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Becoming a Yoga Therapist

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— January 15, 2019

Becoming a Yoga Therapist

  • "If you feel passion as a yoga teacher, this is the path to continue on." —Lisa James
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You enjoy teaching a class or two at your yoga studio, but somehow, it isn’t enough. You want to use yoga to help others live their healthiest lives—and to earn a reasonable living while doing so. One possible route is the relatively new discipline of yoga therapy. Standard teacher training is a prerequisite; to be certified by the International Association of Yoga Therapists (iayt. org), you then must take at least two years of coursework in subjects such as anatomy and physiology, and complete a clinical practicum. This allows you to help clients with specific concerns (chronic pain and mood issues are two biggies) using yoga postures along with breathing techniques, movement, meditation, and similar tools. The ultimate goal is to “give the body a voice,” says Stella Davie, PRYT, of Massapequa Park, New York. “We work with all the stresses trapped in the body— the pain, the grief, the loneliness—to make room for transformation.”

Therapists in this growing field use yoga to help clients deal with problems such as chronic pain

Yoga therapy is still early in the process of becoming a fully recognized profession. About 35 yoga therapy training programs are accredited by the IAYT, and at this point, “the field is self-regulating,” says Laurie Hyland Robertson, C-IAYT, of Yoga Therapy Today and the International Journal of Yoga Therapy. She says the IAYT is currently developing an “exam that would be a step toward the possibility of government licensure.” One of the profession’s biggest obstacles is that many people don’t know what yoga therapy is: In response, the IAYT has created an educational site, yogatherapy.health. Building a practice takes time. Robertson says, “It’s often mostly word of mouth. You get a couple of clients whose lives have been changed, and that’s all you need.” Ann Swanson, C-IAYT, says, “You have to diversify your income.” Swanson, the author of Science of Yoga (DK/Penguin), offers online therapy via Zoom or Skype through Ann Swanson Wellness in Denver, which she developed after realizing that “this is what was working for me.”

Swanson adds, “If you feel passion as a yoga teacher, this is the path to continue on.” —Lisa James

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