Yoga Therapy vs. Yoga

What is Yoga Therapy vs. Yoga?

Matthew Taylor PhD

Dr. Taylor wanted to know too what the difference was when he was appointed to the board of directors for the International Association of Yoga Therapists in 2007. The organization hadn’t formally defined what yoga therapy is, so he joined the committee that after exhaustive research from experts around the world came up with this straight forward definition:

“Yoga therapy is the process of empowering individuals to progress toward improved health and wellbeing through the application of the teachings and practices of Yoga.”

-The International Association of Yoga Therapists Key differences between a general yoga instruction and yoga therapy:

  • The intention in yoga therapy is to begin an ongoing process of change to improve health and wellbeing. People start yoga for all kinds of reasons from spiritual enlightenment to finding a mate.
  • Properly provided, yoga therapy leaves the participant more in control of their health and wellbeing, rather than dependent on the teacher’s personality, instruction or technique.
  • Many yoga classes focus only on asana/postures. Yoga therapy emphasizes, in fact names first, “the teachings” before practices. This is critical as most Westerners arrive with the cultural bias of the therapists = the fixer. The teachings refute that pointing toward the already present integrity of the student despite the current health challenge.
  • “Process” is a key word too. Yoga therapy is an unfolding series of discoveries (rememberings?) that does not have an end point, rather becomes a lifestyle of healthy living, even in the face of terminal illness. The current complaint is only the beacon that summons this transformation in lifestyle, it isn’t the goal.

A key difference between yoga and yoga therapy is the acknowledgement that when yoga instruction begins with the intention to address health challenges, there are a great deal of additional professional responsibilities and skill sets that are required by the schools that teach yoga therapy and their students.

There are now standards for these schools that are far more intensive and rigorous than that of the Yoga Alliance registry. The standards are HERE. Soon there will also be standards for the individuals wishing to call themselves yoga therapists. All of this is being done in order to achieve IAYT’s goal of making yoga a recognized and respected therapy. The word “respected” implies credible standards and practices in order to maximize ahimsa, or said in modern language, “protect the public welfare.”

To learn more about yoga therapy, you can read HERE. Do know that just because a book or DVD claims to be yoga therapy, as a consumer you should know anyone can legally claim to be a yoga therapist so buyer beware. That’s another reason for Smart Safe Yoga, where you can ask questions and learn how to interpret consumer products/claims. An example would be this article on how to buy a yoga DVD. Signing up for our free newsletter will help you grow in understanding about what yoga therapy is and what yoga can safely and can not so safely do for you.