Many people commence Yoga to reduce stress, pain, and/or minimise any effects of musculoskeletal issues. Others see Yoga as a system of exercise. There are many options open to the person who chooses a Yoga path and not all options are specifically Yoga Therapy. However many people report their chosen Yoga option having a therapeutic effect with the person leaving, feeling lighter, calmer and more at peace. Yoga now has evidence based research relating to its effectiveness in addressing the above issues and helping people to develop a sense of integration, harmony and peace.


The ultimate purpose of Yoga is to develop integration of mind and body. It is about “union or integration from the outer most layer to the innermost self, that is, from the skin to the muscles, bones, nerves, mind intellect, will, consciousness and self”, Iyenger, 1993, (Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali).


Yoga has many different schools or traditions and recognised yoga teacher training courses are either 200, 300 or 500 hours with the more the hours of training the higher the level of training. It is important to understand what your individual needs and goals are and to communicate these to your teacher. It is advisable to explore different types of Yoga options whether they are different types of classes, therapy groups or 1:1 therapy to find the most suitable option for your circumstances and goals.


A general Yoga Class and a Therapeutic Yoga Class can be vastly different and usually take the form of the following:


  • A general Yoga class is usually facilitated by a Yoga teacher who has been trained in a particular Yoga school/tradition, (e.g. Krishnamachyra, Satyananda, Sivinanda, Kundalini, Kripalu, Bikram). Training in this case requires a minimum of 200 hours to be registered. Mostly these teachers have not studied or trained in Yoga Therapy. The class is programmed in a way that is influenced by their tradition and tends to be a balanced delivery of Yoga postures suitable for most people. Some Yoga teachers may modify postures to suit the individual issues of a student in the class if the general programmed postures could be adverse for a particular student’s wellbeing.


  • Group classes for people who all experience a single particular condition like back pain, asthma, cancer recovery, pre/post-natal, trauma, cardiac or particular mental health issues etc. are offered by some Yoga teachers. These classes are programmed to take into account the specific issues and requirements people in this cohort may require for their individual wellbeing, separate from those of a general class. The teachers of these classes usually have extra training in the specific condition but usually are not necessarily Yoga Therapists.


Yoga Therapy or Yoga as Medicine is a science thousands of years old, takes into account the whole person and aims to recognise the unique circumstances and needs of the individual. A Yoga Therapist has training (usually 1000 hours additional to their initial yoga teacher training) which is specific to Yoga Therapy and often takes at least four years or longer. Yoga Therapy is usually delivered in the following way:


  • A set of sessions will take part between a Yoga Therapist and a single client. Usually at least three sessions are required for an initial effective intervention. The first session will perform a detailed holistic assessment taking into account the environmental, physical, emotional, mental and interpersonal issues affecting the person along with their goals for recovery and/or management. The Yoga Therapist will then co-develop with the client a planned programme specific to that person’s circumstances and issues.


  • The personalized program will select tools appropriate to the individual person’s circumstances which may include a physical practice of Yoga postures, breathing techniques, relaxation exercises and meditations, as well as dietary and lifestyle advice for the client’s individual situation. An intervention suitable for one person is not necessarily going to be effective for another person as circumstances, history and impacts are different. The second and third sessions often refine the practice and assess the person’s progress. Yoga Therapy has the option of being ongoing if the client wishes.


Most cities and towns have Yoga studios and Yoga organisations (available through Google) with names of registered teachers and therapists and contact information.


Local Government organisations and Community Centres advertise online Yoga teachers and Yoga sessions held in local community areas.


For further information please contact Maxine on 0412867148.

The difference between a yoga class, yoga group, and yoga therapy

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