What is Viniyoga?
Part Five – Yoga vs. Yoga Therapy

Although the distinction may seem subtle, it is important for the yoga student and the yoga therapy client to be clear about their intentions when seeking out yoga professionals.  It is also extremely important for yoga professionals – whether teachers or therapists – to be clear about the intention and orientation of their work, honest about their level of training and understanding, and realistic about their skill sets.  Although both yoga teaching and yoga therapy are valid and valuable professions, they are different.  It is important that we as a yoga community become clear about these distinctions.

Yoga therapy has become the new buzzword of the yoga world.  What is it really?  Isn’t yoga therapeutic in general?  What is the difference between a yoga class and a yoga therapy session?

To illustrate the difference, let’s break it down, differentiating between a yoga class and a yoga therapy session, and a yoga teacher and a yoga therapist.

Yoga Class vs. Yoga Therapy Session

People attend yoga classes for a variety of reasons but they usually start out seeking exercise within a community.  Along the way, they may discover that yoga has more to offer that just a physical workout; they may find an interest in pranayama, meditation or chanting.  Yoga classes offer students a variety of techniques so they can learn different ways to explore this ancient health care maintenance system.

A yoga therapy session is more specific: it is all about you and your issue(s). A yoga therapist’s goal is to investigate your specific symptoms and offer personalized solutions for controlling and/or mitigating them.

Yoga Teacher vs. Yoga Therapist

A yoga teacher should be trained in both the art and science of yoga as well as effective teaching methods.  A good yoga teacher knows how to assess the needs of the students in any given class and teaches techniques that will be of interest to that group as well as enhancing their general knowledge of yoga.

A yoga therapist is a yoga teacher who further trains to assess the needs of and determine an intervention for an individual.  Yoga therapy training involves in-depth study of a range of conditions along with the corresponding therapeutic interventions.

Let’s look at an example.  You have developed low back pain that often keeps you up at night.  Attending a gentle yoga class helps to ease that pain for a while as you learn to coordinate your breath to movement.  However, you are still not finding enough relief to be able to sleep well at night.  You go to visit a yoga therapist, who asks you a variety of questions about your life, your work, your habits, and your diet, and works over a period of time to develop a personal practice that will directly address the specific, current issues that are preventing you from feeling relief.

You can see the important but distinctive roles that either professional may play in helping you to utilize the ancient tools of yoga to feel better.

The American Viniyoga Institute (AVI) provides training for both yoga teachers and yoga therapists.  The International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT) has recently developed a certification process for Yoga Therapy certification programs as well as current and aspiring yoga therapists and the American Viniyoga Institute is proud to be among the first schools to be certified.

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