Differences Between A Yoga Therapist & A Yoga Teacher – All You Need To Know!

Have you been curious about what exactly yoga therapy is, who performs yoga therapy, and when it is more advantageous to see a yoga therapist instead of a yoga teacher and why? If so, this is for you! If you want to get more clarity on the difference between a yoga teacher and a yoga instructor, keep reading! 

As you may already know, yoga is a holistic approach to health and well-being that can be used to improve physical, mental, and emotional health. And in fact, there are many different types of yoga, each with its own unique benefits. Some of the more popular types of yoga are Kundalini, Vinyasa, Hatha, Ashtanga, and Yin just to name a few.

When most people are first introduced to yoga we are introduced to the physical asana practice, for the most part. This is also called or thought of as the movement practice or performing yoga postures. We perhaps get into yoga for its many physical benefits, and while it is true that yoga is a great movement practice, it is actually so much more than that. In this article we are exploring yoga as a therapy overseen by a yoga therapist.

Read on to explore more about the emerging field of yoga therapy, yoga therapy benefits, and how yoga therapists are different than yoga teachers based on yoga therapists' knowledge of how to use yoga as a prescription to treat various ailments.

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What makes yoga therapy different than other types of yoga

Yoga therapy is a rising field that bridges the gap between yoga and health care systems. According to Ina Stephens academic review of medical yoga therapy, “medical yoga also incorporates appropriate breathing techniques, mindfulness, and meditation in order to achieve the maximum benefits. Multiple studies have shown that yoga can positively impact the body in many ways, including helping to regulate blood glucose levels, improve musculoskeletal ailments and keeping the cardiovascular system in tune.”

How is yoga therapy defined?

According to the International Association of Yoga Therapists, there are multiple ways to define the term yoga therapy, but for the sake of simplicity, they have defined it as “Yoga therapy is the process of empowering individuals to progress toward improved health and well-being through the application of the teachings and practices of Yoga.”

What is the job description of a yoga therapist?

Yoga therapists use the principles of yoga to assess clients with physical, mental, and emotional health conditions and create a treatment plan to address their clients' needs. 

Yoga therapists may work with individuals or groups of people and design yoga programs with positive therapeutic outcomes that manage or reduce their symptoms as the goal.

What are the benefits of working with a yoga therapist vs. a yoga teacher?

A client seeking a yoga therapist is seeking something different than typical yoga classes with a yoga teacher. There are many benefits of working with a yoga therapist whose training has gone far beyond a typical yoga teacher's.

Yoga therapists create personalized programs that meet more specific health needs, whereas yoga teachers typically lead yoga classes oftentimes using pre-planned sequences.

Yoga therapists have a deeper understanding of anatomy and physiology, and have more experience teaching yoga in general. For the most part, a pre-requisite to enrolling in a yoga therapy course is already holding a 200 hour yoga teaching certification as well as having completed a minimum number of actually teaching yoga too.

The qualification standards for yoga therapists are high, and the required educational hours to become a yoga therapist are extensive.

Gary Kraftsow's article on Yoga International elaborates on how yoga therapists take a more comprehensive approach with their clients to address health needs versus leading yoga classes through a series of postures as a yoga teacher does.

What are the rates of a yoga therapist vs a yoga teacher?

A yoga therapist’s rates will be much higher compared to working with a yoga teacher on a drop-in-class basis. The price of yoga therapy sessions may also vary dramatically based on location, like rural or city, for example. A yoga therapy client may expect to pay a similar fee to see a yoga therapist to that of an Acupuncturist or other holistic practitioner.

A yoga teacher offering private in-home classes will cost much more than attending classes in studio, and their fees may vary based on the experience and certifications that the instructor holds. And again, prices may be affected by location as well.

Is becoming a yoga therapist worth it?

If you feel tapped out on your potential to change your students' lives as a yoga teacher, perhaps it’s an ideal time to consider that next step in your evolution. Becoming a yoga therapist is definitely worth it for those yoga teachers who are feeling the call to move into more of a therapeutic provider role with their students.

Yoga Therapists are able to look at a person’s entire life and apply the principles of yoga to help bring their clients into a better state of balance and well-being.

How do I become a yoga therapist?

If you're interested in becoming a yoga therapist, first, you will need to have completed 200 hour yoga teacher training, at a minimum. Some yoga therapy courses will also require a minimum number of teaching hours under your belt to join the program as well.

Once you've completed your 200-hr yoga teacher training, you'll then need to complete a yoga therapy training program in addition to your YTT. These yoga therapy programs will vary in length, partly depending on if you have your 300 hour yoga teaching certification or not. If you're currently a RYT-200, then yoga therapy training will be more hours than if you are currently a RYT-500.

Once you've completed yoga therapy training, you can become certified through a professional organization, such as the International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT) if you have completed your training with a IAYT approved school and meet all of the other requirements.

Certification is not required to practice yoga therapy, but it will be nearly impossible to get personal clients or a job in the field without certification.

This goes for teaching yoga as well, you do not need to be certified by law, but to be employable, you will need to prove that you have completed a 200 hour TTC (teacher training course) so that your prospective employers know you have the skills and knowledge required to safely and effectively teach yoga. I imagine that we all know this by now!

It is most ideal to attend your yoga therapy education with a school that is also a Yoga Alliance RYS (registered yoga school). This is because, with some programs, some of the additional hours of training you will complete in yoga therapy training can qualify you to become a RYT-500 (Registered Yoga Teacher 500 hours) if you are attending training with a Yoga Alliance Registered Yoga School.

↓Great IAYT approved online yoga therapy courses you should look into↓

Yoga Therapy Training
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Yoga Therapy Training
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Are there online yoga therapy programs?

Yes, there are a few online yoga therapy programs offered by yoga schools and professional yoga therapy educational organizations. These programs typically include both self-paced and live-stream components to the course.

The two schools above, My Vinyasa Practice and Breathing Deeply, both offer remote yoga therapy training. You must be a certified 200 hour yoga teacher to apply.

Takeaway difference between yoga therapist and yoga teacher

As you can see, there is more than one difference between a yoga therapist and a yoga teacher, and yoga therapists can offer different therapies than yoga teachers can. Learn more about what yoga therapy is and the benefits of yoga therapy, while further delving into this fascinating field.

FAQ about yoga therapy

What is the role of a yoga therapist?

Yoga therapists create tailored protocols and prescribe specific regimens of postures, breathing exercises, and relaxation techniques to suit their patients' needs.

What does yoga therapy include?

Yoga therapy is a type of holistic therapy that incorporates asanas or yoga postures, pranayama or breathing exercises, meditation, and guided imagery to improve a person's overall health and feelings of well-being.

Some online yoga studios, online yoga teacher training programs, and brands that we write about may offer us a small commission should you decide to make a purchase or signup after reading our content. Thank you for enabling us to exist!


Heather is a Certified Yoga Teacher the visionary behind The Yogatique, her passion project. She created The Yogatique to help yogis & other growth-oriented individuals discover premium high quality trainings and classes in the yoga & wellness space. Heather is a RYT-200 and a practicing yogi of more than 15 years. She is also a global citizen who has been living abroad for 10 years. Her passions include health & fitness, studying healthspan & longevity, exploring the road less traveled, & SEO. Heather can be reached at heatherj@theyogatique.com, or you can connect with Heather on LinkedIn.

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