by Heather Greaves

It is an exciting time for yoga and yoga therapy; and it can be a bit confusing looking in from the outside. From the trendy acrobatic yoga styles to therapeutic yoga, plus yoga certifications and titles. Let’s unveil the mystery with a brief overview of the standards and the bodies that set them.

The definition of  yoga therapy as given by the International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT) is “the process of empowering individuals to progress toward improved health and wellbeing through the application of the teachings and practices of yoga.”

The teachings of yoga are rooted in the Vedas and grounded in classical texts plus a rich oral tradition. The practices of yoga include, but are not limited to, asana, pranayama, meditation, mantra, chanting, mudra, ritual, and a disciplined lifestyle.

A yoga practitioner is someone who practices yoga. The practitioner may be practicing yoga at a studio; or perhaps  from a video or DVD.

A yoga teacher is a yoga practitioner who teaches yoga. The Yoga Alliance is a body that sets minimum training standards for yoga teacher training programs, and keeps a registry of teachers and schools that have met their 200-hour and 500-hour standards. A yoga teacher may teach yoga without being listed in a registry.

A yoga therapist is a yoga practitioner who offers the teachings and techniques of yoga to empower individuals. The IAYT is the body that has just completed the onerous task of setting minimum educational standards for the training of yoga therapists. Those standards are: 800 hours taught over 2 years with minimum admission requirements of  200-hour teacher training or equivalent. A registry will be established for yoga practitioners and schools who meet the educational standards set by IAYT.

These educational standards were established July 1, 2012 and yoga schools will be given time to adjust their curriculum to fit the standards. Those yoga practitioners who received training as yoga teachers at the 500 hour level with further training to become yoga therapists will learn how their particular certification will be addressed with IAYT”s grandfathering policies.

I hope this brief overview has shed some light about this system of knowledge and practice that fosters self-awareness, self-transformation, and self-realization.

Heather Greaves, E-RYT500 is a yoga practitioner, yoga teacher and yoga therapist to-be-grandfathered who helps practitioners learn to  teach yoga in therapeutic ways in Hamilton and now Toronto.


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