What is Yoga Therapy?




Yoga therapy is the process of empowering individuals to progress toward improved health and wellbeing through the application of the teachings and practices of yoga.

--from IAYT website.




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Yoga is a scientific system of self-investigation, self-transformation, and self-realization that originated in India. The teachings of yoga are rooted in the Vedas and grounded in classical texts and a rich oral tradition. This tradition recognizes that the human being’s essential nature is unchanging awareness that exists in relationship to and identification with the changing phenomena of the empirical world.

The yoga tradition views humans as a multidimensional system that includes all aspects of body; breath; and mind, intellect, and emotions and their mutual interaction. Yoga is founded on the basic principle that intelligent practice can positively influence the direction of change within these human dimensions, which are distinct from an individual’s unchanging nature or spirit.The practices of yoga traditionally include, but are not limited to, asana, pranayama, meditation, mantra, chanting, mudra, ritual, and a disciplined lifestyle.


Yoga therapy is the appropriate application of these teachings and practices in a therapeutic context in order to support a consistent yoga practice that will increase self-awareness and engage the client/student’s energy in the direction of desired goals.The goals of yoga therapy include eliminating, reducing, or managing symptoms that cause suffering; improving function; helping to prevent the occurrence or re- occurrence of underlying causes of illness; and moving toward improved health and wellbeing. Yoga therapy also helps clients/students change their relationship to and identification with their condition.


The practice of yoga therapy requires specialized training and skill development to support the relationship between the client/student and therapist and to effect positive change for the individual.


Yoga therapy is informed by its sister science, Ayurveda.As part of a living tradition, yoga therapy continues to evolve and adapt to the cul- tural context in which it is practiced, and today, it is also informed by contemporary health sciences. Its efficacy is supported by an increasing body of research evidence, which contributes to the growing understanding and acceptance of its value as a therapeutic discipline.    (from IAYT.org)


“From IAYT’s perspective, yoga therapy is not “diagnosing and treating” health conditions. While it’s not easy to summarize a wide range of healing practices in just a few words, we might say yoga therapists “assess and educate” in order to “empower individuals to improve their health and wellbeing through the application of the teachings and practices of yoga”.   (John Kepner, from the IAYT.org site).


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Thoughts about yoga therapy from Doug Keller:

  1.  Yoga Therapy centers upon empowerment and in yoga therapy the client is the expert.
  1.  Yoga Therapy is relationship-and patient-centered.  It can be evidence informed but more importantly it is outcome based, as judged primarily by the client (and should of course be judged by the client in conjunction with medical consultation, in cases of recovery from injury or disease.)  The yoga therapist should be in a position to understand and appreciate medical advice, but is not in a position to give it--and should be careful of the temptation to dismiss it.  That is the client’s choice, not the yoga therapist’s prerogative.  And the yoga therapist should not take the position of fostering negative attitudes or prejudices toward medical diagnosis and treatment.
  1. Instead, we help clients develop deeper and more meaningful mind-body connections that help inform their journey towards improved health and well-being.  The tools for this are the practices in which the client engages.

And in the end, those who promote the therapeutic wisdom of yoga do best when the ‘big picture’ is maintained; that this is all about supporting the body’s own process of self healing.


Susan LeVine, E-RYT 500, Certified Yoga Therapist (C-IAYT)

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What is my background in Yoga Therapy?  

My journey to becoming a yoga therapist began in the early 1980’s, when I was a certified personal trainer.   I found I loved working one on one with clients, and developing programs for them which were uniquely suited to their needs.  I constantly saw imbalances in muscle strength and flexibility, and the pain this caused.  I felt as if my training was not sufficient for me to really help my clients.

First, I got certified to teach yoga at the White Lotus Institute in Santa Barbara, and then I got certified in Thai Yoga Therapy and Advanced Thai Yoga Therapy  with Saul David Raye.  I started incorporating what I had learned with my private clients, and also practicing Thai Yoga Therapy, as well as teaching yoga in a health club setting.


In 1994 I met my meditation teacher, Sri Maha Mandaleshwar Shambhavananda,  and began to learn how to be a yogini. Of course, it is an ongoing process, but I have been practicing meditation since then, and also teaching.  Babaji, as we call him, has been an absolutely essential teacher for me, helping me through life changing transformations and other difficult times and teaching me more than I can ever say.  I must say I could not have done it without him. I consider meditation the ultimate yoga therapy, and believe it to be the highest and best thing I can teach to anyone, if and when they are ready.


In 2000 I met Doug Keller, one of the most brilliant and amazing yoga teachers in the world.He is the author of Yoga as Therapy, a two volume set which has been revised over the years.  His approach is that the body heals itself, but we can assess and teach alignment and movement patterns as well as the whole spectrum of yogic practices.  The material was immediately relevant and easy to teach to clients, and I have been studying with him ever since.  


In 2011 I took Marma Point Therapy training with Dr. Vasant Lad, and added another dimension to my yoga therapy.  I use the therapy as a stand alone therapy and also in conjunction with other yoga therapies.


Over the years of working with individuals (1999--present), I found myself transformed by working with them.  My students have been my best teachers, and I am very grateful to be able to do this work.  My spiritual practice is a living practice, and is ultimately practical in the real world.  I am constantly amazed at how much I am learning and hope to continue for a very long time.  


The field of yoga therapy is now emerging as a profession, and the International Association of Yoga Therapists is now credentialing therapists.  The medical profession is beginning to be aware of us.

On Yoga Journal’s website, they have an interesting article:


“The health care world’s increased acceptance of yoga therapy is partly due to a significant body of clinical research that now documents yoga’s proven benefits for a range of health conditions, including back pain, anxiety, depression, and insomnia, as well as its ability to help reduce 
risk factors for cardiovascular disease and hypertension. Yoga has even been documented as a way to alleviate the side effects of cancer treatment. “

(From “Why More Western Doctors Are Now Prescribing Yoga Therapy”, yogajournal.com)



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Private Yoga Therapy Sessions Space

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Please note:

The yoga therapy components of my [instruction or practice] are based on certification with the International Association of Yoga Therapists, not derived from my status as an RYT ®with Yoga Alliance Registry.


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