In Part I of this series, I defined yoga and what the role of a yoga teacher is. If you haven't had a chance to read that first, I suggest you do so--here is the link.
In this blog post, part II, I will more clearly differentiate yoga and yoga therapy.
The International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT), the governing body of the yoga therapy profession defines yoga therapy as, “The process of empowering individuals to progress towards greater health and well-being through the application of the teachings and practices of yoga.”
You just read that sentence and are probably thinking, “Hmm…well that doesn’t sound much different that the goal of yoga…”
You would be right.
Let’s further distinguish yoga and yoga therapy….
Furthermore, IAYT states, “Yoga Therapy is founded on the basic principle that intelligent practice can positively influence the direction of change within the human dimensions (mind-body-spirit)…the goals of yoga therapy include, eliminating, reducing, and/or managing symptoms that cause suffering; improving function; helping to prevent the occurrence or re-occurrence of underlying causes of illness; and moving toward improved health and well-being.”
The above paragraph is great for understanding the philosophy and theory behind yoga therapy but let me break this down for you a little further in a way that is practical and easily understood.
One of the primary difference between yoga teachers and yoga therapists is their level of training and the intention of those specific trainings/professions.
Yoga teachers are trained in yogic practices and philosophy, how to guide a class full of individuals through specific styles of yoga and some training in basic anatomy—the ultimate intention of these trainings is simply to be able to teach yoga classes.
The training that I received as a part of my Master’s degree included classes in anatomy/kinesiology, physiology/pathology, biomedicine, psychology, neuroscience, classes on the therapist/client relationship, and clinical rotations. As you can see in looking at this curriculum, it is a lot more clinically focused; similar to what other health professionals would receive.
So…what really is the difference between a yoga teacher and a yoga therapist?
In part one, I stated that yoga teachers simply teach the practices and principles of yoga. As a yoga therapist, I use those same practices and principles of yoga that a yoga teacher teaches and apply them to each client individually for a specific therapeutic purpose and to achieve a specific therapeutic result. Therefore, in working with a client as a yoga therapist, I integrate both the knowledge that I received in graduate school as well as my knowledge of available scientific-evidence to inform my clinical decision-making as a yoga therapist.
Lastly, it is important to note that when looking for a yoga therapist you look for the post-nominal letters, ‘C-IAYT,' which means the practitioner is a certified yoga therapist by IAYT—this is not to be confused with CYT (Certified Yoga Teacher) as mentioned in part one.
Ultimately, having the C-IAYT designation means that the individual has gone through all the proper didactic and clinical training and has agreed to follow IAYTs scope of practice, code of ethics, and other professional standards—this guarantee’s that you’ll receive the best care possible when working with a yoga therapist.
It is my sincere hope that this clears up any confusion that you may have had in regards to the differences between yoga & yoga therapy and between the differing roles of yoga teachers & yoga therapists.
Thanks for reading!