When I tell people that I work as a Yoga Therapist, I often have to explain what that means. People know what Yoga is, but Yoga as a healing modality is something they want to know more about.

They ask, “What is Yoga Therapy?”

Essentially, Yoga Therapy uses the tools of Yoga, like physical movements and postures, conscious breathing, sound exercises, and meditation, in modified forms that are appropriate to therapeutic situations and healing. This definition makes sense if you’re already familiar with Yoga Therapy.

If you’re familiar with Yoga, you can probably think of a few easy Yoga poses. You might imagine some modifications of body position or breathing that could make a posture accessible to someone who is in pain or has a chronic illness. But this does not really capture what Yoga Therapy is or how it can be used. 

The Role of Balance

Yoga Therapy, like Yoga, begins with the idea that your body and mind have a natural state of balance, a sort of equilibrium, where it functions best. When your body goes out of balance, your entire system – your mind, emotions, even your behaviors – functions differently. Generally speaking, the further out of balance you are, the more improperly your body and mind functions, and that can cause illness.

Symptoms might be physical, like stiffness or pain. You might have constipation or difficulty falling asleep. Commonly, it manifests as a change in energy, like fatigue or difficulty getting up in the morning. It might also be mental, like difficulty concentrating or remembering details, or emotional, with feelings of anxiety, frustration, or unexpected sadness. Frequently, some combination of the above manifests together.

Who Can Benefit from Yoga Therapy?

When you’re out of balance, your body and mind function differently; they function from a place of ‘illness’ or ‘disease’. One of the main goals of Yoga Therapy is to re-establish that equilibrium as best as possible, to bring the functioning of your body and mind back towards normal. The more you accomplish that, the better you will feel and function.

This truth applies to everyone, including those who cannot return to full health, such as chronic or terminal illness. Even if it is not possible to return to full balance, any effort to improve balance will help. People who work with a Yoga Therapist come from a wide range of maladies, from back pain to Parkinson’s to terminal cancer and everything in between. When Yoga Therapy does not cure the physical condition, it still improves the functioning of the person and often heals something in their emotions. Yoga Therapy can truly benefit anyone.

Who Can Do Yoga Therapy?

The only prerequisites for Yoga Therapy are that the person is:

1. conscious, and

2. willing to do it.

Since the tools of Yoga Therapy are the various parts of the person – their body, breath, voice, and mind – nothing more than the person is required. You don’t need special clothing, props, herbs, or anything else. The person is asked to do things with their body that the Yoga Therapist knows will bring them back toward balance. It can be as simple as softly repeating ‘aaahh’ with each exhale and working to extend the length of each exhale a little each time. Truly, anyone can do therapeutic Yoga.

How Does Yoga Therapy Work?

Yoga Therapy mimics the ways your system moves, breathes, and focuses when it is balanced. For example, when balanced, your breathing will be long and smooth. When you are imbalanced, your breath will be shorter and shallow. Simply extending the length of the breath can bring the person back towards balance in a powerful way. The rest of your body and mind will follow if you stay with it.

Yoga Therapy has a tremendous impact on a wide range of conditions provided that techniques can be found that are comfortable and hold the attention of the person. A Yoga Therapist adapts the techniques to meet the capacities and needs of the individual. If the person is unable to breathe comfortably, the Yoga Therapist will find a different access point for bringing the system back toward balance, such as meditation.  

Yoga Therapy modifies the tools of Yoga for therapeutic settings, and it involves much more than that, as well. Truly, it should be thought of as a science of intentionally-engineered experiences. A science that understands how different experiences influence the way that our bodies, minds, and emotions work and which works through the creation of experiences to effect those changes.

Yoga Therapists Near You

You might be asking yourself, where can I find a Yoga Therapist near me? 

There is no “one size fits all” in Yoga. Your needs, capabilities, interests and circumstances are unique to you, just as your practice should be. Receiving guidance from an experienced Yoga Therapist is the best way to develop a long term Yoga practice that is personalized for you. Your Therapist designs your daily practice (and revises it, as you evolve). This is a profoundly nourishing, healing, and personal process.

At the Yoga Well Institute, we believe working with a Yoga Therapist, and the healing that happens in and through this relationship, is the essential heart of Yoga practice. 

We offer a Mentor Matching service (at no charge) to help continue the ongoing teacher-student link that we also have been recipients of. It is a small way to appreciate the care, effort, and love of all those who have cared for these precious teachings down through the ages and have thus given us an opportunity to benefit from them as well.

To find a Yoga Therapist near you click HERE.

Chase Bossart

Chase Bossart

M.A., C-IAYT, E-RYT 500

Executive Director of the Yoga Well Institute, Chase has been studying Yoga, Sanskrit, eastern philosophy and religion for nearly 30 years. He had the opportunity to personally study with Mr. TKV Desikachar and serve as a teacher at the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram.

What is Yoga Therapy?

Who Can Benefit and What to Expect 

What is Yoga Therapy?

Yoga Therapy creates sustainable transformation in anyone who is committed to the process of a daily practice and an ongoing one-on-one relationship with a Mentor (certified Yoga Therapist). It is a holistic healing discipline that addresses the entire person and all their aspects (body, mind, emotions, behaviors, breath & spirit) in an interconnected way. It is an ancient discipline offering a broad range of tools for supporting health, promoting healing, and facilitating personal and spiritual transformation. 

The goals of Yoga Therapy are to eliminate, reduce, and manage symptoms that cause suffering. We seek to help identify, reduce, or prevent the occurrence of causes of suffering as well as support overall physical, mental, and emotional health. This also includes supporting a healthier perspective and relationship to the condition of suffering.


“It is indeed true that by practicing yoga we gradually improve our ability to concentrate and to be independent. We improve our health, our relationships, and everything we do.”

T.K.V. Desikachar, The Heart of Yoga: Developing a Personal Practice

Who can benefit from Yoga Therapy?

Everyone can benefit from Yoga Therapy. It is a supportive structure of daily practice and mentorship that allows the individual the perspective to see themselves, their choices, their relationships, and their lives in a way that allows for better discernment and ongoing clarity.

Specific physical, functional, behavioral, and emotional conditions can be addressed using a range of tools in a regular practice in concert with the regular oversight of a mentor. 

Yoga Therapy can be successfully used for (and not limited to):

  • Inflammatory diseases
  • Auto-immune diseases
  • Terminal diseases
  • Cancer
  • Chronic physical pain 
  • Limited range of motion 
  • Breath limitations 
  • Sleep disturbances 
  • Trouble with appetite, digestion, and elimination
  • Relationship to food
  • Body image
  • Emotional trauma
  • Understanding yourself better
  • Experiencing confusion, doubt, and lack of clarity
  • Trying to change a deep-seated pattern or belief
  • Connecting to something greater

And much more.

“Yoga Therapy is a self-empowering process, where the care-seeker, with the help of the Yoga Therapist, implements a personalized and evolving Yoga practice, that not only addresses the illness in a multi-dimensional manner, but also aims to alleviate his/her suffering in a progressive, non-invasive and complementary manner.  Depending upon the nature of the illness, Yoga Therapy can not only be preventative or curative, but also serve a means to manage the illness, or facilitate healing in the person at all levels.”

TKV Desikachar

A Broader Understanding of Yoga

Yoga is often associated with physical health, however, your overall well being involves more than just your body. Yoga Therapy addresses symptoms and causes of suffering that may be a mix of physical, functional, personality, mental, and emotional. 

Based on a centuries-old tradition, our holistic approach is based in Yoga as an applicable philosophy, a way of seeing that aids in awareness of our patterns. Having a regular practice, a new pattern, that engages you in a very particular way combined with the experience of a consistent Mentor’s engagement assists in uncovering and changing the whole of our system (body, mind, emotions, behaviors, breath & spirit.)

 Think Like A Yogi

“The success of Yoga does not lie in the ability to perform postures but in how it positively changes the way we live our life and our relationships.”

T.K.V. Desikachar

One-on-One Relationship

Your Mentor is a certified Yoga Therapist that is chosen to meet your specific needs and goals. We have a tradition of connecting students to teachers that is continued through our Mentor Matching service. Based on questions regarding your physical needs, personality, desires for engaging in Yoga Therapy, and more, we introduce you to a certified Yoga Therapist that we believe will be able to help you immediately and long-term 

Your Mentor will craft a personal practice unique to you, an engaging and enjoyable practice in order to support your regular practice. For most people that starts with something that takes 15-20 minutes to practice. Even with a short practice, we find that people receive a great deal of benefit from this work.  Depending on your needs and goals, there can be a mix of gentle movement, conscious breathing, meditation, sound and chanting, lifestyle recommendations, and dietary recommendations.

Change happens over time so staying committed to the process, doing your practice consistently, and sharing your realizations and outcomes from the practice with your Mentor will reap the full benefits. 

“Having a point of reference is absolutely necessary. We need somebody who can hold a mirror in front of us. Otherwise we very quickly begin to imagine that we are perfect and know it all. This personal connection cannot be replaced by books or videos. There must be a relationship, a real relationship, one that is based on trust.”

T.K.V. Desikachar, The Heart of Yoga: Developing a Personal Practice

What Does a Yoga Therapy Look Like?

Expect your first session with a Yoga Therapist to be about 90 minutes. During this first session, you will share what you hope to get out of the experience, fill out an intake form, and discuss your health and lifestyle. Your Mentor will observe you doing some movements and simple breathing, coaching you to do some things a particular way and perhaps providing props for support. From this they will design a personal yoga practice specifically for you. Your personalized yoga practice will be given to you as a series of stick figures doing movements that change as your breath changes. Your Yoga Therapist will make sure you understand the series of movements and send you home with the diagram of your practice.

A follow-up session is scheduled for approximately one week after the initial consultation. This follow-up consultation is usually 60 minutes long. Your Mentor will talk with you about your experience with doing your practice daily. They will watch you practice and refine it accordingly. They may rewrite part or all of your practice. Once again, you will be given a diagram of your personal practice in stick figures to take with you so you can continue to do it regularly. 

 As you continue to do your practice daily, it is important to stay in contact with your Yoga Therapist. Hour-long meetings on a monthly basis are a support to encourage consistency of practice, adjust the practice as needed, and discuss changes that are happening.

Group Yoga Therapy

Group Yoga Therapy brings together a small group of people experiencing the same diagnosed pathology. Each participant will complete a private intake with the Yoga Therapist. Even though there is a common disease among the group, it can manifest differently for each participant. The unique situation, emotions, behaviors, and needs of each individual in the group is supported by the Yoga Therapist. The group is also facilitated as a support to one another where participants can share experiences about practice as well as personal thoughts and experiences happening outside of the group.