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Key Distinctions: Yoga vs. Yoga Therapy & Yoga Teacher vs. Yoga Therapist, Part I


In the somewhat confusing maze that is the holistic health & integrative health/medicine communities, it is becoming more important to adequately define the roles of the practitioners within this greater community.

Before discussing the key distinctions between yoga and yoga therapy, it is important that we first define yoga.

The word yoga comes from the Sanskrit word ‘Yuj’ which translates as ‘Union’. Ultimately, the practice of yoga is about unifying mind-body-spirit and this is done through practicing the tools of yoga.

The truth is, yoga is mainly promoted as a form of exercise in our Western world and whereas yoga offers many physical/physiological benefits, that is just the tip of the ice-berg. Yoga ultimately is a mind-practice, an ancient form of psychotherapy one could argue. In fact, one of the great yogic texts known as the Bhagavad Gita defines yoga as, “Evenness of mind.”

How is evenness of mind achieved you ask?

By integrating the tools/practices of yoga into our daily lives.

Beyond the physical postures, referred to as asana, the practice of yoga bleeds into every single facet of our lives from the way that we think; to the way we interact in our relationships with others; to the way we treat ourselves on a daily basis.

Yoga is a lived practice, it involves your participation. The fact is, yoga is not just practiced on your yoga mat, it is practiced everywhere else, too.

Simply put, yoga is an ancient practice that promotes health and well-being and supports personal growth, change, and transformation.

In the Western world, yoga is primarily practiced in a group setting by a yoga teacher who has received anywhere between 200-500 hours of training in yoga.

It may seem somewhat erroneous to ask, “What is a yoga teacher?” Though in order for clarify and further distinguish these professions, it is an important question to ask.

A yoga teacher can easily be understood as someone who teaches the practices and principles of yoga.

After the teacher has completed their 200-hour or 500-hour teacher training they are considered a certified yoga teacher (CYT) and if the teacher decides to register with the organization known as the Yoga Alliance, a yoga teacher registry, they are considered to be a registered yoga teacher (RYT). Sometimes you will see E-RYT which means that that person is an experienced registered yoga teacher and has been teaching for thousands of hours.

Now, if yoga is focused on promoting overall health and well-being, what is yoga therapy?

Stay tuned for Part II to find out!


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