Yoga Therapy is not the same as Yoga in the same way that Art Therapy is not the same as Art. When you think of art one gets a vision of a studio in which the artist creates and classes are lead. Likewise, when thinking of yoga one gets a vision of a studio where the yogi creates and yoga classes are lead. Art Therapy is using the tools of art in combination with psychology to bring healing to the individual. Similarly, Yoga Therapy uses the tools of yoga (poses, breathing and meditation) in combination with physical therapy and psychology to bring healing into the body.
A yoga therapist looks at “the issues in the tissues”. For example, many people experiencing stress tense their body. Yoga therapist are trained to help relieve the tension and to guide the client to discovery of why this tension exists. It is through the combination of strengthening, lengthen and relaxing muscles, plus bringing mindful awareness to the issues that yoga therapy brings healing. Research in Yoga Therapy has experienced a “three-fold increase in [the] number of publications seen in the last 10 years” (Jeter).
A typical private Yoga Therapy session consists of assessment of the physical body and breath, and an intake interview. Next the yoga therapist and the client together develop a home practice. During follow up visits the home practice is revised. The time spent in a yoga therapy session is not focused on “doing yoga” like one would in a yoga class, but on co-creating a custom practice that the client is then responsible for implementing. Group yoga therapy focuses on a common ailment such as Cancer or Fibromyalgia. These groups are typically very small. Home practices are still assigned to the group, which meets for a few sessions together.
The field of Yoga Therapy is brand new. Like all new fields the typical stages of development are first to accredit schools, next certify the graduates, and then turn this over to each of the 50 states to write licensing law. Yoga therapy has an organization, the International Association of Yoga Therapist (IAYT) that has begun accrediting schools. So far there are 23 worldwide. IAYT has also written a certification for individual yoga therapists (CYT) that mainly have graduated from the 23 accredited programs. They will begin accepting applications for certification next summer. Therefore as of the summer of 2016 this field will be ready for state licensure and at that point the acceptance of medical insurance will not be far behind.
YogaTeachers (not therapists) register with Yoga Alliance (RYT) and teaching is where everyone in yoga starts. Later, after gaining a deeper knowledge, the teacher can become a therapist. It is the hope of this yoga therapist that medical professionals will eventually refer to Certified Yoga Therapists where appropriate.
Beth Novian Hughes is a Yoga Therapist in private practice at the Healing Arts Center of Rome www.HACRome.com. She recently completed her MS degree in Yoga Therapy through Maryland University of Integrative Health, which is accredited with IAYT and the only Master’s Degree program in the world in Yoga Therapy. Contact her at 706-506-9636 or email@example.com learn more about her at www.breatheyogatherapy.com.