PictureCheri Clampett
Cheri Clampett, Director of the Therapeutic Yoga training, responds with an open letter to Yoga Alliance regarding their recent policy change.

Yoga is union. It is a beautiful and encompassing path that has the potential to bring forth our best life and our greatest light in the world. While yoga includes a broad collection of techniques, it is the underlying mindset and intention that weaves through its core that makes yoga a unique gift.

Most who have chosen to become yoga teachers have done so because they have experienced the transformative power of yoga in their own life, and finding both awe and joy in the result, wish to share it with others. For a great many, that initial inspiration and transformation brought forth, and continues to bring forth, that most remarkable of occurrences: healing.

Yoga encourages us to find awareness where there was darkness, to find alignment where there was contention, to find peace where there was struggle. As the body and breath shift with the practice, so do the mind and heart. For those who have gone deep with yoga, it is easy to hold these truths as self-evident. And even, in many cases, it is evident from the very first yoga class one takes.

Why then, would an organization like Yoga Alliance seek to divorce itself from this most beautiful and exquisite aspect of yoga? Over the last month, the yoga community has seen or heard Yoga Alliance’s explanation for their decision. For those of us who work with the chronically ill, the injured, and the differently-abled, their reasoning has felt hollow and bereft of both courage and common sense.

Yoga Alliance seems to have made a decision with wide reaching impact based solely on the opinion of a single law firm associate regarding hypothetical risk. The opinion produced appears to have little standing in regards to actual case law related to yoga. Like any other profession, lawyers come in all manner of competency and ability - the International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT) rebuttal regarding the outdated material used in the opinion shines an appropriate light on the quality of the opinion as a whole.

Regardless of the particulars of that legal opinion, it is hard to see Yoga Alliance’s decision to sever the healing limb of yoga from the registry as anything other than a fear-based reaction, which is especially disappointing when Yoga Alliance could have decided to show strength of leadership and take the position that yoga can indeed be a healing art with therapeutic benefits and that it is part of our heritage that we should both embrace and defend.

There are many of us in the yoga profession who work hand in hand with doctors, nurses, physical therapists and other healthcare professionals to provide healing and therapeutic yogic treatments. In those contexts, we are a welcomed and acknowledged partner in providing an integrative treatment program. For example, at the Cancer Center of Santa Barbara, Therapeutic Yoga classes have been part of the Wellness Program for over fifteen years - they are highly regarded by the oncologists and well attended by the patients.

In the Therapeutic Yoga Training Program, we make a distinct effort to carefully delineate the appropriate scope of practice for teachers who share Therapeutic Yoga, including the concept that we are not in the business of diagnosing, and that while we teach healing modalities, it is the patient’s body that does the healing, and that healing and curing are not always the same thing. This enables yoga to integrate well with existing systems of treatment.

Through its recent decision, Yoga Alliance has made no allowance for training programs or modules in the vein of Therapeutic Yoga or yoga therapy that adhere to these kinds of standards in their teaching, which seems odd, since as a registry, accounting for standards is their main responsibility. It is also ironic given that the statement alongside the YA logo reads “Many Paths, One Yoga Alliance”.

One special aspect of yoga is the sense of community that infuses it, whether that takes the form of yoga center sanghas, forward-thinking festivals, or the greater sense of union that those who practice yoga feel with those around them. In that sense, I found the method by which Yoga Alliance came to this decision, and the method by which they have disseminated their decision, to be disappointing. The lack of community discussion beforehand, particularly with those most affected by their decision, was surprising. The communication of their decision has likewise been disappointing - the wording and the manner of dissemination has confused many in the yoga community.

Certain aspects of Yoga Alliance’s decision also appear to be on somewhat shaky legal ground. It’s one thing to dictate what words or phrases can be used on the YA website, it’s another to tell teachers what wording they can use on their own personal site. For a non-profit registry, this seems like an overreach.

If the concern is truly liability, why not instead create a release form that all teachers registered through YA sign, stating YA is not liable? Included with this form could be a disclaimer on the YA website  making it clear that they are a registry and as such are not liable for legal matters related to a given teacher. YA could, in their scope of practice, also emphasize the importance of registered teachers adhering to the standards. Once the IAYT initiates their standard approval framework, yoga therapists will be also certified through respective schools. With this new level of education required, there will be additional respect and viability regarding the growth of yoga therapy.

This approach would make more sense than to discriminate against trainings such as the Therapeutic Yoga Training for using the word “therapeutic” in its title, or teachers who are using words like “therapeutic” and “healing” to describe their classes and teaching styles. These words are beneficial to the consumer - they help people find the right classes and teachers to meet their needs. Particularly for populations that are new to yoga, who are not familiar with yoga terminology, and who may have physical challenges, finding that right first class may be the difference between a fruitful relationship with yoga or none at all.

For those teachers who have been so carefully and thoughtfully carrying Therapeutic Yoga, yoga therapy and other brands of yoga that focus on supporting individuals with chronic illness, injury, disability and varying other physical challenges, it is very difficult to not take this recent decision by YA as a grave discrimination against us. I believe I speak for many in the Therapeutic Yoga community when I say, we hope Yoga Alliance will look at all the options and keep the conversation open as to possibilities of finding other ways to remedy the concerns they have moving forward.

Cheri “Premanjali” Clampett
Director, Therapeutic Yoga Training



03/08/2016 12:10am

Excellent article. Very well written and thoughtful. Hopefully it will shine light on the dark areas of Yoga Alliance's ignorance.

03/09/2016 10:41pm

Thank you Stacy. I too hope Yoga Alliance will consider our concerns and find a way to still include those of us who share these gentle, nourishing practices with the chronically ill, injured and those in need.

03/08/2016 5:45am

Dear Cheri,
I believe there's a misunderstanding. Yoga Alliance is not against yoga therapy or asking yoga therapists to stop their work. All they are asking is that the term "yoga therapist" is not being associated with Yoga Alliance, because this is not a registration that they offer.
An important aspect of yoga is honesty. YA wants to avoid misleading the public that they register therapeutic training, which they don't. And it's not a question of not supporting one-ness. They also don't register physical therapy training or psychology training. This does not mean that yoga may not have physical therapy or psychological benefits, it just means that this is not what Yoga Alliance registers.
Likewise, your own training is called "therapeutic yoga training program". Not "therapeutic yoga and ikebana training program", because ikebana is just not part of the training. YA is making that same clarification.
I understand that it must be frustrating for you, because you have to adjust your naming if you want to register with YA. But I find it should be in everyone's interest to be clear and honest in their communication.
All the best,

03/09/2016 11:02pm

Hi Clemens,
Thank you for joining the conversation. The new policy that YA is adhering to is negatively effecting a great many people who carry Therapeutic Yoga and yoga therapy to those in need. From my perspective, it's an unfair and detrimental policy targeting a group of yoga teachers that need their support not their restrictive fear based policy. With that said, it's their prerogative to not register yoga therapist but it's important for them to understand how this is reverberating through the community. Wishing you all the best, Cheri

Pure Jade
03/08/2016 6:42am

Thank You Cheri! The YA email targeted me because I used the phrases "therapeutic yoga" and we had to update our profile. And yes, I do feel discriminated against in our practice by YA and their new policy protects them than to consider all that you outline in this message. I wondered why YA did not open this for discussion or at least comment and give us an opportunity for input before announcing their new policy?

Many of my therapeutic yoga participants do not and could not practice the other forms of yoga. They came to my sessions upon the recommendation of doctors who have attended my sessions to check out if this form of yoga would be helpful to their patients.

Thank you for your leadership and giving voice to this issue, and for reminding us of an important aspect that yoga has been for many of us.

03/09/2016 11:09pm

Dear Pure Jade, Keep up the good work and don't let the YA changes keep you from sharing your gifts. Warmly, Cheri

Julie Falk
04/06/2016 6:44am

I find myself in agreement with you both. I'm a 30-year registered nurse; my 200 hour program was specifically oriented toward yoga for health; my next 300 hour program specifies therapeutic yoga on the diploma; and I'm certified to teach Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction. My whole orientation is to teaching yoga and meditation as a therapeutic modality. I never call myself a yoga therapist, but I do certainly teach therapeutic yoga. But... because I work with groups, and not individuals, there really isn't a place for me now in either YA or IAYT. I really wish that IAYT would eventually undertake a certification for therapeutic yoga teachers. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

Cheri's words are going to the core. In her kind approach she has demonstrated her true yogic nature, all inclusive, awake, aware, humble and intelligent. Sheri's yoga can heal cancer. Do you need more proof?

03/09/2016 11:11pm

Dear Andreya,
Thank you so much for your kind words and vote of confidence. It's been a joy to share this path with you over the years.

03/08/2016 6:11pm

This is a beautiful, well thought out, and heartfelt letter that will be helpful to many students looking for guidance on this matter.
Larry Payne

Cheri Clampett
03/10/2016 10:58pm

Hi Larry,
Thank you for your support and for always being an inspiration to me and so many others in the field of yoga therapy.
With love,

Margaret Leary
03/09/2016 2:47am

I am currently a cancer patient who recently began therapy with a talented, compassionate and experienced yoga therapist. The healing therapy she is providing is helping me immeasurably to cope with both the physical and emotional challenges of cancer and chemo. She definitely deserves to have the word therapist in her title.

03/11/2016 6:27pm

Dear Margaret,
I'm so glad that you have found a gifted yoga therapist who has been supporting you through your journey with cancer. I really appreciate you joining the conversation and sharing your experience. Those of us who have received the title of "yoga therapist" should be able to use it, specifically so that people with various conditions can find the right practitioner to work effectively with their particular needs.
Wishing you continued healing.

03/09/2016 7:25am

Thank you Sheri for your well considered and clearly articulated views. Also thanks for joining this conversation as it is one of great importance in our yoga community - not just now but going forward as yoga and yoga therapy become even more mainstream. I published a similar article last week on our blog on pryt.com and from the many responses it was heartening to see the yoga therapy community stand tall and come together around this issue. Best wishes with your work going forward. - Michael Lee, Founder Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy.

03/11/2016 6:52pm

Hi Michael, It's quite an honor to have your support. I have followed your work over many years. I read the wonderful piece you wrote on your website (pryt.com) and really appreciated your viewpoint that the new policy can potentially be positive in the long run. This is my hope too.
Wishing you all the best with Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy!

03/21/2016 12:23pm

This is beautifully stated, Cheri. It's so important that a voice like yours continues this conversation. My ability to teach therapeutic yoga to students in studios, schools, hospitals and prisons has been 'therapeutic'. My therapeutic yoga training has certainly enhanced my ability to be an even more effective massage therapist and I plan to continue to use my therapeutic yoga training in my career. Thank you, thank you for all the work you do.

03/22/2016 11:00am

Hi Oneika, Thank you for your message. The work you are doing in the work is so powerful and healing. It's been a joy to follow you and see all the ways you are bringing Therapeutic Yoga to those in need. Keep up the good work!
Much love,


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