What Is The Difference Between A Yoga Therapist And 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 differences between a yoga teacher and a yoga therapist, 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.

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.”

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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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 often times 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, 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.

Many yoga schools offer 200-hour yoga teacher training programs that will give you the great basic yoga foundational understanding that you will build upon in yoga therapy training.

Once you've completed your 200-hr yoga teacher training, you'll then need to complete a yoga therapy training program separate from your YTT. These yoga therapy programs will vary in length, depending on if you have your 300 hour yoga teaching certification or not.

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 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) because with some programs, some of the additional hours of training you will complete 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.

Are there online yoga therapy programs?

Yes, there are a few online yoga therapy programs offered by yoga schools and professional organizations. These programs typically include both self-paced and live-streamed components. You must be a certified 200 hour yoga teacher to apply.

As you can see, yoga therapy is actually much different than the conventional kind of yoga classes yogis attend. Learn more about what yoga therapy is and the benefits of yoga therapy, while further delving into this fascinating field.

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

Yoga Therapy Training
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Yoga Therapy Training
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Heather is the visionary behind The Yogatique - her passion project. Heather is CYT-200 (with Aligned Yoga), a practicing yogi of more than 15 years, a global citizen, a life optimizer, and a lifelong learner. She created The Yogatique to assist yogis in finding premium online yoga teacher trainings & classes that are affordable and accessible to all.

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