Yoga therapy is an emerging complementary and alternative health care option that is gaining credibility and recognition in western medical practices as yoga research expands. Numerous controlled scientific studies clearly show that yoga, including meditation, physical poses and breath control, creates positive physiological changes and improves human health and wellbeing. Any practice of yoga has potential therapeutic effects, however, yoga as therapy seeks to address a specific disorder or often a multitude of dysfunctions with specific practices in order to bring more balance to the whole person.
Using yoga as a therapeutic tool means the individual, or patient, begins to take responsibility for their own healing, actively participating in a regular practice and cultivating an awareness of breath, body and mind. This is in sharp contrast to other medical interventions or therapies that are given to or performed on the patient, such as medications, surgical procedures, even massage therapy. Many of these modalities are effective and necessary but they do not give the individual any direct control of their own health and they often have unwanted side effects. Fortunately the regular practice of yoga has many beneficial side effects. For instance performing daily poses coordinated with breathing to stretch the lower back and decrease pain may also lower blood pressure and reduce anxiety.
As the field of yoga therapy grows concerns are arising regarding the qualifications of yoga therapists. The International Association of Yoga Therapists has been actively and thoroughly developing standards for the education and training of yoga therapists. Many yoga therapists have a medical background in addition to their yoga training.
Becca Impello is a licensed physical therapist with extensive yoga training and many years experience teaching yoga to groups and individuals. She does not currently meet the IAYT’s training standards for using the designation Yoga Therapist. Becca considers her work to be the application of therapy as yoga and will be ongoing in her own yoga training.