What is Yoga Therapy? Part II

In a previous post, I discussed the difference between a yoga teacher and a yoga therapist and also I discussed some of the basic philosophy.

It is my intent in writing part two to offer you a greater understanding of this philosophy.

First, if you did not have a chance to read the first part, I would highly suggest it.

Pinciple #1: The human body is innately whole.

Within the philosophy of yoga is a deeply rooted belief that we are wholesome, multi-demensional beings--even in times of great weakness or chronic disease. Fortunately, modern science is beginning to recognize the interconnectedness between all parts of our being, physical, mental, social, and spiritual. The scientific word for this phenomena is: bio-psycho-social-spiritual.

Since everything in the human experience is interrelated, the health or disease of one area affects each of the other dimensions of being. Therefore, for true healing to take place, a holistic approach is paramount.

Principle #2: Each individual is unique.

Yoga therapy does not fit under the "one-size-fits-all" model. Each and every person experiences pain and/or disease differently, therefore, we as yoga therapists tailor treatment plans to fit the unique needs of each person.

Principle #3: Yoga is inherently self-empowering.

Often times in Western culture, doctors, nurses, and other medical professsionals are seen as "healers". In yoga therapy, the therapist provides a healing presence and a healing environment, but ultimately it is up to each individual to be an active participant in their own healing. The root of this self-empowerment arises not only from the healing environment that the yoga therapist provides but arises out of the integration of yoga philsophy into one's daily life.

Principle #4: Our state of mind is crucial to the healing process.

As eluded to in principle number one, the body, mind, and spirit is inextricably connected. What happens in the mind happens in the body, and vice versa. In an artilce entitled, The Yoga of Healing: Exploring Yoga's Holistic Model for Health and Well-Being the author states, "If a person is able to pay attention and is willing to try various practices, he or she does not have to be able to move the physical body at all in order to practice. Only the ability to focus and discipline the mind is essential to healing through yoga. By changing the quality of our state of mind, we can transform ourselves in a profound and positive way (Desikachar 19)."

With all this talk about healing, what does it mean in a yoga therapy context?

Healing does not mean curing. As yoga therapists, we do not cure or diagnose any disease processes. Healing refers to a shift in awareness that enables one to see life from a new perspective thus allowing them to have a greater quality of life.

A follow-up question to this may be, does yoga therapy focus on any particular patient population?

The short answer to this is no. Yoga therapists are trained with extensive medical knowledge to be able to understand many disease processes which enables them to work with a wide range of populations. It is up to each individual yoga therapist whether they want to have a general practice and work with a diverse population or whether they want to specialize in any particular area, for example, Yoga Therapy for Cancer, Yoga Therapy for Arthritis, or Yoga Therapy for Depression, etcetera.

It is my hope that this gives you a better idea of the principles of this field and how this practice can offer healing to those that seek yoga therapy.


Desikachar, K., Bragdon, L., & Bossart, C. (2005). The Yoga of Healing: Exploring Yoga's Holistic Model for Health and Well-Being. International Journal of Yoga Therapy, 15(1), 17-39.

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