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What is a Professional Yoga Therapist?

Last Sunday, I completed my 800 hour training in Yoga Therapy with Integrative Yoga Therapy (IYT) at Kripalu, and earned my 1000 C-IAYT certification as a professional yoga therapist. I have blogged a few times already about what yoga therapy is, and how it can help people struggling with chronic health concerns. (See "What is Yoga Therapy?" and "Yoga Therapy is a Practice!" The IYT training includes advanced concepts in anatomy and physiology, conditions of the body as well as how to work with both the medical community and mental health community. Some of my teachers within the IYT program included, founder & director, Joseph LePage, a pioneer in yoga therapy training. Joseph is the founder and director of the Enchanted Mountain Yoga Center in Brazil, one of the largest yoga centers in Brazil. He has a Master's degree in teaching and a background in Kripalu yoga and Buddhism. Maria Mendola, my personal mentor, is a former nurse. Her background includes Ayurveda (trained with Vasant Lad, Robert Svoboda and Carl Rogue), Structural Yoga Therapy (studied with Mukunda Stiles), and kinesiology among other modalities. Our last medical module included training with Dr. Ananda Balayogi Bhavanani of the Center for Yoga Therapy, Education, and Research (CYTER) in Pondicherry, India. Our training also included experts in anatomy and physiology, addiction, trauma, and nutrition, among others. Over the course of 3.5 years, I took 8 Modules including Yoga & Ayurveda, Pranayama, Mudra and Mantra, Functional Movement & Assessment tools, Yoga Nidra and Meditation, and working with the Medical and Mental Health community, plus a 250 hour mentorship requiring reading, research, and one-on-one therapy with both individuals and groups. This training is far more intensive and inclusive than a 200-hour program, or even 500-hour program. It prepares you to be able to do a personal assessment of posture, alignment, movement and range of motion, work with medical conditions, co-morbidities and trauma/psycho-emotional health. There is so much research out there on yoga therapy and how it can help, along WITH Western medicine to improve health outcomes for individuals who are suffering, and more research is being done all the time, proving the benefits of yoga therapy. Being recongnized by IAYT as a Professional Yoga Therapist is a huge accomplishment. IAYT is the credentialing organization that creates and updates standards for yoga therapy, yoga therapy schools and yoga therapists. According to their website (, IAYT's mission is "to establish Yoga as a recognized and respected therapy." If you read their publications or attend their research conferences, you will be astounded at what is being done to help improve people's lives with yoga therapy. I knew when I completed my 200-RYT that I wanted to do more with yoga - that I wanted to do yoga therapy with seniors and help them improve balance, strength and flexibility, so I pursued by 500-RYT with Integrative Yoga Therapy. I did NOT know then, that I wanted to do yoga therapy with trauma, addiction and depression -this was something I learned during my training as I saw all the benefits that yoga offers. Two of our presenters in the Medical module of IYT included Patricia Gerbarg, MD and Richard Brown. MD of "Breath, Body, Mind". They are doing amazing work with simple breath practices to help ease the trauma experienced by refugees and displaced people all over the world, including Rohingya child refugees in Bangladesh, Middle Eastern refugees in Berlin, Germany and freed sex slaves in Sudan. Their work is so incredibly inspiring and hopeful and speaks to the incredible healing power of yoga. There are so many benefits to yoga therapy, I hope to see the field continue to grow and expand. Wishing peace to all. Om Shanti. Namaste.

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