2017 SYR Special Interest Groups
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There will be an opportunity for you to connect with a Special Interest Group on Tuesday afternoon during SYR.

Continuing from 2016, these groups will further the discussions and update participants on the work that has taken place over the last year.  Click on the group title to see details.


Developing an Explanatory Framework for Yoga Therapy: Theory and Practice

While dedicated yoga practitioners do not doubt the healing power of yoga, we are still lacking a well-articulated explanatory framework for yoga therapy as a comprehensive modality for physical, mental and spiritual health. Having such an explanatory framework is essential for the development of yoga therapy as a field and for it to be accepted in other professional fields such as medicine, psychology, education and social welfare. Do different explanatory frameworks lead to different therapy outcomes or intervention strategies? Why Is there a need for an explanatory framework that is common across the field of yoga therapy?

An explanatory framework provides the theoretical basis for answers to questions such as: What exactly is yoga therapy? How do yoga therapists assess the root causes of the problems their clients bring to them? How do yoga therapists decide what yogic practices should be used in instruction for their clients? And what is the goal or desired outcome of yoga therapy? How can we explain these things to medical and other professionals in language they can understand, without compromising the traditional Yogic teaching upon which this modality is based?

Both the Japan Yoga Therapy Society (JYTS) and professors from Maryland University of Integrative Health, have been developing assessment methods as well as developing an overall explanatory framework for yoga therapy. Their similarities and differences will be examined while introducing case studies that illustrate their most recent developments in these areas. Then JYTS and MUIH professors will review each other’s case studies, using their own explanatory frameworks. Case studies of physical and psychological disorders will be examined.

Presentation Details

  1. A case study approach will be utilized to provide an understanding of the explanatory framework, assessment and intervention strategies utilized by the Japan Yoga Therapy Society and Maryland University of Integrative Health.
  2. The intention of this format is to provide a practical understanding of the explanatory framework that each program uses and to discuss how this framework informs the assessment and intervention strategies for client care. Similarities and differences between approaches will be highlighted and discussed. It is hoped that this will provide a forum for discussion to further the development of shared understanding and models for yoga therapy.
  3. Marlysa Sullivan and Dorcia Tucker, PsyD will present an explanatory framework for yoga therapy that is informed by the philosophical tradition of yoga while integrating other current philosophical and neurophysiological concepts to facilitate translation into current healthcare contexts. The influence of this framework in directing the yoga therapists’ assessment and plan of care and in defining yoga therapy as a distinct rehabilitative profession will be discussed. They will provide a case that addresses a primarily physical issue to be reviewed by Keishin Kimura and Minoru Kamata, PhD.
  4. Keishin Kimura and Minoru Kamata will provide an overview of the explanatory framework for yoga therapy that is used by the Japan Yoga Therapy Society. It is based on teachings in traditional Yoga and Ayurvedic texts, using the 5 koshas as yoga therapy’s human structural model (“anatomy”) and the horse-drawn chariot as yoga therapy’s functional model (“physiology”). It is based upon these that Yoga Therapy’s pathology is also explained. They will also present a case study of a primarily psychological issue, and this case study will be reviewed by Marlysa Sullivan and Dorcia Tucker.

Kimura Keishin is the founder of Japan Yoga Niketan and the Japan Yoga Therapy Society (JYTS). He began teaching Raja Yoga in Japan after being given the holy name, Jnana Yogi and initiated as a Raja Yoga Acharya by his guru Swami Yogeshwarananda in 1981. In cooperation with the Swami Vivekananda Yoga Research Foundation, Kimura has established yoga instructor and yoga therapist courses throughout Japan. He is president of JYTS, Executive Director of the Japan Integrated Medical Society, one of the founders of the Asia Yoga Therapy Congress, and a board member of the Japan Ayurveda Society. He recently published "Yoga Therapy Theory: Modern Methods Based on Traditional Teachings of Human Structure and Function."


Dr. Minoru Kamata is a clinical psychologist and certified yoga therapist (Japan Yoga Therapy Society). His main area of research and practice is psychotherapy in psychosomatic and integrative medicine. He is an Adlerian Psychotherapist and is developing yoga therapy as psychotherapy. He is active in the Japan Yoga Therapy Society’s research committee and is working closely with President Kimura to develop a new system for yoga therapy assessment. He also trains yoga therapists in counseling and psychotherapy skills.


Marlysa Sullivan is an Assistant Professor at Maryland University of Integrative Health in the Integrative Health sciences department where she teaches anatomy, physiology, kinesiology, yoga therapy for chronic pain, orthopedic and neurological conditions and yoga perspectives on health and disease. She was also the founding director of the yoga therapy clinic in the Masters of Science in Yoga Therapy program where she developed the processes for assessment and evaluation of clients and supervision. She also teaches at Emory University in the Physical Therapy department on the integration of yoga into PT practice. She is a co-founder of the Center for integrative yoga studies where she leads trainings for yoga teachers. www.integrativeyogastudies.com

  Dr. Dorcia Tucker, PsyD, MS, C-IAYT,  is an Adjunct Faculty member at Maryland University of Integrative Health (MUIH) where she teaches in the Yoga Therapy and Integrative Health Sciences departments. She received a B.A. in psychology from Dartmouth College, an M.S. in Yoga Therapy and an M.S. in Therapeutic Herbalism from MUIH. She is a licensed clinical psychologist, as well as a certified yoga therapist (C-IAYT) and the Resident Yoga Therapist at MUIH. Dr. Tucker previously served as a military psychologist in the US Air Force, where she integrated complementary modalities such as biofeedback, yoga, meditation, and breath work into her clinical practice.

Yoga Research Reporting Guidelines Working Group

Delineate transparent reporting guidelines (with a checklist) for yoga interventions that are widely disseminated and used by researchers, to be followed by an Effectiveness Guidance Document (EGD) for comparative effectiveness research.

This meeting will serve to update the yoga therapy research community regarding progress toward development of a template for a description and replication (TIDieR) document for yoga intervention reporting guidelines, which began at last year’s SYR conference and will improve transparency and accuracy of the yoga research literature. A steering committee has taken initial input from last year’s working group and developed a Delphi survey for achieving consensus. The resulting TIDieR document will operate as an extension to existing reporting guidelines for prospective trials, observational research, and case reports. It will then support the development of an effectiveness guidance document (EGD) for comparative effectiveness research. In addition to an update regarding the project’s current status, topics covered during the meeting will include: 1) What are reporting guidelines and why are they important; 2) Current limitations and opportunities for evidence informed practice (EIP) in yoga research; 3) What is a TIDieR document and how does it differ from a CONSORT extension; 4) Explanation of Equator Network; 5) What is a Delphi and why is it well suited for establishing reporting guidelines; 6) EGD documents and comparative effectiveness research; 7) What we can do as a community to improve evidence quality (inter-professional collaboration, reproducibility, thorough peer-review, and more).

Steffany Moonaz, PhD, RYT-500 is a yoga therapist and researcher in Baltimore, MD. After several years in academic medical research, she now serves as the Associate Academic Director of Integrative Health Sciences at the Maryland University of Integrative Health (MUIH), and is on the faculty of their Masters of Science in Yoga Therapy. Dr. Moonaz is passionate about the integration, collaboration, and communication between yoga therapists and medical providers. She leads continuing education programs for yoga teachers/therapists in the application and adaptation of yoga for arthritis and rheumatic conditions and consultants to NIH Nursing on yoga research programs for arthritis.

David Riley, MD, has been a medical editor since 1995 and is presently an editor with The Permanente Journal and the AIHM Journal Club. He has been the Editor in Chief of three medical journals and an author or editor for several medical textbooks. In 2000 he was a member of the CONSORT group that developed health research reporting guidelines for randomized controlled trials. In 2011 he led the development of the CARE guidelines—guidelines for case reports that were published in seven medical journals, presented at a Congress for Peer Review and Biomedical Publication in 2013, and have been translated into seven languages. The guidelines are available on The Equator Network—the scientific library for health research reporting guidelines. He is a member of the American Medical Writers Association (AMWA), the Council of Science Editors (CSE), and the World Association of Medical Editors (WAME).

Dr. Riley is board-certified in Internal Medicine and has training in a variety of integrative medicine disciplines. He lectures and consults on healthcare issues in the United States, Europe, and the Middle East, ranging from healthcare policy and regulation to education and research. Dr. Riley is on the board of directors of the Academy for Integrative Health and Medicine (AIHM) as well as the international advisory boards of academic centers, healthcare agencies, and corporations. He lives in Portland, Oregon.

Research Practices in Trauma-Informed Yoga

Goal: This group will bring together those researching trauma and yoga to develop a set of best practices in yoga implementation, assessment, and reporting.

This meeting  will be the first for this group. Accordingly, attendees will develop a mission with shorter terms and longer-term goals related to (a) developing a set of definitions for terms used to describe the field and practices (e.g., trauma-informed and trauma-sensitive), (b) best practices in yoga implementation, (c) best practices for reporting methodology specific to trauma sensitivity and symptoms, and (d) assessment, and reporting.





Catherine Cook-Cottone, PhD, is a Licensed Psychologist, Registered Yoga Teacher, Associate Professor at SUNY at Buffalo. She consults for the UN Foundation on trauma-informed mindfulness and yoga and has conducted studies with the Africa Yoga Project exploring the efficacy of a trauma-informed yoga curriculum with former child soldiers and victims of gender-based violence. She is also the founder of Yogis in Service a not-for-profit organization that creates access to yoga. Her research specializes in embodied self- regulation (i.e., yoga, mindfulness, and self-care) and psychosocial disorders (e.g., trauma, eating disorders). She has written five books and over 50 peer reviewed articles and book chapters. Her most recent books are tilted, “Mindfulness and yoga for self-regulation: A primer for mental health professionals” and “Mindfulness and yoga in schools: a guide for teachers and practitioners.” Catherine is an Associate Editor of Eating Disorders: The Journal of treatment and Prevention. Presenting nationally and internationally, Catherine uses her model of embodied self-regulation to structure discussions on empirical work and practical applications. She teaches courses on mindful therapy, yoga for health and healing, self-care and service, and counseling with children and adolescents.