minimum of 12 weeks, along with other interventions.
It depends. You should check with your Medical or Health Insurance Provider.
If you are working with a Yoga Therapist in a clinic or hospital, your insurance may reimburse you OR the Health Care Provider may submit your claim for your specific condition to be paid and then pay the Yoga Therapist. For example: Yoga Therapy for specific Back Pain, Cancer, and Cardiac Rehabilitation may be covered.
If you have a Flex Health Care Spending Account or a Health Spending Account, your Yoga Therapist may provide you an invoice or payment receipt for your records.
IAYT is currently working with policy makers and insurance companies to include broader coverage for Yoga Therapy.