Yoga Alliance has recently implemented a new policy on yoga therapy and the use of many terms associated with yoga therapy such as “healing,” “therapeutic,” etc. Basically, their new policy says that they have nothing to do with yoga therapy. Registered teachers and schools are not allowed to use these banned terms, or teach these banned subjects unless they can show yoga therapy certification through another authority and they put a disclaimer on their website.

This has taken many people in the yoga community by surprise. Just this morning, I participated in Yoga Alliance’s Registered Yoga Schools meeting, and one particular point that came up has really stuck in my mind. They said that programs that include curriculum that they construe to be yoga therapy could not be counted towards their RYT (registered yoga teacher) registration, meaning that those hours or that training can't be counted as part of an RYT program. They did say a training could include those topics (with a disclaimer) but the hours wouldn't apply toward Yoga Alliance registration.

My understanding of this comment is that programs such as Accessible Yoga Teacher Training, which I’ve been leading for many years, could not be included in an RYT300 or RYT500 training and count toward registration. These programs may be therapeutic, yet they offer another essential service: They train yoga teachers to share the teachings with people with disabilities who don't have access through traditional channels.

Yoga Alliance says that it doesn’t offer registration for yoga therapy programs that diagnose or treat any medical conditions, and it's clear that some programs are doing that. But there are also programs like mine, that are focused on sharing yoga with people with disabilities, chronic illness, seniors, and anyone who doesn’t feel comfortable in a traditional yoga class. I don't believe these programs are focusing on diagnosis or treatment, rather they focus on adapting yoga and making it accessible to every one.

This subtle difference between these types of programs is very important to the disability community, and Accessible Yoga is focused on this very point. Disability is not the same as disease. People with disabilities can feel whole and complete and practice adaptive yoga without the need for yoga therapy - or any therapy. In other words, adaptive yoga is not the same as yoga therapy, yet this policy seems to group them together.

With this policy, YA may be discriminating against people with disabilities and reducing access to the yoga teachings. I realize that they are not directly restricting access, but by saying that these special programs cannot be included in their registration system they are discouraging the majority of yoga teachers from taking these types of trainings.

One additional thought: On the conference call this morning, Yoga Alliance said that their new policy was designed to protect the general public. This left me dumbfounded. If Yoga Alliance was really concerned for the general public, then they would look at what they could do to reduce the injuries that are occurring in yoga classes.

After years of working in the yoga world, I have almost never heard of any injuries occurring in adaptive, therapeutic, or restorative yoga classes. Yet, I’ve heard countless stories of people getting injured in more physically active yoga classes. I love all yoga, but considering ways to reduce potential harm to yoga students would be a great place for Yoga Alliance to start – rather than discouraging yoga teachers from getting training in sharing yoga with all.



02/24/2016 10:56pm

Thank you for this important post Jivana. I too teach a training that makes yoga available to every body. It's been a great joy to share Therapeutic Yoga with many people over the last 18 years. For all those out there who are teaching these very special styles of yoga, (which make yoga accessible to all) my hope is that you will continue on with your offerings and learning and not be sidelined due to this unfortunate decision made by Yoga Alliance. Namaste'

02/27/2016 8:03am

Dear Cheri,
Your Therapeutic Yoga program has changed so many lives in exponential ways as it expands through all the teachers you have trained over the years. I hope that Yoga Alliance has the wisdom to encourage teachers to train with you - rather than discourage it with this new policy.

02/25/2016 6:45am

Yoga alliance is not being very adaptable ! Very frustrating & sad!

02/27/2016 8:04am

I appreciate your comments. I think Yoga Alliance needs to learn some Accessible Yoga!

02/25/2016 10:36am

The above is a very good rebuttal to the YA's new policy. I was an Integral Yoga teacher since the '70's and not one person was harmed in classes. When Yoga is taught as intended - caring for the body and not pushing beyond the point of tension, with use of the breath and using 2 words - relax, release - one can practice without injury. When I began, I had a severe back injury and if I had taken one of the physically active classes offered now, I would have most likely wound up crippled for life. Thank you for giving us this opportunity to speak. Namaste

02/27/2016 8:06am

Thank you for sharing your story, how incredible that you healed yourself. I hope that Yoga Alliance doesn't discourage people from using yoga for healing - which is its ultimate purpose: healing the mind.

02/25/2016 6:34pm

I agree with Jivana and thank him for his comments. YogaReach LLC, Northeast Ohio's therapeutic, educational yoga/movement program has been in existence for over 11 years. Serving people with Parkinson's and other movement disorders, individuals with special needs and people with medical challenges has supported people in their personal intrinsic drive, YogaReach utilizes therapeutic yoga as a complementary tool to teach self-development, empowerment, adaptive techniques, and daily living skills.

02/27/2016 8:09am

Keep up the good work. You are doing exactly what I'm talking about here - sharing all of yoga with people with disabilities. Looking forward to seeing you at the Accessible Yoga Conference!

Hamsa Spagnola
02/26/2016 7:34am

Thank you Jivana for your well-expressed comments & concerns regarding YA's new policy on eliminating the words"therapy, therapeutic, healing", etc... I agree with you 100%! I, too, teach Gentle. Chair, Adaptive Yoga to people from many different walks of life...the elderly, alzheimers, the Nat'l Multiple Sclerosis Society, paraplegics, downs syndrome etc, etc, etc...& have been doing this since the '80's. I train Yoga Teachers to do the same & have referred to myself as a yoga therapist for all of those years due to the very nature of my work. No one has ever brought me to task for that! None of my students have ever been injured while participating in any of my classes. However, and I agree with you here, I have worked with students who have been injured in other types of yoga classes. As a matter of fact, most of my students have been encouraged by their doctors to do yoga! I do feel that there is a need for teachers to be much more mindful with their students & to avoid anyone from potentially harming themselves in a yoga class. After all, isn't yoga about adapting, adjusting & accommodating so that everyone can experience the wonderful & positive effects of it? Yoga is a powerful and beautiful modality & yes, it is therapeutic by nature & should be respected, honored & recognized as such. Thanks for listening! Om Prem

02/27/2016 8:11am

I know that you have impacted so many lives in a positive way - it seems like Yoga Alliance should encourage teachers to follow in your footsteps. Let's hope that they come to their senses!

02/26/2016 8:03am

Hi Jivana,

We’re glad you were able to join us for our Q&A on February 24 and hope it was a helpful and enriching experience. Your blog post, however, mischaracterizes the information about the Policy on the Use of Yoga Therapy terms that Yoga Alliance Registry shared with its registrants on the call. We would like to clear up your misunderstanding on these points:

• You’re quite right that Yoga Alliance Registry does not offer registration for yoga therapy programs that diagnose or treat any medical conditions, but your belief that this somehow applies to programs that focus on alignment, restorative poses or adapting yoga to people with disabilities is incorrect. During the Q&A, we explained that an RYS can teach about symptoms of health conditions and about how to avoid injuring students with those health conditions without that being characterized as “yoga therapy.” There is a critical difference between teaching trainees to understand health conditions or disabilities and how adapt their yoga instruction to make it accessible to students with health limitations, on the one hand, and teaching trainees to diagnose or treat those health conditions. If an activity does not involve diagnosis or treatment of a mental or physical health condition, we do not consider that activity to be “therapy.”
• We also explained that schools can choose to teach yoga therapy content and to advertise their Registry credential, provided that they include in their marketing materials a disclaimer that identifies the non-Registry source of their yoga therapy expertise. We made clear that registrants can describe the source of their therapy expertise in any way they want. Yoga Alliance Registry does not insist that the disclaimer describe a credential from another organization. The key here is transparency to the public. If the school states that it offers training in yoga therapy techniques, it can continue to do so. It simply must describe the basis for that expertise and make clear that its Registry credential does not serve as a yoga therapy credential.

Everyone can agree that yoga is generally beneficial to one’s health and well-being; we do not deny that. Moreover, we encourage our schools to incorporate teachings that make yoga safer or more accessible to people with disabilities. We believe there is a sizable difference between knowing how to give a physical adjustment to someone with impaired motor function and using yoga to treat someone with impaired motor function. We commend any school and teacher that utilizes the former, and we also caution any teacher or school that uses the latter unless they have other qualifications or credentials that make it safe for them to do so or are working in conjunction with a licensed health care provider who has made the medical judgment that yoga can be used to treat the medical condition. At a minimum, students with health conditions who go to a yoga instructor who offers yoga therapy should be informed about the basis of that yoga therapist’s expertise.

In a nutshell, it is not our intention to dissuade teachers from gaining knowledge about how to adapt yoga teaching to different audiences, including those with disabilities. We believe there is a distinct difference between knowing how to teach to these populations versus how to treat/heal/cure these populations through yoga.

02/27/2016 3:27pm

Thank you for this response, Yoga Alliance. To be clear, no yoga therapist is taught to diagnose or treat medical or mental health conditions. That is outside of our scope of practice. We use the tools of yoga to empower individuals to practice self-care, reduce suffering and improve quality of life. We operate from a kosha model, not a biomedical model. My students and clients will always have arthritis. I am helping them to live with arthritis differently, using the practices of yoga. If your only limitations is that we do not diagnose or treat, that is a non-issue. If you agree that it is important for yoga teachers to learn about disease and how to practice ahimsa with diverse student populations, all yoga teachers should receive credit for doing so. Yoga teachers who take my Yoga for Arthritis training are more qualified to work safely with the students who are already coming to their general classes, gentle classes, senior classes. Yoga therapists who go deeper with this material often specialize in working individually with this population, but they never diagnose or treat. They work with each individual as a whole person, using the tools of yoga. We should be encouraging a life of ongoing learning and continuing education for yoga teachers and therapists without drawing a line in the sand between our overlapping professions. Thank you.

Prakasha Capen
02/26/2016 5:02pm

Jivana, thank you for being a terrific advocate for those with physical challenges and the trained teachers who serve them. I've long been concerned about the mistaken and potentially harmful advice given to the disability community by yoga teachers without specific advanced training and experience. It's one of the many reasons I've been thrilled by your service and the programs of Accessible Yoga. Love & gratitude. Om Shanti

02/27/2016 8:00am

Dear Yoga Alliance,

Thank you for taking the time to respond to my blog and for trying to clarify your policy. You didn't address the main concern that I brought up in my original post regarding the impact this new policy will have on trainings that focus on bringing yoga to people with disabilities.

I'm thinking of trainings such as my Accessible Yoga, but also some incredible programs like: Therapeutic Yoga with Cheri Clampett, Yoga of the Heart with Nischala Devi, YCAT: Yoga for Cancer with Jnani Chapman, Yoga for the Special Child with Sonia Sumar, Yoga for Arthritis with Steffany Moonaz, Yoga of Recovery with Durga Leela, Yoga for Autism with Sharon Manner, Yoga for All with Dianne Bondy, Opening Yoga with Matthew Sanford, and more.

My concern is regarding the statement that was made during the RYS call, that hours from content that is deemed to be yoga therapy, or entire trainings that are considered to be yoga therapy, cannot be applied toward RYT registration. Who will be making this decision about whether these trainings are crossing the line into yoga therapy? I imagine that there is content in all of our trainings that will fall into yoga therapy using the definition that you have created. Personally, after teaching yoga to people with disabilities for over twenty years, I don't see the line between yoga teaching and yoga therapy as clearly as you seem to.

If we suppose that some of the banned material is included in these trainings, that would mean that yoga teachers taking these trainings would receive less credit toward their 300 or 500RYT registration. Say Accessible Yoga is a 100 hour training, and Yoga Alliance decides that 25 hours of my training contains banned material, then graduates will only receive 75 hours credit.

This will discourage teachers from taking these types of programs, and encourage them to take trainings in say, advanced asana practice, where they can apply all the hours toward their registration. In an extreme case, Yoga Alliance may decide that one of these trainings is all yoga therapy and not allow for any credit. Why would someone who is working toward an RYT500 put their money towards that program? This is what I'm concerned about: that Yoga Alliance will be punishing trainings that may be offering yoga therapy, when most of these programs are also designed to bring yoga to people with disabilities. Even if Yoga Alliance leaves the decision up to the trainer to figure out how many hours of their program is yoga therapy, the result will be the same: Yoga Alliance-registered teachers will have less incentive to take these trainings.

It is unfortunate that Yoga Alliance didn't allow for input from its members on his policy before putting it in place. I think there are ways that this policy could have been designed to protect these communities. For example, if a trainer could show the source for their training in yoga therapy, perhaps that content could be counted toward RYT registration, or perhaps there are other ways you could encourage teachers to take these types of trainings? I would be happy to work with you to try to find a solution - and I know many other people in the community who would also like to see this resolved.

At this point, I don't know how Yoga Alliance can proceed without acknowledging the damage that will be done, and working with the community to try resolve it. There is a bit of denial in the way that this policy is being presented - as if this is so cut and dry. The fact is, most of the trainings that I mentioned will fall into the category of yoga therapy, and hours from those programs will no longer be part of Yoga Alliance registration.

It's clear that this means that yoga teachers will be discouraged from taking these types of trainings, and the yoga teaching profession will become more and more about yoga for young, healthy, wealthy, able-bodied communities. I love your comment that, "we encourage our schools to incorporate teachings that make yoga safer or more accessible to people with disabilities," and I would appreciate seeing some action toward making that happen.

03/08/2016 9:40pm

Having taught Integral Yoga Hatha for over 40 years, I can testify that every class I have offered has been offered as therapy. Our physical bodies can heal when we relax and allow the energy to be used for healing. Healing imagery, imagining the body healing, is encouraged and has been proven to help the body heal. Breathing deeply allows healing to happen. How could anyone teach a yoga class without acknowledging the healing aspects? Mental health and physical health are both improved from relaxing after tensing and releasing. How could one separate yoga from therapy? Yoga is therapy. I'm delighted NOT to be a member of the Yoga Alliance, and I'm delighted that I don't personally worry about these silly labels. But when I read these comments, I had to respond, defending the healing effects of yoga which cannot be denied. Call a rose by any other name, deny its name, refuse its name, but it is still a rose.

Maha Lakshmi
03/25/2016 11:51am

That true, YA is not helping their members by banning the "therapy" word. I graduated from two certifications courses ( Creative Yoga therapy , level 1 and level 2) where we were trained to teach yoga to people who are in the nursing homes ,etc. This kind of yoga is healing and therapeutic, no doubt. May JA can come up with another word/expression what we believe being healing an therapeutic? How they want to call it?


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