Standards for Yoga Therapists?1
by John Kepner, Hansa Knox, Trisha Lamb, and Veronica Zador2
Given the recent decade-long increase in interest in yoga and its healing effects, coupled with the burgeoning interest in yoga therapy, the time seems ripe, indeed pressing, to address the delicate and challenging issue of standards for yoga therapists. As well articulated by Georg Feuerstein in his editorial in the current issue of the International Journal of Yoga Therapy (2003):
There are as yet no common minimum standards for Yoga therapy training programs, and yet the label "Yoga therapist" is at present used liberally and often interchangeably with "Yoga teacher." Discussions about training standards for Yoga therapists have taken place over the years, but so far have not led to any significant concrete action. I believe there is a genuine urgency to formulate basic standards now...
Given the goals and history of IAYT [the International Association of Yoga Therapists], this YREC [Yoga Research and Education Center] division has the distinct responsibility to make a positive contribution toward filling this gap. Since yoga therapists, by definition, work with clients who are experiencing psychophysical and physical challenges, these standards must match, if not surpass, the standards applied in comparable therapeutic modalities. It is my hope that such standards will gain the support of many qualified teachers who have extensive experience with the therapeutic applications of yoga.
We agree. Notwithstanding the widespread popularity of yoga, one of the key constraints to the development and practice of yoga therapy, the training of well-qualified yoga therapists, and the acceptance of yoga in a wide variety of allopathic, complementary, or alternative health care settings is the lack of standards for practitioners. A profession is defined by its standards for education, training, and experience. Despite the history and merit of the discipline, without high standards for practitioners, therapeutic applications of yoga will remain marginalized. In cooperation with the Yoga Alliance, IAYT will therefore sponsor a registry of yoga therapists and schools meeting high standards for education, training, and experience.
This is an evolving effort. This new section at our website will provide updates and salient complementary articles. Well-reasoned alternative perspectives on standards are welcome and will be carefully considered for publication.
In the US
1 We would like to honor and acknowledge the support, advice, and inspiration we have received for this effort from Georg Feuerstein, Ph.D., founder of Yoga Research and Education Center and former editor in chief of the International Journal of Yoga Therapy. We also would like to express our gratitude for the recent support we have received in a multitude of ways from Larry Payne, Ph.D., and Richard Miller, Ph.D., cofounders of IAYT, as well as Amy Gage and Jnani Chapman, the first two executive directors of IAYT.
Many have wrestled with and paved the way in creating training standards for yoga teachers in the United States, notably the past and present leadership of what has become known as the Yoga Alliance. We also acknowledge our debt to them. The actual principles, structure, and process discussed herein, however, remain our responsibility, and any criticisms and concerns should be addressed to us.
2 John Kepner is director of the International Association of Yoga Therapists. Hansa Knox is president of the Yoga Alliance. Trisha Lamb is associate director of IAYT and editor in chief of the International Journal of Yoga Therapy. Veronica Zador is a board member of the Yoga Alliance and chair, Applications Committee and School Review.