I repeat this line frequently. Coming from a marketing background, I sometimes think Yoga Therapy (YT) needs a branding campaign. However, what really needs a total brand make-over is yoga.* Then, understanding YT would be a bit easier.
What is Yoga Therapy? When it comes time to describe Yoga Therapy, my elevator speech is based on my own background. My long-winded narration is that Yoga Therapy is a cross between an Ayurvedic consultant, Acupuncturist, Acupressurist, Physical Therapist, Psychotherapist, Nutritionist, Movement Therapist, and Myofascial Remodeler.
Dr. Lori Rubenstein Fazzio, a licensed physical therapist, has a thumbnail definition. “Yoga Therapists are lifestyle management experts,” she said at this year’s International Association of Yoga Therapist’s (IAYT) annual symposium (SYTAR).
Fazzio, who is on the faculty at Loyola Marymount University’s (LMU) Yoga Therapy Rx and MA of Yoga Studies programs, went on to say that in our society, we need lifestyle management experts. “We’re all here, ready to team up with medical practitioners…this can no longer be an alternative. It is an imperative.”
The Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr. Margaret Chan, back in 1998 agreed that there needs to be a pairing up of traditional and allopathic medicine. “The time has never been better, and the reasons never greater, for giving traditional medicine its proper place in addressing the many ills that face all our modern – and our traditional – societies.”
At the same time, it’s often easier for physician and patient to keep things humming using drugs, which can be a band-aid approach compared to traditional medicine which tries to address the root of the problem.
Being insulin resistant, myself, I have considered how simple it would be to adopt the “When in Rome…” attitude. Eat the Standard American Diet (SAD), watch the tube for five hours a day, carry an excess 41 pounds on my body, and oh yeah…take insulin or be reliant on other drug therapy. When I was in Rome a decade ago, I ate plenty of pizza and gelato. If I were to return, I wouldn’t touch either.
As a Yoga Therapist, my personal, carefully monitored, drug-free, lifestyle management keeps me healthier and younger than I was ten years ago. Of course, my lifestyle is not for everyone. As with anything, discipline is key.
“Yoga is a strong medicine, but it is a slow medicine,” commented IAYT President Dr. Dilip Sarkar at SYTAR. Just as some diabetics need daily shots for the rest of their lives, I accept I need to follow my YT holistic approach every day, for as far as I can see.
Whether it’s for my personal wellbeing, or that of my clients, my style of Yoga Therapy does not ignore Western medicine. Rather, I include the latest learnings from many MDs and other allied field experts, to offer the best holistic Rx.
“During its 3000-year history, traditional Chinese medicine pioneered interventions such as diet, exercise, awareness of environmental influences on health, and the use of herbal remedies as part of a holistic approach to health. Other ancient medical systems in other countries, such as Ayurveda in India, offer similar approaches to health.”
The WHO has analyzed health conditions around the world and validated Yoga Therapy, and other traditional healing modalities, are more affordable and improve lifespan.
“This form of care unquestionably soothes, treats many ailments, reduces suffering, and relieves pain,” said Dr. Chan. “These are historical assets that have become all the more relevant given the three main ills of life in the 21st century: the globalization of unhealthy lifestyles, rapid unplanned urbanization, and demographic aging. These are global trends with global consequences for health, most notably seen in the universal rise of chronic non-communicable diseases, such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and mental disorders. For these diseases and many other conditions, traditional medicine has much to offer in terms of prevention, comfort, compassion, and care.”
Dr. Sarkar is a former cardio surgeon and associate professor of surgery. As the current president of IAYT, he also honors both Western and Traditional medicine.
Sarkar explains Yoga Therapy as practiced-based evidence. “Evidence-based medicine is tracking data and sharing with other people,” he said. “Ours (YT) has been tracking and sharing for thousands of years.”
As previously stated, Traditional medicine goes to the root of the problem. Sarkar says that even Hippocrates acknowledged, “It is more important to know what sort of person has a disease than to know what sort of disease a person has.”
“Even they do Yoga Therapy research in Alabama,” he joked.
Fazzio also sees Yoga Therapy in its infancy stage in the U.S. She likens it to the history of cell phones. “Thirty years ago nobody had any idea what a cell phone was,” she said. “Today, there are 6.8 billion cell phone subscriptions (almost one per person on the planet). Perhaps, in 30 years, everyone will consider (Yoga Therapy) a need.”
The certification and accreditation of Yoga Therapists is also in a growth spurt. The IAYT issues rigid curricula guidelines to ensure the level of training among YTs of the highest caliber.
“100 years ago there was no such thing as physical therapy,” says Fazzio. “Today, more than 200 universities offer advanced degrees in physical therapy.”
A certified yoga teacher needs 200 hours under his or her belt. IAYT requires Yoga Therapists to have 800 to 1200 hours. Moving forward, Fazzio expects they may need a Master’s degree. Southern California’s LMU was the first in the U.S. to offer the MA in Yoga Studies. On the east coast, the Maryland University of Integrated Health (MUIH) offers a Master’s program.
MUIH says, “Yoga therapy practitioners are playing a primary role in this national shift toward natural and integrative healthcare. Using an advanced mind-body approach, these professionals apply the teachings and practices of yoga to evaluate the needs of clients and to design balanced and effective programs tailored to address their individual health challenges.”
Dr. Chandra Sekaran, MPH., says that there are 10 states in India with state-run medical universities that offer Bachelors in Naturopathy and Yogic Sciences (BNYS) programs. The BNYS course of study is a five-and-a-half-year medical curriculum. “The first professional medical education in Naturopathy & Yoga started way back in 1970 and as of now there are more than 3000 practitioners and with around 800 students pursuing the BNYS education in the colleges,” Sekaran said.
I look forward to the day that Yoga Therapy will be a routine option suggested by people in all sorts of health care fields in our country. And, the day when people refer to YT just as easily as they refer to PT.
*To catch my drift about what re-branding of yoga is, or to read more about what is Yoga Therapy, plugin keywords on my yoga blog‘s search engine.