Yoga first started in ancient India, where it was used to improve the lives of their citizens. More recently, it has become a part of mainstream Western culture. This can be seen by the sheer number of yoga studios that have sprung up all over the developed world. What is it about this practice that makes it so appealing to people?

Yoga is a practice that has the potential to improve many of the symptoms associated with the following: – Stress – Anxiety – Depression – Pain – Infertility – Pregnancy – Insomnia – Fibromyalgia – Congestive Heart Failure – Infertility – Migraines – Menopause – Pregnancy – Fibromyalgia – Interstitial Cystitis – Obesity – Osteoarthritis – Hernia – Fibromyalgia – Insomnia – IBS – Fibromyalgia – Fibromyalgia – Menopause – Ovarian Cancer – Interstitial Cystitis – Fibromyalgia – Fibromyalgia

To better understand the difference between yoga and yoga therapy, I recommend you first read my article What is Yoga Therapy? Now that we know the definition, here are the steps to becoming a certified yoga therapist.

Step 1: Being a yoga teacher

To become a yoga therapist, you must first complete at least 200 hours of yoga teacher training. For me, as for most others, I started as a yoga teacher who wanted more. My yoga training in the Indian Himalayas with my guru Yogi Sivadas gave me a solid foundation.

But after several years of teaching, I have more questions. I needed answers and skills to work safely and effectively with individuals and groups with special needs such as PTSD, arthritis, depression and stroke recovery.

I didn’t know where to find this knowledge, so I turned to traditional education. During the year I took a pre-med course and a basic science course that included biology, anatomy, physiology, psychology, chemistry and physics. During my doctoral studies, I also studied biomechanics and abnormal psychology to better understand how our joints and minds work. It still wasn’t enough.

Don’t get me wrong, I studied art in college and loved the new perspectives my scientific training brought me, but they weren’t specifically applied to yoga. I also wanted to go deeper into the philosophy and practice of yoga.

Step 2: Find the right yoga therapy program for you

The next step is to find an 800-hour therapeutic yoga program that is accredited by the International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT). This organization is distinguished by its high standards and nearly 30 years of experience in the field. You can view the list of approved programs here: iayt.org.

For many years, while working as a yoga teacher and doing my own training, I was not even aware of the possibility of training to become a yoga therapist. When I discovered that there were continuing education programs that covered all the material I was looking for, I immediately started looking for the right program for me.

I spent several weeks learning about online programs and writing emails to program directors. I eventually joined the first group of students in the Master of Science in Yoga Therapy program at the University of Maryland Integrative Health.

As a nerd who loves school and higher education, it was perfect for me. The program combines academic rigor with a rich tradition and philosophy of yoga. The courses combine reading of advanced scientific research in the field with deep meditation and asana practice.

I grew as a person while learning the skills needed to become a yoga therapist. While this is the ideal choice for me, there are many programs out there and it is important that you choose the one that suits you best.

Some programs focus on psychology and spirituality, such as Phoenix Rising’s yoga therapy. Some are based on a specific lineage, such as the Vinyoga therapist training. Others, such as Yoga Therapy for Inner Peace, allow you to develop and choose your own knowledge and experience, while electives such as Yoga Therapy for Cancer and Yoga Therapy for Anxiety and Depression are taught by experts in their fields.

Make your choice:

  • Take the time to read the descriptions of the different programs.
  • Benefit from yoga therapy sessions given by certified yoga therapists (C-IAYT), in complete autonomy.
  • Talk to past participants
  • Think about the times and places that work best for you.
  • Ask if you can take a course at an accredited school.

Remember, no single program or style is best in its entirety. It’s all about finding the right option for you. Membership in IAYT and reading its publications are other good ways to learn more about the field and program opportunities.

I also recommend attending their professional conference held each June to learn more about their programs and network with yoga therapists from around the world.

Step 3: Execute the command and close the program

IAYT accredited programs last at least 2 years, but some last longer. While each program is different, they all include courses in anatomy, biomedicine, philosophy, therapeutic skills, and professional practice related to yoga.

You will then apply your knowledge in a supervised clinical practice where you will work with clients under the supervision of experienced therapists. You will gain knowledge, professional skills and lasting friendships.

Step 4: Apply through the International Association of Yoga Therapists

After completing steps 1 through 3, you can apply to become a registered Yoga Therapist as a graduate of an accredited program. It took me 30 minutes to fill out the application, including uploading my degree and resume. It’s simple, and you will contribute to the collaboration, organization, and rapid growth of this field.

Step 5: start with the profession of yoga therapist

Yoga therapy is an exciting and evolving field. You will have many opportunities to build your career. As a yoga therapist, I work with clients one-on-one (including via Skype), teach in hospitals, the military and nursing homes, lead therapeutic workshops on specialties such as arthritis, and train people to become yoga teachers and therapists themselves.

The possibilities are endless. What will you do as a yoga therapist?

P.S. Feel free to ask your questions in the comments below. Tag me as @annswanson and I’ll be happy to respond.

Photo credits: Anne Swanson.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to become a yoga therapist?

It takes about two years to become a yoga therapist.

What is the difference between a yoga teacher and a yoga therapist?

A yoga teacher is someone who teaches yoga classes and leads a group of students through the practice. A yoga therapist is someone who has completed a training program in order to provide therapeutic services.

How do I train to be a yoga therapist?

There are many ways to become a yoga therapist. You can attend a yoga therapy program at a college or university, or you can take classes in your area. You can also train with an experienced teacher and then work as an assistant for them.

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