America Needs More Yoga Therapists

Devi Dillard-Wright August 13, 2021

The Pandemic caused so many seeking continuous therapies for optimal health, with physical and mental health disabilities on the rise in the United States, millions are on the hunt for effective, cost-efficient methods to preserve and improve their mind and body. As a result, the popularity of yoga therapy has quickly emerged as an exercise method and stretching proven to have numerous benefits for both emotional and physical health, up by over fifty million individuals actively engaging in yoga in the United States alone from 2020.


Yoga Therapy Proves Beneficial to Physical and Mental Health

In a 2016 study conducted by Yoga Journal and Yoga Alliance – two expert yoga organizations – the estimated number of Americans that were likely to try yoga was approximately eighty million. Such a large number of individuals using the therapeutic benefits of yoga to calm themselves amidst the hectic work-life of capitalist America has caused a rising number of health professionals to recognize not only the stress-alleviating and mind-calming effects of practicing yoga, but other physical and mental health advantages never before considered or recognized as benefits of yoga.


University of Mississippi’s Center for Health Behavior research, Catherine Woodyard stated “Mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, stress, and insomnia are among the most common reasons for individuals to seek treatment with complementary therapies such as yoga”, and that “consistent yoga practice improves depression.”, certified yoga therapist and former President of the International Association of Yoga Therapists, Janice Gates states that yoga therapy incorporates the “tools of yoga – breath work, sound, visualization, and meditation – and tailor[s] them to a client’s specific health condition.” With professionals in the field acknowledging and utilizing the benefits of yoga therapy in training to cater to an individual client’s health problems, yoga therapy is surely becoming one of the most mainstream and cost-efficient ways to deal with physical and mental health problems compared to other clinical forms of treatment and therapy.


Yoga Therapy had its first major boom in the United States in the late 1900s after Dr. Dean Ornish, Clinical Professor of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, published his first study of lifestyle intervention effects on heart disease. In his study he concluded how therapeutic yoga could be implemented in a healthy lifestyle program to help decrease the symptoms and ultimately reverse the conditions of heart disease, and in 1990, Dr. Ornish’s healthy lifestyle program was approved for health insurance coverage. Soon thereafter, research began on various other benefits of yoga therapy, including yoga for depression, insomnia, respiratory conditions, and carpal tunnel syndrome.


Since Dr. Ornish’s first findings Yoga Therapy has been proven to relieve anxiety and anxiety-based disorders, such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), reduce inflammations that could potentially lead to pro-inflammatory diseases including heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. In recent studies, yoga therapy has even shown to be a beneficial add-on treatment in lowering the psychopathology in patients with schizophrenia.


So for those looking to incorporate yoga therapy into their lives to help alleviate mental and physical ailments like depression, anxiety, lower back pain and even the psychopathological symptoms of schizophrenia, they should heed the advice of BKS Iyengar, founder of the Iyengar Yoga style: “Words fail to convey the total value of yoga. It has to be experienced.”





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