What is Yoga Therapy?

What is yoga therapy?

By definition from the International Association of Yoga Therapy (IAYT): “Yoga Therapy is the process of empowering individuals to progress toward improved health and well-being through the application of the philosophy and practice of yoga.”

Simply put – there IS something rightwith you.  You may have forgotten.  An individualized yoga practice can bring you back to that place of feeling whole and balanced.


Yoga Therapy is suitable for everyoneand anyone. Often times people are intimidated by yoga based on images they are being fed in the news, magazines, and on social media.  There is a wide range of what yoga is – that range is not often advertised.   You CANpractice yoga. I promise that you can.  Yoga is for everyone and certainly does not require flexibility, strength, or fancy gear. Yoga simply requires that you are ready to show up and incorporate practices that are right for you.  

Yoga Therapy is typically available in a one-to-one format.  This ensures that the individual and yoga therapist can work toward, and experiment with, what will work for the individual client.

You might be interested in seeking an individual session if you:

  • Would like to learn more about yoga on an individual level
  • Do not feel ready for a group class
  • Enjoy group classes, and are seeking some new ways of individualizing your practice
  • Have an injury
  • Experience (chronic) pain
  • Struggle with balance
  • Would like to improve your flexibility and/or strength
  • Wish to incorporate a self-care and/or a health and wellness routine into your life
  • Are recovering from an illness/surgery
  • Experience fatigue, insomnia, sleeplessness
  • Experience stress/anxiety/depression/grief/trauma/insomnia and are wondering how yoga practices can help

A yoga therapist empowers the individual to take small, manageable steps to improved health and wellness.  With the framework of yoga there are ENDLESS possibilities. Yoga does not necessarily mean typical asanas (yoga postures or poses).  In yoga therapy, more often than not we are going to get highly creative and individualized based on YOUR needs. Many times that begins with pranayama (breathing exercises), meditation, and mindful movement. Many times that means utilizing props creatively to help you gain maximum comfortability and benefit.

Meditation practices could mean starting with a guided app on your phone, practicing mindful showers, or  a short mindful walk (that’s combining meditation AND movement. Bam. That’s yoga.) Mindful movement could mean 5 minutes of myofascial release with a tennis ball every day, or a simple series of postures that you are comfortable with.  The options are limitless and completely tailored to the individual.

What do individual yoga therapy sessions look like?

Typically, sessions begin with a written pre-appointment questionnaire so that the yoga therapist can understand your concerns and goals.  Maybe you’re not sure of your goal(s)? Not to worry – that can be developed together!

It’s ideal for an individual client to follow through with at least three elements: the pre-appointment assessment (questionnaire), one in person initial assessment, and at least one follow-up session.

  1. Pre-appointment assessment. Prior to the first appointment, you will receive a questionnaire that is aimed at getting you to start thinking about your habits, routines, concerns, and goals.  This is all helpful information for the yoga therapist to come into your first face-to-face session with some additional questions and some ideas to try.
  2. In person initial assessment. The initial assessment session typically lasts between 60-90 minutes.  During the first appointment, the yoga therapist will cover the questionnaire with you, ask additional questions regarding daily routines, perform an assessment (i.e. observing you walk, sit, breathe, asking specifics about areas of pain in the body), and clarify a simple goal(s).  Based on the session, the yoga therapist will likely have small changes/techniques to try out together and ask you to practice these things until the next session.
  3. Follow-up session. The first follow-up session, and any subsequent appointments will last 60 minutes. During the follow-up appointment, you and the yoga therapist will discuss how the small assignment(s) went (any notes, likes, dislikes, etc).  The yoga therapist will also practice additional ideas (physical postures, breathing techniques, meditation options) with you based on your goal(s).

Essentially the breakdown of yoga therapy is:

  • Assessment of body, breath, mind, spirit
  • Goals
  • Small changes, practices, and techniques
  • More assessing
  • Small changes, practices, and techniques
  • More assessing
  • Etc.

Yoga therapy is a holistic complement to professional resources and supports in your life. For example, yoga therapy does not replace your primary care physician, psychotherapist, acupuncturist, chiropractor, massage therapist, Ayurvedic Doctor or Naturopath, physical therapist, or even your beloved group yoga class. In fact, feel free to read more about the difference between yoga therapy and other professions below.  There are even more examples if you google: “What’s the difference between yoga therapy and _________.”

Yoga therapy ideally works collaboratively with all important elements in your life.  Can a yoga therapist diagnose a physical or mental health disorder, or medically treat addiction? No. A yoga therapist canwork within the scope of her own practice and, for example, help you to incorporate stress relieving breathing practices into your daily routine, provide journaling exercises for self-study, or develop a sequence of movements for you to practice strengthening your core and improving posture. In turn, those tiny changes and practices have the potential to influence other areas in your life in big ways.

Yoga therapy empowers the individual with a whole-person viewpoint: mind, body, soul. Yoga therapy is most powerful when combined with your other helping professionals, healthy practices, and supports.

According to Yoga International, “rather than focusing on yoga methods and practices, yoga therapists fundamentally focus on their clients’ needs.” Yoga therapy is powerful because it empowers individuals to maximize their own health, happiness, and wellness.  You have the tools, gifts, and power within yourself. There IS something rightwith you.  You may have forgotten.  You can uncover the beauty and power within.

Article contributed by Bryana Cook, an RYT-200, RYT-500 in training, and an 800 hour C-IAYT in training with Inner Peace Yoga Therapy. She is an MSW, LGSW, as well as an LICSW in training. Bryana is currently a practicing mental health provider in a small clinic. She has been teaching group yoga classes and individual sessions since 2015.  Bryana lives in Longville, MN and is available for individual appointments by request in the Leech Lake area. Coming to an upcoming Boreal Bliss Yoga Retreat? Bryana can work with you before, during, and after a retreat (virtual options available): an ideal way to incorporate the yoga and wellness practices you learn at a retreat into your daily life.  Learn more about Bryana’s group classes and individual sessions here.