Yoga Therapy Training: Everything You Need To Know Before Beginning Your Training

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Most people come to a yoga therapy training having already completed a 200hr yoga training which means that they have some background in teaching and the methodology behind it.

Yoga therapy training tends to focus on providing you with the knowledge and skills needed to provide specific groups of people and ailments bespoke yoga programs. Contemporary yoga therapy takes elements of both psychotherapy and physical therapy to create a holistic approach.

According to The Minded Institute “yoga therapy is the application of yoga practices to alleviate physical and mental health conditions with a view of promoting self-care and encouraging overall well-being.”

In this article we’ll take a look at everything you need to know before you begin your training as well as:

  • What is a yoga therapist?
  • What can yoga therapy help with?
  • What happens in a yoga therapy session?
  • What happens in yoga therapy training?
  • What is a typical yoga therapy salary?
woman in sitting meditation posture with the sunset behind

What is yoga therapy?

If you’re interested in working with students one-on-one or in small groups to address specific health issues then yoga therapy training may be for you.

You might think that all yoga is yoga therapy and an important part of mental and physical well-being. You’re right, however, yoga therapy has a specific approach to yoga practices based on scientific research to help students deal with and improve mental and physical health concerns and diseases.

The term and practice of “Yoga Therapy” was first used fairly recently. Swami Kuvalyananda is one of the pioneers of yoga therapy as we know it now. He was working in the 1920s to try and measure the changes in a person’s mental and physical well-being through yoga.

He was responsible for bringing researchers into the yoga field and made it possible for yoga teachers to begin using yoga as a prescription for certain ailments and conditions.

Yoga therapy has become increasingly popular since the work of Kuvalyananda. There are some doctors supporting the work of yoga therapy who are prescribing it to their patients for both mental and physical conditions.  

In fact, it’s not just yoga teachers training to become yoga therapists, but some doctors are too.

 “Yoga therapy is a self-empowering process, where the care-seeker, with the help of the Yoga therapist, implements a personalized and evolving Yoga practice, that not only addresses the illness in a multi-dimensional manner, but also aims to alleviate his/her suffering in a progressive, non-invasive and complementary manner. – TKV Desikachar

Yoga therapy uses traditional and more modern approaches to yoga which are generally backed by medical science to have beneficial health effects. Yoga is used to deal with things such as back pain or even PTSD.

man in downward dog on yoga mat in yoga studio with woman giving shoulder adjustment

What are the kinds of things that yoga therapy can help with?

Yoga therapy can be used to treat a wide variety of ailments and diseases including:

  • High Blood Pressure
  • Back pain
  • Diabetes
  • Asthma
  • Parkinson’s
  • Musculoskeletal issues
  • Cancer
  • Brain injury
  • Alzheimer’s
  • HIV
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • Heart Disease
  • Osteoporosis
  • Autoimmune Diseases
  • Arthritis
  • Obesity

It is also used to help people cope with mental health issues such as:

  • Depression
  • Stress
  • PTSD
  • Anxiety
  • Eating Disorders
  • ADHD
  • Schizophrenia
  • Post-Natal Depression
  • Addiction
a stack of white stones

What happens in a yoga therapy session?

A typical yoga therapy session will include:

  • yoga postures – the yoga therapist will teach the student a number of poses based on their condition or goals.
  • breathing exercises – the yoga therapist will instruct some techniques which range from balancing the breath to energizing.
  • relaxation – savasana or relaxation will be included to help down-regulate the nervous system.
  • meditation – meditation and mindfulness are used as a form of relaxation and present-moment awareness.
  • selfpractice regime – yoga therapy comes with homework! It is part of the practice that students adhere to self-practice and don’t rely on the teacher.

Yoga therapy sessions usually begin with an assessment of needs and a yoga therapist comes up with a plan for daily practice. On average a minimum of six sessions is recommended to begin with.

Sessions typically include yoga postures, breathing techniques, and meditation and the yoga will be a compliment to other medications and modalities.

While there are sessions together it is assumed that the student will practice by themselves because part of yoga therapy is about empowering the student to take care of their own well-being.

Yoga therapy can be practiced in different formats and sessions often take place one-on-one or in small groups.

woman lying on green yoga mat with eyes closed. a person is sitting crossed legs above her head, with their hands cupping the side of her face.

What happens in yoga therapy training?

Yoga therapy training is likely to be far more in-depth in both hours and knowledge than a foundational teacher training.

Many courses will be up to 800 hours long and require a significant amount of self-study.

Courses will tend to include a foundational knowledge base in yoga therapy as well as in-depth anatomy of poses and the body’s structure. Pranayama, subtle anatomy and mudra will serve to complement the methodology of postures and there will likely be modules on how to apply yoga therapy in both medical and mental health situations.

Yoga therapy courses will provide you with a background of the history of yoga therapy as well as looking at its application as a therapeutic tool. Biomedical knowledge necessary for working with medical conditions will provide you with the tools to create courses and 1-2-1 plans for individuals.

You’re likely to explore somatic movement modalities as well as yoga nidra (guided relaxation) to help you provide students with alternatives to traditional yoga asanas (postures).

You will learn basic knowledge about some of the conditions you are likely to work with such as diabetes, Parkinson’s, autoimmune disorders, and Alzheimer’s. This will enable you to work with students more effectively and with greater knowledge of common disorders and diseases.

You will also gain foundational knowledge on yoga therapy for the application of mental health conditions. This will include conditions such as addiction, depression, and anxiety. You will likely learn aspects of Eastern philosophy fused with Western psychology.

Overall, a yoga therapy course should provide you with a solid base of knowledge in anatomy, physiology, and the mind. This may include Eastern approaches such as mudras, nadis, and chakras as well as more modern outlooks such as polyvagal theory.  Links to Ayurveda will also be explored.

woman sitting on yoga mat reading a textbook

What will I learn by the end of yoga therapy training?

All courses vary and will likely have a different approach, however ,you can expect to come out of the course with a firm understanding in:

  • Therapeutic yoga
  • Yogic philosophy
  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Diet and nutrition
  • Some understanding of medicalized care (mental and physical health)
  • First aid
  • How to run a yoga therapy business

Where to find a yoga therapy course?

Most yoga therapy qualifications are labeled CYT (certified yoga therapist). As yoga therapy is still in its infancy, there is no formal certification process.

Some of the most popular and sought-after programs include:

How do you know which training to choose?

So you’ve decided that you want to undertake yoga therapy training. There are many approaches out there and it’s important to do your research so that you have a good understanding of what the course entails.

A good place to start is to ensure that the course is accredited by the International Association of Yoga Therapists.

Most courses will be run by a lead teacher and it’s worth finding out what their background is. Some will be yoga therapists, others might have a background in psychology, medicine, or physical therapy. The important thing is to do your research and make sure that the course values resonate with you.

Word of mouth is also a great resource. Try and speak to some people who have done the course and get some insider information from them.

woman sitting in white room wearing all white clothes holding a singing bowl

What is a typical yoga therapy salary?

There is no one answer to this question. Yoga therapists tend to get paid by the hour rather than a paid salary. Your location, experience, and skill level will affect how much you get paid.

The average price of a yoga therapy session can vary from anywhere between $30 and $100.

Yoga therapy training – all you need to know roundup

  • Yoga therapy training is a wonderful thing to do if you are looking to deepen your understanding and knowledge of a more medicalized approach to yoga.
  • All yoga therapy courses are different, but the majority are accredited by the International Association of Yoga Therapists.
  • Yoga therapy training courses will provide a comprehensive and in-depth look at anatomy, physiology, philosophy, medical and mental health conditions, and ethics.
  • Yoga therapy can help people to cope with mental and physical disorders.
  • Yoga therapy salaries vary from $30 to $100 per hour.
  • Most courses are around 800 hours of learning, and they are often run in a hybrid capacity.
  • Yoga therapy requires the student to take responsibility for their own well-being and practice on their own as well as with a teacher.

Want to find out more?

If learning about yoga therapy training has got you interested in all things yoga therapy then why not check out this article on What is Yoga Therapy? An Integrative Approach to Wholeness.

Photo of author
Sarah is a Brighton-based yoga teacher and teacher trainer with a passion for teaching self-inquiry and rest.

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