Generalized and Specialized Yoga Therapy Training – Which Is Best?

Many yoga teachers are motivated by their own experiences with the health benefits of yoga to help others by deepening their skills through yoga therapy training. Yoga therapy is an emerging alternative healing modality, which is becoming increasingly widespread as research continues to highlight the many health benefits of yoga. Because the systematic application of yoga for therapeutic purposes is of relatively new origin, there are many different types of yoga therapy training, all with different merits.

Most forms of yoga therapy certification can be divided into two parts: Generalized and specialized. Generalized yoga therapy trainings seek to give a broad yoga therapy certification, enabling yoga therapists to apply yoga therapy to a wide range of specific conditions. Specialized forms of yoga therapy certification focus on training yoga teachers to deal with one specific condition, such as yoga for depression, yoga for ms, or yoga for back pain.

Each form of yoga therapy training, generalized and specialized, has its advantages and disadvantages.

Programs that offer a broad, generalized yoga therapy certification, such as Integrative Yoga Therapy, Viniyoga, and the Professional Yoga Therapy Studies program all  include specific yoga asanas and yoga techniques for inducing deep relaxation, such as restorative yoga, yoga nidra, and pranayama and meditation. Many generalized programs also teach yoga therapists in training to read the body to determine structural issues. Many yoga therapy trainings include basic training in Ayurveda, the ancient Indian science of natural health, and teach students Ayurvedic techniques to target specific diseases and doshic imbalances.

The advantage of generalized programs is that yoga therapists in training get a very broad foundation of knowledge and tools to draw on in working with a wide range of different health issues. The disadvantage of generalized programs can be that the 500 to 1000 hrs. training they offer may not be enough to give students the prerequisites for working with clients with serious health conditions-it depends on which knowledge and skills the yoga therapist in training already brings to the program. Some generalized yoga therapy certification tracks, like the Professional Yoga Therapy Studies program seek to bypass this limitation by accepting into the program only students who already have some medical licensing, such as MDs, physical therapists, nurses, and massage therapists. Other generalized yoga therapy trainings bypass the issue by focusing on just the yoga and Ayurvedic knowledge and not trying to be everything to all people.

Programs, which offer a specialized yoga therapy certification, tend to offer training targeting just one condition, such as yoga for depression or yoga for diabetes. Some of the more notable programs in this category include Amy Weintraub’s Lifeforce Yoga Training programs and Karen O’Donnell Clarke’s Teaching Adaptive Yoga for Multiple Sclerosis. The advantage of these programs is that yoga therapists in training get to learn from someone who has studied a condition in depth and has developed a unique program of specific yoga asanas and yoga techniques for working with the condition. Most people offering yoga therapy certification specific to a condition, such as depression, arthritis, scoliosis, or diabetes, also have experience working with people, who suffer from the condition, and has honed the yoga therapy protocol based on those experiences. The disadvantage of more specialized programs, of course, is that yoga therapists in training only receive yoga therapy certification relative to that specific condition. Still, most specialized yoga therapy training are shorter and less expensive than the generalized programs, so this limitation can to some extent be bypassed by taking many specialized yoga therapy certifications.

Ultimately, the choice of whether to take a specialized or generalized yoga therapy training will depend on each person’s interests, previous back grounds, and long-term goals. For starters, study the different yoga therapy training programs featured on this website to get an overview of which certification programs are available and what they offer.

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