A woman providing Yoga Therapy for a woman

Yoga Therapy vs Yoga

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Yoga Therapy vs Yoga: Understanding the Differences

A woman providing Yoga Therapy for a woman
Have you heard of this thing called, yoga therapy? Maybe thought to yourself…isn’t all yoga therapeutic? To that I say YES! And yet…there is a distinction to be made about the differences between yoga and yoga therapy. There are less than 4,000 of us certified yoga therapists on the planet, so if you are unfamiliar…you are not alone.

Definition of Yoga Therapy

“Yoga therapy is the professional application of the principles and practices of yoga to promote health and well-being within a therapeutic relationship that includes personalized assessment, goal setting, lifestyle management, and yoga practices for individuals or small groups.” ~IAYT

Training Distinctions: Yoga Therapist vs Yoga Teacher

To become a yoga teacher, one completes a 200 hour teacher training. In order to become a yoga therapist, one completes an additional 800 hours to fulfill the requirement of 1,000 hours of training, which includes a mentorship practicum. The emphasis of each yoga therapy program varies, but all need to be accredited through IAYT [International Association of Yoga Therapists]. There is often a focus of both medical and mental health modalities, and all honor the teachings from a variety of yoga and spiritual traditions.

Levels of Training

Yoga Therapy vs Yoga - Levels of Training

The yoga therapy plan: a path to healing

Yoga therapy is often done one on one in a private session. A yoga therapist creates an individualized plan based on the client’s medical history and life story. This plan includes a wide range of mind/body practices, from postural and breathing exercises to deep relaxation and meditation. Yoga therapy tailors these to the health needs of the individual to empower them on the path to healing. Groups can also be led by a yoga therapist addressing a specific health care need, but is often capped at a number of participants.


Yoga as a modality to address physical and emotional pain has become a bit more mainstream. Some physicians have begun referring patients to yoga as a healing modality in lieu of pharmaceuticals. However, not all patients should jump right into any yoga studio and just any class! There are many styles of yoga which can be very overwhelming, and not all classes may be a beneficial option. Yoga therapy can provide that individuated approach that meets each person where they are, and provides a plan well suited with the individual needs in mind. If you are experiencing pain, physical and/or emotional, there are a variety of ways to incorporate a guided yoga practice into your daily lifestyle to find ease and comfort regardless of your prior experience and level of pain.
By Julie Shannon Williams, M. Ed, C-IAYT, Certified Yoga Therapist