What to Look for in a Yoga Therapist

Finding a good yoga therapy instructor may take a little extra effort

As yoga therapy makes its way from the medical periphery into the mainstream, more and more people are offering yoga therapy sessions. While this is great news, it’s also important to use caution when picking a yoga therapist.

As of yet, there is no national credentialing system for yoga therapy, and the lack of industry standards means that, basically, anybody can say they are a yoga therapist. Someone with as little as 200 hours of yoga teacher training, (which may include basic anatomy courses, breathing/meditation exercises and giving adjustments) in theory can practice yoga therapy. In order to weed out the new-comers from the professionals, here are some questions to ask when considering working with a yoga therapist.

What are the person’s credentials? Look for people with at least a 500-hour yoga training. It’s an added benefit if the person has additional credentials related to the health field, such as licensing as a physical therapist, nurse, or massage therapist.

Where did the person take his or her 500-hr. yoga training? There are many forms of 500-hour yoga teacher trainings, so the additional training beyond the basic 200-hour yoga teacher training should be one with a yoga therapy specialization. Some yoga therapists have completed two years of training in Iyengar yoga, which has an emphasis in anatomy and kinesiology. Other yoga therapists have been certified by such schools as Integrative Yoga Therapy, Yoga Rx, Urban Zen, or the American Viniyoga Institute. For an overview of other training programs, see our articles on Yoga Therapy Training.

How long has the person been in practice? A person who has been in practice for several years obviously will have more experience than one just starting out. Of course, since yoga therapy is a relatively new field, many yoga therapists will only have been in practice for a relatively short time, so keep that in mind.  

Does the person have a specialization? If you are struggling with a serious medical problem, look for someone who specializes in your particular condition. Working with someone who already has experience with other people struggling with this issue is one way to ensure you find a qualified person.  

To find a yoga therapist in your area, look through our Yoga Therapy Directory on our site. You may also find some of our online resources helpful.

On a last note: Many people get confused between yoga therapy and Thai yoga, or Thai yoga therapy as it is also sometimes called. Thai yoga, or Thai massage as it should really be called, is the traditional form of massage used in Thailand. It involves putting the client in certain yoga-related postures at certain points during the treatment, but other than that it has little to do with yoga. While Thai massage is a very pleasant treatment, it’s not yoga therapy. Yoga therapy involves working more specifically with your issues using specialized yoga asanas and other yoga techniques; it is not a standardized massage routine like Thai massage.