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  • Writer's pictureAsya Haikin

Benefits of Yoga Therapy

Yoga is the most sought-out and widely practiced form of self care and complementary healthcare. From gyms to schools, to hospitals, you can find a yoga class pretty much anywhere you look. But what is yoga therapy? What is the difference between yoga and yoga therapy? What are the benefits of yoga therapy, and are they different from the benefits of yoga?

The origin of yoga goes back millennia. It is a system of self-study and self-realization based on the philosophy of the Vedas, the ancient Indian scriptures and the oldest scripture known to humanity. Yoga offers a pathway to understanding the intricacies of the self and the universe, guiding us towards self-realization and inner harmony. Through the practice of ethical principles, meditation, breath regulation, and physical postures, yoga seeks to unite the mind, body, and spirit, bringing a sense of interconnectedness with the world around us. More than just a physical exercise, it is a transformative journey towards holistic well-being and spiritual awakening.

Yoga came to the West in the first half of the 20th century as a system of spiritual self-improvement. Initially introduced by Indian yogis and spiritual teachers who traveled to the West, yoga caught the imaginations of those seeking deeper meaning in life and fulfillment beyond the material realm. Spread by revered teachers like Swami Vivekananda and Paramahansa Yogananda, yoga evolved, and was gradually adapted to the needs and sensibilities of Western audiences who were seeking the physical and mental benefits of yoga, but not necessarily its spiritual goals.

Popularity of yoga soared at the turn of this century. But the most widespread form of yoga was and still is asana, the practice of the physical postures. Mainstream yoga became part of the fitness industry. Because of its emphasis on athleticism and youthful flexibility, “gym yoga” can often be intimidating and even inaccessible to those who need it the most: people experiencing physical or emotional health challenges, or going through life changes.

The way yoga is practiced today in most studios and gyms is far removed from its original purpose. At the same time, there is a movement to bring yoga back to its roots, and yoga therapy is part of this movement. The goal is to make yoga more accessible, and to bring awareness to its original healing purpose.

According to the International Association of Yoga Therapists, yoga therapy is the application of the tools of yoga for individual healing. The tools can include any aspects of yoga, depending on the need of the client, such as asana - posture or mindful movement, meditation, pranayama - breath awareness practices, mantra - chanting and affirmations, mudra - hand gestures. Yoga therapy approaches healing and well-being holistically, using yoga's ancient wisdom to address physical, mental, and emotional challenges.

What are the benefits and advantages of yoga therapy?

One of the key benefits of yoga therapy is that the yoga therapist is trained to adapt and tailor practices to individual needs, making it accessible to people of all ages and abilities. Through a combination of individually targeted gentle postures, breathwork, meditation, and mindfulness techniques, yoga therapy promotes flexibility, strength, and balance in the body while simultaneously calming the mind and reducing stress. It helps alleviate chronic pain and manage various health conditions such as arthritis, back pain, and cardiovascular issues.

Beyond the physical realm, yoga therapy promotes mental and emotional wellness by reducing stress, anxiety, and depression through mindful breathing techniques, meditation, and relaxation exercises. It fosters a deeper connection between mind and body, enhancing self-awareness, self-compassion, and resilience. Yoga therapy takes a holistic approach, addressing not just symptoms but also underlying imbalances, leading to long-term sustainable healing, empowering individuals to lead healthier, more fulfilling lives.

Research confirms that yoga therapy can be effective in managing various health conditions such as chronic pain, anxiety, depression, and even trauma. By integrating mind, body, and spirit, yoga therapy empowers individuals to embark on a journey of self-discovery and healing, ultimately enhancing their overall quality of life.

But beyond simply adapting yoga to individual needs, the advantages of yoga therapy are the ability of the yoga therapist to give their client a practice that promotes healing on all levels: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. This holistic approach to health and wellbeing is what makes yoga therapy a transformative experience.

Yoga therapists are trained to safely adapt yoga practices for common medical conditions and to work as part of your healthcare team, coordinating care with your medical doctor, physical therapist or psychotherapist. If you had a surgery, such as hip or knee replacement, you will need physical therapy prescribed by your doctor. But as soon as you’re ready to be more active, you can seek out a yoga therapist to continue your recovery and incorporate healthy habits that will help you regain and maintain best function.

Mental benefits of yoga therapy

Yoga therapy engages the mind-body connection and develops resilience of the nervous system. Autonomic nervous system both actively mobilizes our mind/body in response to the pressures of our day-to-day lives, and returns it back to the homeostatic, restorative state. Yoga practices make our nervous system more resilient so we can move between the active and the restorative states with ease, and not get stuck in the fight-or-flight response. By grounding ourselves in present-centered awareness we learn to consciously respond to our situation, rather than unconsciously react.

Yoga therapy offers both top-down (influencing the brain first) and bottom-up (influencing the body first) approaches to regulating the autonomic nervous system. This means that we can use the mind to influence the body, and use the body to affect the mind. Working with the body helps us calm the mind, while working with mental practices, such as mindfulness, visualization and intention setting helps us relax and feel more in control, thus reducing the effects of stress, lowering blood pressure, improving immunity, and reducing pain.

Yoga Therapy can help with physical and mental health challenges. This list is by no means exhaustive but shows the variety of conditions yoga therapy is beneficial for. Since yoga therapy treats the individual and not the illness, whatever challenge the individual is facing will be helped by yoga therapy.

Yoga therapy is beneficial for the following physical conditions:

Back Pain

Musculoskeletal pain

Recovery after joint replacement or surgery




High Blood Pressure

Heart Disease





Brain Injury


Multiple Sclerosis

Autoimmune Diseases


Yoga Therapy is beneficial for mental health conditions:








Eating Disorders


"Yoga practices make our nervous system more resilient so we can move between the active and the restorative states with ease, and not get stuck in the fight-or-flight response."

Interested in learning how yoga therapy can help you feel better in your body and mind? Book a free 30 min consultation call with Asya.

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