Want to Be a Yoga Therapist? I Suggest We EARN the Title Rather Than Pay

I don't yet understand the full scope behind the International Association of Yoga Therapists, but what I gather, in a nutshell, is that they want to standardize practices.

Their mission consists of forming a professional organization that recognizes yoga as a respected form of therapy, invites all yoga teachers, researches, therapists and health-care practitioners that use yoga to join, and also provides information on cases/studies to the media.

I think this is a noble cause, and a great service to the community at large.  That is, provided that it does not end up creating so much structure that it would limit the profession.  

Why do I say this? because I have seen it happening before in other fields.  For example, take the amazing field of alternative psychotherapy (Depth Psychology or Jungian analysis). It is impossible to find a program that any mortal can attend without having to pay at least Two hundred thousand dollars! (when including tuition, loss of income by study time, and room and board). Yes there is financial aid, but should specialty schools really be THAT expensive?

In the board of directors of the IAYT, I see lots of Phds, MDs, MSW, and people with high degrees at the levels of decision making.  I don't know if you noticed but people who have PhDs, MDs, or high degrees tend to trust and prefer other people with the same qualifications.

This is one of the reasons why it is so hard to fit into the boxes that employees try to get their prospective employers on, for example, does one really need a college degree to be a paralegal? Absolutely No! (I worked in law firms for over 12 years and can tell you that)  but if an employer has a college degree, then he or she is more likely to want an employee to have one. It makes them feel safer, of the same keen.

Granted, this is my opinion, my observation of the world, you may disagree, but back to the IAYT, my fear is that it could turn out to create rules so that for anyone to do yoga therapy, he or she would have to go  into a university program that would charge 30K/year which, at least in the United States, where the cost of college has risen 10% higher than inflation since 1977, seems to be the standard for "specialty qualification trainings" (i.e. Master Degrees, PhDs, etc).

These college degrees in Yoga Thraphy do NOT yet exist,  but there have sprouted a few programs that already teach Yoga Therapy, as a separate certification.

One of these programs (blessed by the IAYT) will grant you certification after attending three two-week programs at 3000 dollars a pop, without counting expenses and room or board (A total of, say 12,000 dollars, plus another, at least 4000 for the pre-requisite 200 hour Yoga Teacher Trainig)

We are talking about almost 20,000 dollars!

Another program which also has three levels, and contains topics that do not vary that much from a regular YTT (other than field work as is done for, say, Masters of Social Work only in a much more reduced amount of hours) has a cost break-down that I cannot figure out, maybe is the Lyme disease that interfeers with my concentration. Their page is broken into so many little elements when it comes to tuition that I cannot, for the love of God, get to understand how much it would cost.  They also require a basic 200 hr YTT, by the way.

I am not adding links here because the intention is not animosity, but rather to propose another way to look at it:

Now of course, I  could be off here, it may very well be that I have not read all documentation in the IAYT and that I do not understand it all. Or, it could be that in a sneaky way that is the way the organization is headed. Towards college dregrees, and government regulations. Hey! we already have 15K+ certification courses. Could be.


I agree with a recent article published in one of their magazines by Leslie Kaminoff about the need for freedom in yoga. He titled the article: "A Declaration of Independence for Yoga Educators".  He calls himself a yoga 'educator' because he does not want to deal with state regulated practices.  I am with him.

The article starts:
"Until a month ago, I was prepared to write a perspective piece for the International Journal of Yoga Therapy centering on the IAYT-sponsored Council of Schools that I attended this March in Los Angeles. Those well-organized and productive meetings produced a richly textured dialogue surrounding issues such as certification standards, accreditation and definitions of yoga therapy. Unfortunately, I can no longer write about those issues because it has become clear that dialogue can no longer exist for us as a community – it has been obliterated by the regulatory agencies of several states’ departments of education."


I find the idea of Yoga Therapy very appealing because I believe in the healing power of yoga. I even inquired into A.G Mohan coming to NYC to offer one of his modules in therapy and believe that people like Ramaswami, who worked hand-in-hand with Krishnamacharya for years are great resources.

But from there to regulating and creating programs in which the States or regulatory bodies would get involved, I get a little un-easy.  Leslie continues:

"Government enforcement of licensing and Yoga cannot co-exist. Yoga is about freedom and Yoga is about relationship, and force destroys both. If we are not free to conduct our relationships free of interference by third parties, there can be no yoga."

Now, indulge me for a paragraph, look back at Krishnamacharya, think about the time when he left the footsteps of the Himalayan mountains with instructions from his teacher to go into the world, marry and teach yoga.  Do you think he felt ready?

Yoga Therapy, just like yoga teaching, takes time. This is why I always thought I would wait until I knew something before I would venture into teaching.  I had people asking me when I would start teaching as soon as I returned from my 200 hour TT and I looked at them in disbelief.  How can anyone teach what one has not experience? and for a loooooong time?

Now, of course there is nothing wrong with taking extra classes, in having a 'program' on yoga therapy, hey! I would love to, but that does not mean by any stretch of the imagination that a person coming out of such a program is a therapist, as much as it does not make for a yoga teacher when a person finishes a 200 hour one month training having done nothing before, and in some cases not even having a private daily practice.

Keeping it Real:

It is not realistic for a yoga teacher to pretend to be a doctor, psychologist, acupuncturist, oncologist, chiropractor, aromatherapist, massage therapist, etc, all at once. Let's remember:  yoga is yoga, and it has enough within its own science to provide work for at least 25 life-times.

Some of us will have the talent to become therapists, but I doubt that would happen trough 3 installments of training under standards that seem to be aiming for a college degree or that provide further teaching on anatomy and present a few case studies.

Let me make a confession, from my anatomy classes at my own YTT, I barely remember the psoas.

Yoga therapy will not be happen by a government dictating what a yoga teacher and student can and cannot do together.

Yoga Teraphy can only happen by a slow-build, dedicated practice, and opening to learn and a vocation or call.  See my post on the 32 suggestions on how to build a Yoga Therapy Practice that is effective.

But say we trust and eliminate all regulations, then how could we tell who is a real and who is a phony?  I can tell you how.  In this time and age of the Internet it is easy to find out information.  It is much easier to get referrals, to do homework.  To ask questions and see who is in the network of the teraphist? how serious does he take it? what cases has he worked on? Healing is changing.  We, patients, are taking more responsibility, doing our own research.

I feel that as yoga teachers it is our utmost responsibility to clearly understand where our knowledge ends, and to have a network of referrals that we personally trust, to follow up on cases, to get involved, learn, earn the title, not pay for it.

I could be wrong, but I feel a yoga therapist is made in a different way, coming up tomorrow, should energy be with me I will bring you my 32 or 23 or 13 ways...

Nothing wrong with having an association, but let us just realize that yoga therapy is a life long commitment done through networks of people.

How do you see it?  How is it different from your perspective?
What are your thoughts on Yoga Therapy?
Educate me please

32 Steps to a Slow-Build, Solid, and Thriving Yoga Teraphy Practice


  1. great post, Claudia....I attended a weekend with Gary Kraftsow where he talked about this and while I agree with you -- and indeed was ALSO going to write about this, great minds think alike! -- I also agree with Gary wherein he says too many yoga teachers are calling themselves yoga therapists without the necessary training. he said, in a nutshell, just because you think yoga is therapeutic AND because you're a yoga teacher, does not make you a yoga therapist!

  2. Hey Claudia, interesting post. All I can say is that I undertook a 360 hour yoga teacher training program about 2 years ago to "deepen my practice" , and also if I as a doctor, am recommending that my patients take up yoga, then I should know a little about it. By the way, I graduated from Med School about 27 years ago and have been a regular yoga practitioner since 2003. The teacher training programme was one of the very best things I had ever done in my life, but I have given up teaching asana in a class setting as I don't feel ready to do so. I have one patient who has convinced me take her through a practice weekly and I know her medical conditions intimately, but this remains the only teaching that I do. In a sense it is "yoga therapy" . but having looked into the requirements of being a Yoga Therapist eventually, I have kind of lost heart as it is so regimented and whilst I have very little yoga experience, I have a significant amt of experience /treating dealing with bodies, psychological pain etc.
    As an aside, I have been insured by a company underwritten by Lloyds of London, but I am not sure of my Medical Liability when teaching yoga (as doctors are bound by law to higher responsibilities) , and the threat of litigation simply adds to the stress
    I understand that the paying public deserve to be protected from harmful treatments but finding the balance remains a very difficult thing

  3. Linda, thanks for commenting, I knew this topic is close to your heart and was hoping you would add your ideas. I AGREE COMPLETELY with you.

    I graduated my 200 hour TT on yoga but did not dare call myself a teacher until much much later. I feel a yoga teacher is MADE, not graduated, it takes a daily practice, observation, learning, and a whole hearted dedication.

    In the same way I agree with you and Gary that not anyone should call him or herself a yoga teraphist.

    Heck! I will even go one step further and say nobody should call him or herself that and just let a student or a group of students be the ones providing such a title to a yoga teacher... letting it come from the results, and from the dedication that the yoga teacher has put into her education, dedication to cases, record keeping and professional network of people in other healing professions that would advise and work in unison, within community.

    I find yoga therapy to be an amazing community forming methodology, I hope we keep it serious, open and committed. I see it in the light.

  4. Min,

    I appreciate your comment more than you would ever know.

    I find it very intresting first and foremost because you being an MD already (unlike me) find the field of Yoga Therapy ALSO threatening...

    The way I see it, and I have a post coming on this tomorrow should the lyme allow, is that by joining forces, for example my connection to you right now, we can open ourselves to community, we can talk, I know that you are an MD who for reasons of this or that is only teaching yoga to one patient, you have a CASE STUDY. I can definitelly benefit from reading a journal you could keep about it.

    On another note, if I have a student who has, say, lyme disease (sorry it is on my mind lately), then I know MIN, who is an MD, who can collaborate with me on healing, and I can keep a journal.

    We can have an open source code on the internet, through blogs, through community, through interaction. We can all benefit and call it yoga teraphy or whatever it might, if it is releving pain and helping people I am contented.

    I would love to hear more about your case. I know you must be a busy person but Gosh, I would love it if you had a blog (selfish me) If you do write or journal about it, please let me know.

    As per the insurance, I can only imagine how it must be in the field of MD. Or not even imagine, it is so heavily regulated! I really do not wish that on yoga...

    Thanks for commenting

  5. for me yoga is a long tehrapic road but it is the way i am working on myself, may be it is totally different for others

  6. Hi Claudia
    Thanks for your sweet reply, I really cannot see myself being a blogger, but I love reading other peoples' blogs.

    As far as that patient goes, I don't think I can write about her in the public domain, it would not be fair particularly without her consent.

    However, I am happy to converse with you [rivately on medical issues. I am acutely aware of the legal risks of medical advice/ opinions that fall from my lips. (I have both medical litigation insurance and yoga teacher insurance)

    Suffice to say that yoga TT and the practice itself colours every consult. eg, blood pressure can be brought down by up to 10mm of mercury after just 3 min of breathing with a 1 to 2 ratio (insp to exp). This is a powerful way to demonstrate to a patient that they can take an active part in their treatment and possibly avoid medications.

    Fortunately for me, I have a large number of yogis in my patient base, they seem to come from no where, not even realising that I practice yoga.
    Also , having a network of health workers ie acupuncturists, naturopaths etc that one trusts helps too.
    I am often asked to teach yoga, but for the time being , I delegate that responsibility to teachers that I feel are far far superior to me.

    The one thing that I have learnt is that each individual comes with a unique combination of symptom that you don't necessarily find in text books and that medical guidelines are simply that, guidelines to help steer one in the right direction ( a bit like your blog on Patanjali) and I think that yoga therapy may well be the same.

    My (ashtanga certified) wise teacher, Eileen Hall has been known to say that the series are a guide only. They are really helpful when one is beginning practice (I think she thinks at least 10 years of daily ashtanga practice is still just beginning).

    Hope some of this rant is helpful. Feel free Claudia to e mail me privately on anything, I am always happy to converse on healing, medicine and yoga. (However, I have zip experience treating Lyme disease).

    Take good care.

  7. Lila, yes I definitelly think thaat is how it all starts, we work on healing ourselves, on getting real with ourselves, then some may get the call some not to go beyond...

    Min you are very fortunate to have a patient base filled with yogis, I do not think they come from nowhere, I believe our visions attracts what what we are willing to learn, what we want to manifest.

    Each individual is in itselfa universe, I love how you put it, I love the idea of working in very personalized ways, in listening in learning, in being a cooperation and not just between a one doctor and patient or yoga teacher and student but a community, or a network of professionals, other yogis like Linda for examplle who is interested and studying and deepening her knwoledge, like Christna from prescribing medicine, like you, etc, this idea is so filled with light for me, i know it has limitations, everything does but I am putting it in the light and letting it develop, come what may.

    I understand no cases would be shaared publicly, but Ifeel that with permission and ommiting names, just mentioning facts, some previous success cases could be the foundation for hope and healing for future casers.

    May we all be healed.


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