What Is Yoga Therapy & How Does It Work?

Yoga is widely popular for its emotional, spiritual, and physical benefits.

Many people practice yoga to increase flexibility, build strength, and enhance their overall well-being.

While the nature of yoga is already therapeutic, there is a fundamental difference between a yoga class and a yoga therapy session and a yoga teacher and a yoga therapist.

If you are looking into trying either one, knowing the difference between the two can help you decide which option is best for you.

Keep reading to learn more about yoga therapy.

What Is Yoga Therapy?

While many yogis might attest that yoga is therapeutic, there is actually a such thing called yoga therapy that is different from attending a regular yoga class.

According to The International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT), the organization overseeing the certification of yoga therapists, yoga therapy is a “specific application of yogic tools—postures/exercises, breathwork, meditation techniques, and more—to address an individual’s physical, mental and emotional needs.”

There is so much more to yoga than just the physical poses, or asanas, that make up the majority of Western yoga classes.

In traditional yoga that is done in other parts of the world, there is a much stronger emphasis on breathing exercises and meditation.

In a typical yoga class, it’s the yoga teacher’s job to teach different yoga techniques to the class.

A yoga therapist, on the other hand, focuses less on instructing and more on applying certain yoga techniques to help reduce symptoms that their client may be experiencing.

In other words, a yoga class will give you a broad range of general yoga techniques whereas a yoga therapy session will give you tailored yoga techniques to meet your unique goals and needs.

How Does Yoga Therapy Work?

The purpose of yoga therapy is to treat certain health conditions, injuries, or diseases through a personalized yoga practice to help the patient alleviate his/her suffering and increase overall well-being.

Yoga therapy matches the unique and specific health needs of the individual with traditional yoga practices that have been found to provide particular healing benefits.

For example, a patient with lower back pain could implement a series of yoga asanas that support the stretching and strengthening the lower back.

Certain asanas can even alleviate the symptoms of a herniated disc.

For a patient with certain mental health disorders, there are various yogic breathing and meditation techniques that can be used to regulate the nervous system and bring our awareness back to our body.

A yoga therapy session may include:

  • Breathing techniques.
  • Postures (asanas).
  • Meditation.
  • Relaxation techniques.
  • Promotion of behavioral changes.

What Conditions Can Be Treated With Yoga Therapy?

Yoga therapy can be used to treat a wide range of health conditions, both mental and physical.

These are the mental health conditions that may be treated through yoga therapy:

  • Stress.
  • Depression.
  • Anxiety.
  • PTSD.
  • Schizophrenia.
  • ADHD.
  • Eating Disorders.
  • Addiction.
  • Autism.
  • Post-natal depression.

The physical health conditions that may be treated by yoga therapy are:

  • Back pain.
  • Musculaskeletal problems.
  • Diabetes.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Parkinson’s.
  • Asthma.
  • COPD.
  • Cancer.
  • HIV.
  • Alzheimer’s.
  • Brain injury.
  • Multiple Sclerosis.
  • Autoimmune diseases.
  • Insomnia.
  • Arthritis.
  • Osteoporosis.

What To Expect In A Yoga Therapy Session

Now that you have a good idea of what yoga therapy is, let’s talk about the general process.

  • You can think of the first meeting you will have with your yoga therapist as a consultation where the two of you will discuss your health concerns and needs.
  • During your first session, you and your yoga therapist will work together to build an initial daily practice plan. Usually, there are six sessions to start off with.
  • Your yoga therapist will most likely assign you practices for you to do at home. The purpose of yoga therapy is to build a skillset of techniques to help you become empowered to manage your symptoms on your own.
  • Yoga therapy is tailored to each client’s specific needs, no matter how big or small. Through yoga therapy, the client will become the master of their own healing journey in a guided, compassionate environment.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s)

Here are some of the most common questions that people have about yoga therapy.

What is the difference between yoga and yoga therapy?

While the purpose of a yoga class is to learn and practice a broad variety of yoga techniques, yoga therapy is designed to tailor specific yoga practices that can be used to treat a person’s unique health condition and/or needs.

How many types of yoga therapy are there?

When it comes to yoga therapy, the possibilities are endless.

Because it has the potential to treat a wide range of different health conditions (mental and physical), no two clients will have the same yoga therapy journey.

What are the benefits of yoga therapy?

Yoga therapy can be beneficial to clients by treating the symptoms of their health conditions and injuries, while also empowering them to be the master of their own healing.