The Rise of Yoga Therapy and Understanding their Scope of Practice

Incorporating breath and physical postures to manage your emotions has been an age-old technique since the time of Freud. He believed that to understand the inner workings of his patients, he had to observe the physical cues or clues the body was giving off. This signifies that the concept of the mind-body relationship exists. More importantly that it needs to be utilized. Today, as yoga teachers, We have become custodians of the mind-body connection–but is it enough to solely keep our lessons in the classroom or with private students? No, at least not for me. 

First of all, yoga has the power to unlock a plethora of emotions in all of us. A class setting may not be sufficient for our students to assimilate the experience. Creating a safer environment for these individuals to work out trauma, fears, etc. becomes a priority.  “Yoga therapy adapts the practice of Yoga to the needs of people with specific or persistent health problems not usually addressed in a group class. As defined by Larry Payne, Ph.D. of Samata Yoga Center. While this facet of the yoga industry is relatively new, it is far from unapproved. The IAYT, the International Association of Yoga Therapists has been the governing body–accrediting educational programs and full courses for aspiring yoga therapists since 1989. With 158 accredited schools from all over the world and counting, This profession is here to stay.  

What does it take to be a yoga therapist? What would my career path be to be a yoga therapist?  In this article, we will be discussing the scope and practice of Yoga therapy so that you might have a better idea if this is the road for you. Let’s get to it!

The Practice of Yoga Therapy: Is it the right move for you? 

What is the Scope of Practice for a yoga therapist?

Discussing SOP of yoga is vital for yoga therapists to create a framework for the extent as well as limits of your practice for professional and legal reasons. While most of us as yoga teachers want to help our students as much as we can, we must acknowledge that this is simply not possible. According to the IAYT scope of practice, a yoga therapist may assess clients, develop and implement a therapeutic plan, most importantly, evaluate a client according to the yoga therapy framework. Yoga therapists cannot diagnose a physical or psychological disorder, change a client’s nutrition or lifestyle, apply physical manipulation, or advertise that you are a healthcare professional. While YT’s work with professionals at some capacity they are not governed under the HC system.  

Text The Rise of Yoga Therapy and Understanding their Scope of Practice

What results can we see in yoga therapy? 

A study conducted by Elizabeth Viscgelia and Stephen Lewis on yoga therapy as an adjunctive treatment for schizophrenia found that after undergoing an 8-week therapeutic yoga program, adults with schizophrenia showed significant improvements in psychopathology and quality of life. This earned  Elizabeth Viscgelia an interview with TIME magazine. She claims “The endocrine system and parasympathetic nervous system are out of whack in schizophrenia patients; yoga affects these systems.” While yoga therapy is not a fast-forward button to optimum health for the mind and body, we will see improvement over an undetermined period.  

What are the prerequisites to becoming a yoga therapist?

Yoga therapy is not like nursing school. You do not need to take an advanced anatomy and physiology class or organic chemistry at your local college. You will need to have an accredited 200-hour teacher training with a few teaching years under your belt. Is it necessary to have all these hours? No. However, I would advise it. You need time to get acquainted with yourself in a yoga teaching capacity. The course is not cheap and you wouldn’t want to be halfway into a course only to realize it's not your calling. Read about what you will learn as a yoga therapist, who your clients will be as a yoga therapist, would you want them as your clients? Connect with other YT’s and learn what a day in their life is like. All your questions should be answered without having to pay an arm and a leg for them. 

If you feel that this is your calling, then yes. There is a future in Yoga therapy for you. 

How long does the course take until I become a yoga therapist? 

If you take the whole course as you would in university, it would take 1 ½ academic years depending on the school. Other formats ease the bulk of the course time by dividing the teachings into week-long individual blocks. This way, you can complete the course over some years. These days, especially with a pandemic among us, acquiring education has become remarkably flexible. In short, you get what you put in.     

Can I make a career out of yoga therapy? 

The career of yoga therapy is quite nuanced that there is no short answer. The road to the YT path takes commitment. It will be as if you went to university. It is an expensive course that has a starting price of over $7,000 - $20,000. Not an easy decision to make nor is it easy to let go of that kind of money. So you have to be sure that you have the patience to see this journey through, knowing that you will be dealing with clients with serious afflictions for your professional life. That means having the emotional stamina to involve yourself in their cases. If you feel that this is your calling, then yes. There is a future in Yoga therapy for you. 

There you have it. A short FAQ’s on what it takes to be a yoga therapist. Being a former Registered Nurse, This aspect of yoga has always fascinated me because I’ve always loved working with patients. I’ve been privy to witness actual miracles happen before me. I would like to continue being so now that I’m a yoga teacher. Perhaps it will happen someday. I do know that if I feel this way, then most likely, many might share my sentiment. If this is you, dear reader, then I hope this article has served you well. 

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Jennifer Yusi
My name is Jennifer Yusi. Vinyasa/Aerial yoga instructor, writer for Momoyoga, founder of I believe in the fusion of yoga with different forms of movement. In my downtime, I like hiking, painting and karaoke.

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