What is the Difference Between Yoga and Yoga Therapy?

Breeze Academy December 16, 2021
What is the Difference Between Yoga and Yoga Therapy

As a Yoga Teacher, you may have come across the intervention of yoga therapy, and you may have wondered if it’s actually different from what you already do. Or, perhaps, you are already familiar with yoga therapy, and just want to know more before expanding your services. In this article, we determine the difference between yoga and yoga therapy, and how they play a part in healthcare.

So, what is the difference between yoga and yoga therapy? Although similar, yoga and yoga therapy have different applications. Yoga focuses on harmonising the body through breathing techniques and poses, whilst yoga therapy is the process of encouraging improved health and wellbeing through the teachings and practices of yoga.

Read on to learn more about the differences between yoga and yoga therapy.

Is there a Difference Between Yoga and Yoga Therapy?

Although very similar, yoga and yoga therapy are different, varying by their applications. Yoga focuses more on harmonising the body by using various breathing techniques and physical poses. It tends to be therapeutic and can lead to self-discovery and self-realisation.

Yoga therapy, on the other hand, uses yoga practices but with the aim of progressing towards improved physical health and overall wellbeing. It is a distinct branch of yoga, where Yoga Therapists are required to complete 1000 hours of training to become certified. What’s more, the class setup further differentiates yoga therapy from yoga. A typical yoga class will include multiple students, all performing the same poses to a set piece of relaxing music, with gentle instruction from the yoga teacher. Yoga therapy, however, tends to focus on the individual, and the yoga therapist will guide them with custom movements, with their individual needs and health concerns in mind.


Modern, medical, understandings of yoga define the practice as a form of exercise that focuses on strength, flexibility, and breathing to boost physical and mental wellbeing. More traditionally, though, yoga focuses on harmonising the mind, body, and spirit.

Yoga offers many other benefits to clients, beyond the traditional benefit of harmonisation:

  • Improves strength
  • Improves balance
  • Improves posture
  • Improves flexibility
  • Helps with pain relief, such as back pain
  • Benefits heart health
  • Promotes relaxation and better sleep
  • Helps to manage stress and anxiety
  • Promotes self-care

Yoga Therapy

The International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT) defines yoga therapy as “the process of empowering individuals to progress toward improved health and well-being through the application of the teachings and practices of Yoga”. In practice, this means using yoga techniques as a healthcare intervention in order to improve a specific condition or to boost overall health and wellbeing.

Yoga Therapists will carry out an initial consultation, just like other healthcare practitioners, before creating a custom plan to address their client’s needs. The benefits of yoga therapy are largely the same as with traditional yoga, however, since the therapy is tailored to the client’s specific needs, benefits are likely to be more personalised. Many doctors and other healthcare professionals also now recommend yoga therapy due to its wide-ranging health benefits.

Why is Yoga Therapy Important?

Yoga therapy is an important healthcare intervention as it is not only restorative, but can also be preventative, and can manage certain ailments without the need for western medicine (in some cases). The benefits of yoga therapy have such an impact that the NHS now recommends the treatment as a complementary and alternative therapy.

Objectives of Yoga Therapy

The objective of yoga therapy is simple - to improve the health and wellbeing of clients, whatever that means to them. With the use of traditional yoga practices, yoga therapists recommend particular techniques, poses, and moves that focus on the client’s specific concerns.

Objectives of yoga therapy can include:

  • Elimination, reduction, or management of symptoms
  • Improved general functioning
  • Prevention of recurrence of symptoms or causes of illness
  • Promotion of general health and wellbeing
  • To encourage mindfulness when it comes to one’s own body

What is the Place of Yoga Therapists In Healthcare?

In the UK, the NHS promotes yoga therapy as a complementary and alternative treatment. It is sometimes referred to as Medical Yoga Therapy. According to a 2017 study, the importance of yoga therapy in healthcare stems from the treatment’s positive impact on the body and mind.

Yoga therapy can help to regulate blood glucose levels, improve musculoskeletal ailments, keep the cardiovascular system in check, and can also have important psychological benefits such as increasing positive feelings and decrease negative feelings of aggressiveness, depression, and anxiety.

What’s more, the rise in non-communicable diseases (NCDs) have reached such proportions that they now make up 80% of deaths worldwide. But this needn’t be so. Yoga therapy is a non-invasive, cost-effective treatment that requires no drugs and can be carried out almost anywhere, but has been found to be incredibly beneficial against some common NCDs.

Yoga therapy has a place in modern Western healthcare, and has the potential to be an effective way of managing and treating less severe conditions, thus reducing the stress on the NHS.

Yoga Courses for Healthcare Professionals

Breeze Academy, one of the UK’s leading CPD providers for healthcare professionals, has teamed up with Kelly Norman, a Chartered Physiotherapist, Yoga, and Meditation tutor, to develop a range of yoga courses for healthcare professionals looking to safely and effectively integrate Yoga into their practice.

Check out our yoga training course online now, or get in touch with us for more information.

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