Therapeutic Yoga Versus Regular Yoga

Jean recovering from surgery

There’s a growing field. It’s called Yoga Therapy. It’s existed for the whole time that yoga has existed, thousands of years. But it is just getting its
yoga “legs” around the world. Yoga Therapy is a specialized type of yoga and holds a separate level of certification by the International Association of Yoga Therapists, IAYT. It is a global certifying body, IAYT.org, and it has defined the particular skills which yoga therapist require. To qualify, applicants much have many more hours than a “regular” yoga class teacher. Yoga Teachers are certified through Yoga Alliance Schools (YA), and most start with 200 hours of training from an approved Yoga Alliance School. These separate certifying bodies have taken on the task of drawing a line between yoga teachers and yoga therapists.

Hundreds of yoga teachers, those who have specialized in fields such as cancer care, Autism, Developmental Disabilities, heart conditions, anxiety and depression, and other fields, have applied to the Grandfathering pathways in IAYT. These areas of yoga study require advanced skills in anatomy and physiology, psychology, Ayurveda, and the other “Limbs of Yoga”such as meditation and relaxation I have received my Yoga Therapist certification because of my work in the field of yoga for cancer survivors over the last twelve years.

What does this mean for students? You have more options when seeking specialized yoga. Yoga Therapist are listed on the IAYT.org site. You will be able to read their background and education, as well as, find certified yoga therapists in your area. It’s a big change, but an important one. Yoga is therapeutic in nature, however, there’s a big difference between practicing with a group of healthy individuals or those experiencing a special need. Many therapeutic sessions need one-to-one private lessons.

When a Yoga Therapy class is designed, it has the usual features of a regular class, but the emphasis is not on performing perfect postures. The practice of poses, called asanas, may not be possible for someone after surgery, or a stroke, or with a degenerative nerve disease. So what is being practiced? The emphasis is on continuous breathing for the regulation of mood, attention, and to reduce anxiety. Movements are modified or practiced in a slow and mindful way, in which someone can stop if they experience pain or anxiety. Movement is done as a meditative practice. And meditation is the “King or Queen” of the class. Finding the “relaxation response’ and staying in the experience of deep and abiding “letting go” is the main course of therapeutic practices. Of course there are a variety of teachers and approaches. I’m speaking from my own experience as a cancer survivor and teacher of patients and survivors.

Where can I learn more? The IAYT.org website has articles online which go into more explanation than my blog. If you have questions, please write to me.
Yogaforcancersurvivors@cox.net
May 2017