Understanding Yoga Therapy

A one-on-one complementary alternative medical approach to health and healing.

PeaceYoga Therapy, or yoga chikitsa, is an ancient therapeutic adaptation of yoga used to suit the condition of the individual to help address suffering (dukha) at all levels of the being. This approach to health and healing has gradually evolved, and modern day Yoga Therapy functions independently, as well as a complementary approach to allopathic medicine (modern day western medicine), in supporting health and healing. The International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT) defines Yoga Therapy as the process of empowering individuals to progress toward improved health and wellbeing through the application of the teachings and practices of yoga.

Western Medicine, or allopathic, practitioners, such as Doctors, Nurses, Physical Therapists, etc., focus on diseases and injuries, and their cures. Yoga Therapists may also work in a curative direction, the primary focus of Yoga Therapy is to work with the individual who has the disease — helping them find greater balance at the levels of the mind, body, and spirit to help reduce suffering. Through the thoughtful and intelligent application of Yoga practices, individuals can gain insight and confidence in the fact that they can improve their condition through their actions. In most cases, this is not a substitute for medical attention, but a complementary approach to improve outcomes at all levels of the being.

Yoga Therapists typically consider the five koshas of the individual including the physical body, the energy body (breath body), emotional body, wisdom or witness body, and the spiritual or bliss body with the understanding that imbalances in any of these layers can result in disease and suffering. A variety of yogic practices, including asana (postures), breath work (pranayama), meditation, intention setting, and affirmations may be utilized to promote greater balance at any of these layers. My Yoga Therapy teacher, Joseph Le Page, M.A., Integrative Yoga Therapy, defines Yoga Therapy as the “facet of the ancient science of Yoga that focuses on health and wellness at all levels of the person: physical, psychological, and spiritual. Yoga therapy focuses on the path of Yoga as a healing journey that brings balance to the body and mind through an experiential understanding of the primary intention of Yoga: Awakening of Spirit, our essential nature.”

Recently the International Association of Yoga Therapy (IAYT) set standards for accrediting Yoga Therapy training programs. These programs must meet standards including at least 600 hours of advanced Yoga Therapy training. Beginning the summer of 2016, the association will begin certifying individual Yoga Therapists (C-IAYT). The basic standards for this certification will be graduation from an accredited Yoga Therapy program.

I have been fortunate enough to study Yoga Therapy through Integrative Yoga Therapy, which is an accredited Yoga Therapy Program. I have completed my initial 500 hundred hours of training, and will be grandfathered in as a C-IAYT when the certification process begins. Despite my opportunity to be grandfathered, I continue my Yoga Therapy training to meet the highest standards and expect to complete this process by November 2016. As a professional Physical Therapist of 20+ years, I feel so fortunate to have discovered this complementary therapy, and to be able to make it available to the residents of the Oxford Hills of Maine.

By Katey Hawes, owner and founder of Posabilities, Inc., physical therapist, registered yoga teacher, and yoga therapist.  You may find her at Facebook.com/posabilities4u, Twitter @Posabilities4u, and .