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Yoga Therapy

Yoga Therapy

Introduction

The BWY are delighted to be able to offer you some of the best quality yoga therapy training in the country through the creation of exciting new partnerships with top quality yoga therapy schools. 

All the schools we endorse will have accreditation for comprehensive yoga therapy training (550+ hours) that has already been or are in the process of being approved by the British Council for Yoga Therapists (BCYT). The programmes we support are all led by BWY Yoga teachers who are also Yoga Therapists. This allows our community to expand and diversify without compromising on quality. 

If you are thinking about furthering your professional development, then yoga therapy could be the next step. A robust and nourishing training programme will not only enhance your already excellent teaching talent but will offer further training that will teach you the skills to become more clinically effective in a wide variety of conditions. If your lightbulb has switched on, read on and find out what yoga therapy is and what the training involves.







Isn’t all yoga therapeutic?

Yoga teachers and yoga therapists know from observation and experience that yoga is a powerful means of helping people feel better and grow stronger which meets most of the definition of a therapy. So "Isn’t all yoga therapeutic?” 

Yoga in a general class, can of course, be therapeutic and can lead to many health benefits. However, we are in a time when people teach themselves yoga via YouTube or Instagram and then there’s a much less predictable outcome. 

Therapeutic yoga is a broad sweep approach that promotes healthy living for all. Different styles appeal to different personalities but general yoga classes are not designed to deal with specific health issues because yoga teachers by and large, are not trained to work with clinical conditions so cannot and indeed, should not work prescriptively. 

What is Yoga Therapy?

Yoga Therapy is intentionally directed to a specific aim or aims in relation to a health condition, whether on a physical, psychological or spiritual level. 

Yoga Therapy uses a specialised approach that takes into account the individual, their abilities and needs so a predictable, beneficial outcome is much more likely. 

The therapist and client are jointly involved in a therapeutic process. A Yoga therapist learns skills in collaboration with the client through deep listening, and sensitivity and holds a safe space in which to empower the client into their own healing within the broad frame of yoga.

What do we mean by the word therapy? 

Therapy is a treatment that helps someone feel better, grow stronger and healthier especially after an illness and in times of mental and emotional stress.

The British Council for Yoga Therapy, who accredit yoga therapy training courses in the UK, use this brief definition: - "Yoga Therapy is the use of yoga where there is a specific health need or needs”.

The International Association of Yoga Therapists provide this: - "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.”

Disease is a disturbance that distracts the mind

Disease, vyādhi, is an antarāyāḥ in the Yoga Sutras and is seen as a disturbance which distracts the mind. As such, illness or dis-ease, moves, aya, and makes a gap, antara, in one’s practice, according to Śaṅkara. Disease, particularly long-term disease, is very likely to cause suffering, duḥkha, within one’s own body.  

Yoga therapy addresses vyādhi, whilst understanding the right action may be referral to a medical practitioner or for yoga therapy to complement on-going conventional treatment. 

Treating the person not just the condition

Yoga therapists look at a client’s health condition in relation to symptoms, possible sources and within the client’s abilities and situation. Krishnamacharya, the father of modern yoga but also highly skilled in yoga cikitsā (therapy), said "Modern medicine is based on a dead body anatomy, but we are dealing with a human being who is alive, who has emotions and intellect and with so many things happening.”  

How does it work?

Each health condition, such as a client presenting with neck pain with no underlying medical diagnosis, can have a variety of causes and be affected by many factors which are individual to that client - previous neck health, postural factors in their workplace, current levels of stress due to external factors, family health history etc. and so yoga therapy is always individual, even when working with the same condition. 

A yoga therapy practice might therefore be constructed of asana to bring suitable movement for that person to the neck and shoulders, pranayama to reduce the effects of stress, with mindfulness and meditation to access insight and wisdom. The therapist may also ask about ergonomic factors in the client’s workplace and well as discussing how this practice can be most successfully incorporated into the client’s time.

Different yoga tools are appropriate for different people. One person who is addressing a health condition exacerbated by stress may benefit most from pranayama, whereas another finds relaxation techniques more helpful and asanas work best for a third. 

Yoga therapy always looks at disease through interaction at the body and mind levels which can allow clients to better understand any disturbances in the mind or thoughts and how to reduce those. This may in turn, lead to deeper understandings for the client, sometimes with a spiritual element or aspects of deeper meaning.

Creating a collective effort for change – patient activation

Yoga therapy is a collaborative effort between therapist and client where the therapist provides and adjusts the yoga in partnership with the client who practices and experiences, feeds back and reflects. This allows the ongoing process to adapt and change as the client progresses in their process. 

The therapist’s gift is to work with the client with the interests of the client at heart. 

The client’s undertaking is to understand that they can change or influence their own health and healing. Understanding that our state of health is a dynamic system which can be influenced, is often a big realisation. 

Therapeutic intention

For yoga to be yoga therapy, the intention of both therapist and client is to use yoga for recovery from ill health, for an on-going health concern or an ailing spirit. This might sound obvious but worth saying because the line between yoga and yoga therapy can be indistinct, particularly for 1-to-1 yoga. 

In yoga therapy, the intention is mutually agreed although the practice will need changing or redesigning with time. A yoga therapist must act in the best interests of the client and "do no harm” and only progress, especially in personal and difficult areas, in a way that the client feels comfortable. 

It goes without saying that it may be necessary to refer the client to other professionals where the client is requesting therapy outside the therapist’s scope of practice. 

What a Yoga Therapy Training entails. 

A yoga therapy training is a big commitment – this profession is now recognised by many government and health organisations worldwide, including the BWY, as a professional career path for yoga teachers who wish to become confident and effective yoga therapists. 

Becoming a yoga therapist is an enriching personal journey as well as a professional undertaking which requires learning over a minimum of 18 months – 2 years. This allows time to develop a deep understanding, not only of the applications of yoga therapy with the help of a supervisor or mentor but also of yourself. 

Through practice sessions, observation of yoga therapists and receiving yoga therapy yourself, you will build your confidence as a professional and sensitive guide as well as develop business skills to promote your practice.

All Yoga Therapy courses listed on the BWY website, have been accredited or are being accredited by the British Council for Yoga Therapy (BCYT) and meet the stringent requirements of their core curriculum. 

Although many courses vary in their models and approaches, the BCYT accreditation process ensures quality and breadth of knowledge at level 3 (pre-university) and 4 (degree level) knowledge and skills.  

Course duration

Every training programme has a minimum of 550 hours of training. This can be broken down into 300 hours of blended learning which is a mixture of face to face and online contact, 250 hours of non-contact learning in the form of assignments, home study, reading and self-practice.

Assessments

All course attendance and assignments are assessed in a variety of ways by different training organisations. 

Case studies

All Yoga therapy programmes will require you to carry out case studies. The therapeutic relationship is the whole basis on which Yoga Therapy practice is built. 

You will develop therapeutic skills over time with the help of a mentor. You will be required to complete a minimum of three in-depth case studies to deepen your area of speciality and see clients at least 5 times.  
You can find the BCYT core curriculum here:  http://www.bcyt.co.uk/accreditation.php

Here are a few of the highlights of what the training entails:

Therapeutic relationship
Studying traditional texts from the yoga tradition, as well as modern texts on yoga therapy, research and studies with a variety of yoga models.
Knowledge and understanding of relevant anatomy, physiology, pathology, body systems
Planning programmes for individuals and small groups
Delivering appropriate practices that facilitate experiences in the spirit of yoga
Observation and evaluation of individual needs
Professional practice
Business skills
Opportunity to research and study 
Scope of practice and techniques
Personal and continuing professional development: 

CNHC (Complementary and Natural Health Council) 

Once qualified, you will be able to join the main regulating body for Yoga Therapy: The Complementary and Natural Health Council.

Here is a link to their website:

Which course is right for me?

Individual trainings may lean more towards one area of interest and give more weight to a specific way of learning or delivery so it’s worth doing your research and find a training that feels right.

Consider your intentions, talk to graduates and the people who run the training so you know you’re on the right path. Wherever it takes you, we hope you find what you are seeking.

Listed below are approved schools that wish to partner with the BWY. At the bottom of the page is a link that takes you to all the current yoga therapy courses on offer. 

If you have any questions or would like to be involved in this exciting new project, please contact Cathy Ainsworth at aglo@bwy.co.uk

Tarik Dervish
Barbara Dancer
Judy Sampath


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