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Yoga Therapy: Ancient Techniques for Modern Healing

Yoga Therapy

Yoga therapy uses postures and breathing techniques to facilitate healing from psychological and physical conditions. Meditation also plays a role in achieving improved emotional wellbeing. While yoga is often associated with physical exercise and relaxation, it can also be used to enhance your overall health. The holistic approach of this therapy means that it includes aspects of physical therapy as well as psychotherapy.

Yoga Therapy: What is it?

While many people attend yoga classes to exercise, therapeutic sessions are a lesser explored aspect of yoga. If you’re seeking relief from psychological symptoms, these therapeutics sessions may be the right choice for you.

The difference between therapy and regular yoga is that therapists focus their attention on your symptoms and how yoga techniques can be used to relieve them. Therapeutic sessions are customized to meet your unique needs rather than focusing on teaching a general yoga sequence to a group class. During these sessions, the therapist uses their training, knowledge, and experience to choose yoga practices that will benefit you.

Yoga Therapy Theory

Yoga therapy has a holistic approach to healing which takes into account your mind, body, and soul. The therapeutic process is used to facilitate the development of self-knowledge which can be used to address the psychological challenges that you are facing.

Yoga theory incorporates the idea of prana or energy that flows through our bodies. The healing process involves addressing any energy blockages which can result in emotional and physical imbalances.

The chakras or energy centers are a vital aspect of yoga therapy theory. This theory attributes different health concerns to blockages in different energy centers. Addressing these blockages may help to alleviate the underlying causes of emotional imbalances.

How Does Yoga Therapy Suggest the Mind Works?

Yoga therapy takes a holistic approach to explaining how your mind works by recognizing your mind’s connection to your body and spirit. In this system, your mental wellbeing is linked to your physical and spiritual well-being. The yoga practices aim to strengthen your body and facilitate psychological health. Yoga therapy may help you to change your perspective of the challenges that you are facing as well as to change your attitude towards them.

How Does Yoga Therapy Cause Change?

The techniques used in yoga therapy include asana, which refers to the physical postures that you can expect to perform during the session. Another important technique that facilitates healing is pranayama, which refers to the breathing exercises that you’ll learn. Meditation, as well as guided imagery, are also used to cause change in yoga therapy.  Research has revealed that yoga increases the levels of the neurotransmitter GABA. This is relevant to its use in the treatment of mental health concerns as people who are struggling with anxiety and depression typically have low GABA levels. Reduced GABA levels are also prevalent in people who are struggling with addiction. Yoga therapy helps to reduce stress levels and promote relaxation. The high levels of stress that accompany our busy modern lifestyles can result in emotional and physical health issues. Prolonged stress can have a negative impact on your mental health, which means that implementing a regular practice that reduces stress has far-reaching benefits.

What Happens in a Yoga Therapy Session?

You can expect your yoga therapist to tailor your session to meet your individual requirements. Your therapist will take your overall health as well as your fitness levels into consideration during the session.

During your first session, your yoga therapist will conduct an assessment which aims to identify your health issues as well as to review your physical capabilities. You can also expect your therapist to ask you questions about why you are seeking therapy.

This assessment is used by your therapist to customize a treatment plan to meet your unique requirements. Together with your therapist, you’ll decide on how often to schedule sessions. After the initial assessment is completed, you can expect to go through a series of breathing exercises, physical postures, and meditations. Once you learn these techniques, your therapist will ask you to incorporate them into your daily life.

This type of therapy provides the most benefit if you practice what you learn during the sessions at home. These sessions differ from a traditional yoga class as they’re usually conducted one-on-one or in small groups.

Techniques Used in Yoga Therapy

During the therapy, you’ll learn a range of breathing exercise that you can incorporate into your everyday life as needed. Balancing breaths can be used for relaxation if you have an experience that triggers anxiety. You’ll also learn energizing breathing techniques that you can use when you need to feel revitalized.

Your therapists will also teach you specific yoga postures that can be used to address your specific concerns.

Meditation techniques promote mindfulness, which can help you to identify negative thought patterns as they arise. Being mindful of your thoughts helps you to address the root cause of emotional disturbances. Meditation also promotes relaxation which makes it a great addition to your morning routine. You can also use meditation in the evenings to relieve stress after work and to promote better sleep. Guided imagery is another useful technique that’s used for relaxation.

Yoga Therapy


Does Yoga Therapy Work?

Studies show that yoga therapy is effective for a range of physical and emotional issues. While yoga therapy can be used to reduce the symptoms that are associated with various mental health conditions, it can also be used to manage any symptoms that you continue to experience. The techniques can be used to identify the root cause of the symptoms so that you can improve the quality of your life.

Implementing a self-care plan is important during the healing process and yoga practices are a valuable tool that can be used to maintain emotional well-being. Incorporating self-care practices into your daily routine can help you to learn to love yourself and accept yourself for who you are.

What Kinds of Concerns is Yoga Therapy Best For?

Yoga therapy is useful in the treatment of depression as well as anxiety. Studies have also shown that it may be effective in helping people who are suffering from posttraumatic stress.

Children with autism may also find emotional relief from participating in yoga therapy sessions.

Yoga therapy is used in the treatment of substance abuse. Yoga has a positive effect on the areas of the mind that are prone to addiction. Not only is yoga therapy useful in the treatment of mental health issues, these techniques can help to prevent emotional issues from developing.

Yoga therapy is suitable for all age groups and experience levels.

How Are Yoga Therapy Specialists Trained?

The Biomedical Yoga Trust, as well as the International Association of Yoga Therapists, plays a role in maintaining consistent yoga therapy standards. Yoga therapists can receive training and certification from IAYT accredited programs.

Training for Certified Yoga Therapists is offered at the American Viniyoga Institute and the YogaLife Institute. Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy also offers training in this type of therapy.

During the training, practitioners learn more about yoga philosophy and techniques. They develop an in-depth understanding of therapeutic yoga techniques.  Anatomy, physiology, and nutrition are also covered during these programs. The training covers basic first aid as well as the fundamentals of business ethics. Therapists who complete IAYT accredited programs are expected to uphold high ethical standards.

Concerns/Limitations of Yoga Therapy

While yoga therapy has many benefits, it’s not a quick fix. This therapy has the most impact when it’s used consistently over time. It’s a gentle approach which is well-known for its long-term effects on maintaining emotional well-being.

If you’re suffering from severe mental health issues, its best to use yoga therapy in conjunction with the treatment recommended by your healthcare professional. Yoga therapy should be started slowly and increased over time.

If you have a physical injury, yoga therapy may not be the right choice for you as it involves physical postures. While there are physical ailments that can prevent you from using yoga therapy, the sessions can be adapted to match your physical capabilities. In some cases, your yoga therapist may start you off with one or two physical postures or one breathing exercise before adding more activities to your session. This approach helps you to build your fitness levels and physical capabilities over time.

Important Practitioners in Yoga Therapy

Yoga therapy evolved from the practices of yoga which extend back thousands of years. The original yoga practices were developed in India. Yoga was introduced to the United States during the 1800s and its use in therapy can be attributed to research conducted by Dr. Dean Ornish.  Dr. Ornish’s research showed how a healthy lifestyle program could be used in the treatment of heart disease. He used therapeutic yoga in his lifestyle program and the research revealed the benefits of these techniques.

Dr. Ornish’s program was approved by insurance companies during 1990 which paved the way for yoga therapy to be integrated into the medical field. Dr. Ornish is a note-worthy physician and researcher who has played an important role in the development of yoga therapy. He founded the Preventative Medicine Research Institute and he works as a Clinical Professor of Medicine. Dr. Ornish advocates for a holistic approach to overall health which includes yoga as well as psychosocial support.

How to Find a Therapist

The best way to find a yoga therapist is through a recommendation from someone that you know. However, a quick google search can also help you to find yoga therapists and studios in your area.

Yoga therapists are based in medical institutes as well as in private practice. You can even find practitioners who offer online sessions. The benefit of online sessions is that you can complete the therapy from the comfort of your own home. It also means that if you find a yoga therapist you would like to work with and they aren’t located nearby, you can still benefit from their treatment.  IAYT is a great resource if you’re looking for a certified yoga therapist.

What Should I be Looking for in an LMHP?

Yoga therapy is relatively new which means that it lacks an official certification process. This means that it’s important to look for a yoga therapist who has completed training that is accredited with the IAYT. When you’re searching for the right therapists, you’ll need to know that there are different types of practitioners to choose from.

If you’re looking for assistance with mental health concerns it can be beneficial to look for a psychotherapist or psychologist who offers yoga therapy.

Experience is another consideration when you’re choosing a therapist. Look for therapists who are highly skilled at listening.

Empathy is another important attribute to look for in your therapist. In order for you to obtain maximum benefit from the sessions, your therapist needs to be able to create a non-judgemental space where you feel comfortable expressing yourself.

Questions to Ask a Potential Therapist

  • Are you accredited with the International Association of Yoga Therapists?
  • What are your qualifications and training?
  • Do have experience treating my specific mental health concern?
  • Do you offer online sessions?

Yoga therapy combines ancient techniques with modern research to offer you a unique experience. The physical postures and breathing exercises that you’ll learn during the sessions can be incorporated into your daily routine to achieve and maintain emotional well-being.


  1. https://www.yogajournal.com/teach/an-introduction-to-yoga-therapy
  2. https://www.goodtherapy.org/learn-about-therapy/types/yoga-therapy
  3. https://www.viniyoga.com/about/what-is-yoga-therapy/
  4. http://yogatherapyconference.com/what_is_yoga_therapy.html
  5. https://yogainternational.com/article/view/The-Distinction-Between-a-Yoga-Class-and-a-Yoga-Therapy-Session/
  6. https://yogatherapy.health/about-iayt/

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