What is the Difference Between Yoga and Yoga Therapy?


Yoga is inherently therapeutic as it functions on all levels of one’s being – physical, mental, emotional, energetic and spiritual.  This is why so many people are attracted to yoga and why so many health care professionals are now recommending yoga.  Numerous studies have been conducted on the benefits of yoga and now the therapeutic aspect of yoga is backed by scientific research.  This is why and how the field of yoga therapy has grown in the United States.  People are now looking to yoga not only for recreational purposes, but as a therapeutic tool for physical, mental, emotional, energetic and/or spiritual well-being.

With yoga therapy growing as a profession it is important to clarify what the difference is between yoga and yoga therapy.  According to the International Association of Yoga Therapist, the accrediting body of yoga therapists, “Yoga therapy is the appropriate application of the yoga teachings and practices in a therapeutic context in order to support a consistent yoga practice that will increase self-awareness and engage the client’s energy in the direction of desired goals. The goals of yoga therapy include eliminating, reducing, or managing symptoms that cause suffering; improving function; helping to prevent the occurrence or reoccurrence of underlying causes of illness; and moving toward improved health and wellbeing. Yoga therapy also helps clients/students change their relationship to and identification with their condition.”  What there is to be noted in this definition is the underlined words “in a therapeutic context”.  This is the key distinction between yoga and yoga therapy.  In other words an individual will come to a yoga teacher to learn yoga and an individual will come to a yoga therapist for help with a specific condition.

This key distinction, “in a therapeutic context”, is also why the training of a certified yoga therapist (C-IAYT) receives varies greatly from that of a certified yoga teacher (RYT).  A certified yoga teacher (RYT) is required to have at least 200hrs of training in order to safely and effectively teach yoga and a certified yoga therapist (C-IAYT) is required to have at least 800hrs of training (in addition to the minimum 200hrs of yoga teacher training) in order to safely and effectively apply yoga in a therapeutic context.

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If you’d like to experience a yoga therapy session please contact Sonia Weirich C-IAYT at yoga@kirklandwholelifeclinic.com for a free consultation.

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