Current Illustrative Standards for Yoga Therapists1
These standards are presented as a starting point for discussion. Formal development will be a collaborative effort of knowledgeable practitioners and educators broadly representative of the yoga tradition. Well-reasoned, constructive criticism and suggestions are welcome, but the principles and the illustrative standards represent the baseline for consideration.
These standards are preceded by a definition of yoga therapy as well as a scope of practice and core competence for yoga therapists. Licensing is not proposed, and many important administrative details are not addressed. The focus is on principles, not specifics. The intent is to develop a set of standards that reflect substantial training, experience, and education. The standards should be acceptable to well-experienced yoga practitioners and credible to integrative health care practitioners.
Yoga therapy provides instruction in yogic practices and teachings to prevent or alleviate pain and suffering and their root causes. It is best taught one-on-one to address the unique matrix of conditions and aspirations of the student.2
Scope of Practice
Practices may include, but are not limited to, âsana, prânâyâma,meditation, sound and chanting, personal ritual, and prayer. Teaching may also include, but is not limited to, directed study, discussion, and lifestyle counseling.
Yoga therapy may address any of the dimensions of life. In the classical tradition, these are the panca kosha or the five sheaths of the human being. In contemporary terms, these may be approximated as the anatomical, physiological, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual dimensions.
Therapeutic application of âsana, prânâyâma, and meditation, plus a sound understanding of yoga philosophy with respect to the different dimensions of the human being, the various sources of suffering, and the theory and practice of prevention and alleviation at multiple levels.
Purpose of Standards
- To support the development of yoga therapy as a healing art and science
- To provide recognition for yoga therapists with substantial training, experience, and education
- To support the substantial training and experience required to be a yoga therapist
- To aid and protect the public by identifying qualified practitioners
Principles behind Standards
Yoga therapy is first and foremost yoga, a long-established holistic discipline that acknowledges and addresses the multidimensional nature of the human being.
A yoga therapist is a well-trained and well-experienced yoga teacher with substantial additional training and experience in therapeutic applications and other supporting skills.
Well-trained yoga teacher
Meets Yoga Alliance standards at the 500-hour level
Well-experienced yoga teacher
Four years and 1,000 hours teaching experience
Additional training totaling 300-500 hours and divided among:
- Therapeutic applicationsIncluding theory and practical skills as well as pertinent yoga philosophy and Ayurveda
- Biomedical sciencesTwo semesters of anatomy and physiology (90 hours) or the equivalent. Many equivalents are possible as long as testing is required.
- Practicum or ExternshipActual practical experience as a yoga therapist
Bachelor's degree from an accredited university or equivalent training and experience.3
1The Illustrative standards were first published in the 2003 International Journal of Yoga Therapy as an appendix to an article by John Kepner entitled "Alternative Billing Codes and Yoga: Practical Issues and Strategic Considerations for Determining 'What is Yoga Therapy?' and 'Who is a Yoga Therapist?'" This is an evolving effort. The current version reflects suggestions by members of the past and present leadership of the Yoga Research and Education Center, International Association of Yoga Therapists, and Yoga Alliance.
2We are not wedded to this definition and other suggestions are welcome. We are interested in a reasonable, pragmatic definition of yoga therapy true to the yoga tradition, broad in scope, understandable to those not steeped in yoga, and not identified with any one method or lineage. See Contemporary Definitions of Yoga Therapy at our website.
3We are especially interested in feedback on the proposed formal education requirement.