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Yoga for Achilles Tendonitis: Tips for Relief & Healing

A person holding their ankle in discomfort before using yoga for Achilles tendonitis
A person holding their ankle in discomfort before using yoga for Achilles tendonitis

It’s a common conundrum: you need to stretch and strengthen your muscles in order to treat a condition like Achilles tendonitis, but irritation or overstretching can quickly make things worse. How do you find the right balance? When using yoga for Achilles tendonitis correctly, you can warm up appropriately, stick to gentle movements, and reap additional benefits unique to yoga techniques.

Not only have I worked one-on-one with clients who have Achilles tendonitis, but I’ve also devoted my life to teaching the next generation of yoga therapists to do the same. I’m Brandt Passalacqua, the Co-Founder, Director, and Lead Teacher of Breathing Deeply Yoga Therapy. I hope the insights I’ve shared below will help you on your path to healing. If you want direct guidance from myself or one of our other highly trained yoga therapists, please take a look at our private online sessions to work with us.

Table of Contents:

What Is Achilles Tendonitis?

Diagram showing the muscles of the foot and ankle with those inflamed by Achilles tendonitis in red

Achilles tendonitis occurs when your Achilles tendon becomes inflamed. This tendon is the thick band of tissue running from your calf muscles in the back of your legs to your heel bones. This condition is often referred to as “Achilles tendonitis,” “Achilles tendinitis,” “Achilles tendinosis,” and “Achilles tendinopathy.”

What Causes Achilles Tendonitis?

There are several common causes of Achilles tendonitis, including:

  • Directly injuring the Achilles tendon
  • Repeatedly straining or overusing the Achilles tendon, such as in running or jumping sports
  • Increasing physical activity that uses the Achilles tendon without preparing for it
  • Improperly stretching after working out
  • Poorly fitting footwear

What Are the Benefits of Doing Yoga for Achilles Tendonitis?

Yoga is especially well-positioned to help you relieve pain from Achilles tendonitis, treat the condition, and prevent its return. Techniques such as asanas (yoga poses) and pranayama (breathing exercises) create a powerful combination that strengthens and stretches muscles, while also soothing the nervous system to promote recovery.

Relieving Pain

There are several ways in which yoga offers pain relief to those with Achilles tendonitis. The most apparent is that yoga offers you a host of gentle movements that can safely stretch your calf muscles, targeting this area without irritating the Achilles tendon. Over time, this can help reduce your pain. Yoga also enables you to strengthen the muscles that support your Achilles tendon, bringing further relief. In general, yoga allows you to regulate your nervous system responses, encouraging the rest-and-digest state that can help you manage pain.

Soothing Your Nervous System

Pain often triggers the fight-or-flight response from your nervous system. Yoga can help you turn off that response and promote the rest-and-digest response instead. By consistently practicing calming yoga sequences, breathing exercises, and meditation, you can shift your body from a state of tension to one of rest and repair.

Studies have also shown that yoga can reduce stress and anxiety, both of which can amplify your perception of pain. Through yoga, you can help your body tap into its innate healing processes by promoting relaxation, reducing stress hormones, and facilitating a soothing environment conducive to recovery.

Targeted Muscle Strengthening

One of the benefits of yoga is that it allows for targeted muscle strengthening. There are numerous yoga poses that can strengthen the muscles around the Achilles tendon, especially the calf muscles, which support and stabilize your ankle. For those with Achilles tendonitis, being able to target specific muscle groups also means you can avoid putting stress on your tendon, which is crucial for recovery. You can also practice exercises that help form arches in your feet.

Preventative Care

If your Achilles tendonitis is related to straining or injuring your Achilles tendon, yoga can help you form arches in your feet and strengthen the muscles that support this tendon to reduce the risk of future injury. Yoga also offers you gentle warm-up exercises that can make you less likely to overstretch your Achilles tendon moving forward.

But in some cases, the cause of Achilles tendonitis relates to other muscles. The superficial back line refers to connected fascia that runs the length of the back of your body, from the soles of your feet to the top of your head. Because the Achilles tendon is part of the superficial back line, you could present with pain in your Achilles tendon that is related to tightness or strain in another part of your body, such as your neck, hamstring, lower back, or buttocks—or vice versa. By practicing forward bends and other yoga poses that address the back line, you can potentially prevent future incidents of Achilles tendonitis.

Ways to Use Yoga for Achilles Tendonitis

As mentioned above, there are several different ways you can use yoga for Achilles tendonitis. These techniques include warm ups, stretching and strengthening exercises, and breathing exercises.

Warm Up with Yoga

Starting your physical activities with a yoga warm-up is excellent for preparing your muscles and tendons before stretching or strengthening exercises. One of the most important things to keep in mind if you have Achilles tendonitis is to avoid overstretching these tendons, which means warming up instead of jumping straight into stretching or working out.

Gentle movements can progressively heat the body, helping to enhance the elasticity of your connective tissues and reduce the risk of injury. Particularly for those managing Achilles tendonitis, focusing on slowly warming up with yoga can ensure the tendon and the muscles that support it are more pliable and less prone to further strain.

Stretch and Strengthen Gently

Yoga offers the perfect platform to gently stretch and strengthen the area affected by Achilles tendonitis. You want to stretch and strengthen muscles like your calves, which are attached to and support the Achilles tendon. As mentioned earlier, yoga is great for targeting specific muscle groups in the body. By lightly activating the muscles around these tendons, you can gradually increase their strength without resorting to the abrupt, high-impact movements that might aggravate your tendons.

Breathing Exercises

A common misconception about yoga is that it only involves physical movements and poses. In fact, there are many techniques within yoga, including pranayama, or breathing exercises.

Learning to breathe properly from your diaphragm can relax your nervous system, which helps promote healing. Diaphragmatic breathing is especially beneficial when used in conjunction with yoga poses and sequences. Calming your nervous system will enable you to relax the muscles that your Achilles tendon is attached to, making it easier to perform these movements safely and effectively.

Example Yoga Poses for Achilles Tendonitis

As a yoga therapist, I know that everyone is different, and what works best for you might not be right for someone else. That’s the beauty of yoga therapy, a holistic approach to health and wellness that applies yoga techniques therapeutically on an individual basis. For this reason, I recommend working with a yoga therapist if you want to treat a specific physical or mental health issue with yoga so you can get techniques personalized to you. But to give you an idea of some movements you might encounter, I’ve outlined some example yoga poses for Achilles tendonitis below.

Warm Up with Ankle and Calf Movements

To reduce the risk of further strain or injury, warm up your Achilles tendon and the surrounding muscles.

A demonstration of dorsiflexion, plantar flexion, and ankle rolls as part of yoga for Achilles tendonitis

You can start by pointing your toes to stretch the Achilles tendon gently, then flex your feet to activate the muscle groups connected to the tendon. Ankle rotations add an element of mobility, ensuring that all aspects of the ankle joint are warmed up evenly.

These movements are typically safe and beneficial to perform even when experiencing mild discomfort from tendonitis, as long as they’re done slowly, gently, and within a pain-free range.

Strengthen and Form Arches with Toe Lifts

While keeping your heels on the floor, gently lift your toes off the ground. Work slowly, focusing on the sensations of your muscles and making sure you don’t irritate the Achilles tendon. Toe lifts help to form arches in your feet, giving you greater stability and supporting the health of your back line. They also engage the muscles in your feet and lower legs, strengthening them over time and taking pressure off the Achilles tendon.

Strengthen and Form Arches with Mountain Pose

Mountain Pose, or Tadasana, is a foundational yoga pose with numerous benefits. To practice Mountain Pose, stand with your feet together, your arms slightly apart from your torso, and your palms facing forward. Feel the weight you place on each foot and make sure it’s evenly distributed. Gently lift through your arches to engage the muscles in your feet, calves, and thighs. This not only strengthens these muscles, but also helps promote arch formation in your feet.

Stretch Calves with Gentle Downward Dog or Lunges

A person performing a gentle Downward Dog followed by a lunge as part of their yoga for Achilles tendonitis

When stretching your calves, be sure to do gentle versions of poses. You should feel the stretch in your calves, not your Achilles tendon.

Typically, Downward Dog is performed by posing your body in an A-shape. Your hands and feet are on the floor, and your torso and legs form a straight incline that peaks at your tailbone. You could adjust Downward Dog by bending your knees slightly and gently bringing your feet flat on the mat, stopping if you feel too much tension in your tendons.

In a lunge, you traditionally have one foot flat on the floor, and that leg forms a right angle. The other leg extends behind you, with only your toes or the top of that foot resting on the floor. Be especially mindful of your feet and avoid lunges that are too deep in order to facilitate a gentle stretch in your calf without overstretching your Achilles tendon.

Adapting Your Yoga Practice

While it can be beneficial to practice yoga with Achilles tendonitis, yoga can also cause the condition or make it worse if you aren’t careful. You may not want to attend a group yoga class while you have Achilles tendonitis unless you feel confident in adapting the practices from the class to meet your needs. For personalized instruction, I recommend seeking the guidance of a yoga therapist. Not only can they help you find a safe personal yoga practice, but they can also teach you how to adequately adapt poses you encounter in your yoga class.

These are a few of my top tips for adapting a yoga practice if you have Achilles tendonitis:

  • Always Warm Up First: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again now—don’t go straight into stretches and muscle strengthening. You could overstretch the Achilles tendon and make the injury worse instead of better. Warm yourself up gently first.
  • Avoid Overstretching or Irritating Your Tendons: It sounds obvious, but one of the most important things you can do to heal from Achilles tendonitis is make sure you aren’t overstretching or irritating those tendons. Modify or avoid movements that could engage these tendons, such as jumping or high-impact movements. Stick to gentle stretches and stop if you feel pain.
  • Use Props for Safer Practice: Props can help you safely practice a yoga pose or movement within your body’s limitations. For those with Achilles tendonitis, it can be especially helpful to put a small prop under your heels, such as a rolled towel or the rolled end of your yoga mat. This can relieve tension in your Achilles tendon when your heels are lifted.
  • Listen to Your Body: This is good advice in general, and especially when dealing with Achilles tendonitis. Your body communicates with pain and discomfort when you’re pushing it too far. Listen to these signals, stop what you’re doing, and consider if there’s a way to adapt the movement or use props next time to put less pressure on your Achilles tendon.
  • Recognize the Symptoms of Achilles Tendonitis: If you’re going to listen to your body effectively, know what to be on the lookout for. With Achilles tendonitis, it is normal to feel mild discomfort while stretching. Signs that you may be irritating your Achilles tendon include sharp or throbbing pain, swelling, sensations of overstretching, ankle weakness, or trouble standing on your ankle.
  • Consider Contrast Bathing to Complement Yoga: Contrast bathing, also known as hot-cold water therapy, involves alternating between hot and cold water immersion for affected areas of the body. It can help relieve inflammation and pain, while also improving circulation and healing. If you’re looking for additional techniques to practice in conjunction with yoga, contrast bathing could be effective.

FAQs

Can Yoga Cause Achilles Tendonitis?

Yes, yoga techniques that engage the Achilles tendon run the risk of causing Achilles tendonitis if you overuse or overstretch these tendons, especially without warming up. The same is true for other exercises as well.

How to Know if Yoga Is Irritating Your Injured Tendon

In general, you can tell if you are irritating your Achilles tendon by how it feels during and after yoga. Increased pain, stiffness, swelling, or weakness can be signs you are exacerbating your Achilles tendonitis.

Does Achilles Tendonitis Ever Go Away?

Yes, Achilles tendonitis can go away if you treat it properly. Be sure to get enough rest, wear supportive footwear, and avoid agitating your Achilles tendon in order to heal.

Get Professional Yoga Therapy for Achilles Tendonitis

Brandt, the founder and director of Breathing Deeply, helps a student position another person on a yoga mat while training to become a yoga therapist

If you want to work with a professional yoga therapist to treat your Achilles tendonitis, we’re pleased to be able to offer private, one-on-one sessions with our certified experts over Zoom. Take a look to learn more and reach out using the form at the bottom of the page.

Chair Yoga for Seniors: Tips for a Healthy Practice

An older man practicing a spinal twist while seated on a chair, demonstrating how to do chair yoga for seniors
An older man practicing a spinal twist while seated on a chair, demonstrating how to do chair yoga for seniors

Looking for ways to keep yourself, your loved one, or your client or patient healthy as they age? You’re right to consider chair yoga for seniors. It offers older folks a gentle yet effective way to stay active, while also promoting good mental and emotional health.

I’m Brandt Passalacqua, the Co-Founder, Director, and Lead Teacher of Breathing Deeply Yoga Therapy. I’ve worked with seniors in my own yoga therapy practice, and I’ve also mentored many students as they provide yoga therapy to older populations. Keep reading for my insights on the benefits of chair yoga for seniors, how to get started, what an example chair yoga sequence for seniors could look like, and more.

Table of Contents:

What Is Chair Yoga for Seniors?

Chair yoga is a gentle form of yoga that can be performed while seated in a chair. Made to be safer and more accessible, you can use chair yoga exercises for seniors regardless of their mobility levels. This allows people to gain the benefits of yoga as they age and may no longer be able to perform floor-based yoga poses.

What Are the Benefits of Chair Yoga for Seniors?

An older man uses a chair for balance and support while stretching, showing that chair yoga is good for weight loss and mobility

There are many benefits of chair yoga for seniors, including its accessibility, safety, ability to be practiced almost anywhere, easily adjusted skill level, and conduciveness to breaks and rest. In addition to its physical benefits, chair yoga can improve mental and emotional health as well. In fact, chair yoga is every bit as effective as non-seated yoga!

It’s Accessible

One of the major benefits of chair yoga is that it makes yoga accessible to a wider audience. Standard yoga poses are adapted to be done while seated in chair, making it more accessible to people with:

  • Limited mobility
  • Joint pain
  • Chronic pain
  • Balance issues

It’s Easier to Stay Safe

When you’re not on your feet and focused on balancing, you can pay more attention to your body and other aspects of your posture. Similarly, you can be more careful with any forward bends or twists while seated. This makes it easier to take care of your lower back and stay safe while practicing yoga.

You Can Do It Anywhere

In general, yoga is easy to practice almost anywhere. It requires little space and equipment, with most people using only a yoga mat and perhaps some yoga blocks.

With chair yoga, all you really need is a chair! You don’t need a yoga mat, and you only need blocks if you require additional support for certain poses. This makes it easy to practice at home, at work, or while traveling.

Its Difficulty Is Easily Adjusted

Yoga techniques can be modified to accommodate different needs and skill levels. Start with easier adaptations of yoga poses, breathing techniques, and meditation exercises. Once you feel comfortable, you can adjust these practices to be more difficult without needing additional weights, equipment, or classes to do so.

You Can Take Breaks or Rest

When it comes to chair yoga exercises for seniors, taking care of your body is paramount. It’s important to listen to your body and take breaks as needed when exercising.

Chair yoga is especially well-suited for this. As you practice yoga, you become more aware of your body and how it’s feeling. Since you’re already seated, it’s especially easy to stop to take a break or rest. This allows seniors to develop a routine that is safe and moves at their pace, especially if they have certain health considerations or lower endurance levels to take into account.

It’s Just as Effective

Although it is often gentler, chair yoga is just as effective as yoga performed while standing. You can still target any muscle group in the body while seated. You can still work on balance, flexibility, and strength. You also still have access to a range of techniques besides asanas (yoga poses), including breathing techniques and meditation. The only difference is that it is more accessible.

There Are Physical, Mental, and Emotional Benefits

When you think about exercising, you’re usually only expecting to improve your physical health. But with yoga, there are also mental and emotional health benefits.

  • Physical benefits include increased strength, flexibility, and balance. Over time, you might also notice you feel less joint pain and are sleeping better. All of these make chair yoga for seniors a great way to maintain independence and daily functioning.
  • Mental benefits include decreased stress, anxiety, and depression. Studies have shown that yoga can effectively treat these mental health conditions, which tend to be common among senior citizens.
  • Emotional benefits include developing emotional resilience and finding peace with where you’re at in life. These are especially important for us as we age and encounter a new phase of life with its own unique qualities and challenges.

How to Get Started with Chair Yoga

An older man stretching one side with his arm over his head as one of several chair yoga exercises for seniors

If you’re sold on the benefits of chair yoga for seniors, the next step is learning how to get started. I recommend consulting with a doctor first, then deciding if you’d like to work with a yoga therapist, take a group class, or simply practice at home. Keep in mind risks that are common among seniors so you can safely navigate them, and customize your yoga practice according to your goals, abilities, and conditions. Finally, you can take steps to practice yoga in a comfortable environment and while wearing appropriate attire.

Consult with a Doctor First

Before starting a new exercise routine, it’s a good idea to run it by your doctor. When you reach a certain age, this becomes even more important, especially if you have any pre-existing health conditions or concerns that could affect your ability to practice yoga safely. Ask your doctor:

  • Is it safe for me to practice chair yoga?
  • Are there any precautions I should take?
  • Are there any yoga poses, breathing techniques, or meditation practices that I should avoid? Any that I can modify to be safe for me?

Yoga Therapy, Yoga Classes, or At-Home Practice

Once you’re cleared to begin using chair yoga exercises for seniors, the question becomes where you will practice. What you decide will depend on your preferences, goals, and needs.

  • Yoga Therapy: A yoga therapist is best suited for seniors who want to treat specific health conditions or concerns with yoga, such as back pain, joint pain, arthritis, stress, anxiety, depression, or any other physical or mental condition. You’ll work one-on-one with a professional who is trained to apply yoga techniques therapeutically and tailor them to your unique body and mind.
  • Yoga Classes: A yoga class is best suited for seniors who want a knowledgeable instructor’s guidance on yoga techniques and the opportunity to socialize in a group of people. Just make sure you know your limitations and can modify the practices as needed. Yoga teachers are limited in their ability to individualize practices for their students, so be prepared to make any adaptations you need yourself.
  • At-Home Practice: At-home practice is best suited for seniors who feel confident doing yoga and prefer moving at their own pace in their own environment. You may use tutorials you find online, on DVD, or on TV to guide your practice. But be sure that these materials are reputable and safe for you. If you need more guidance at first but still want to practice at home, there are group classes and individual yoga therapy sessions conducted online to get you started. Once you know the ropes, you can switch to practicing on your own if you prefer.

Common Risks and How to Navigate Them Safely

Generally, chair yoga is a low-risk activity. But there are still some potential safety concerns to keep in mind, such as slipping, overstretching, or improper posture. Know common risks and how to practice yoga safely, including:

  • Using a chair that is sturdy and does not have wheels to avoid slipping
  • Moving gradually and gently to avoid overextension or injury
  • Listening to your body so you don’t accidentally overstretch or push yourself too hard
  • Checking your form to make sure you have proper alignment, which will give you the greatest benefit and help avoid injury

Customize Chair Yoga to Individual Abilities and Conditions

Customization is key in chair yoga for seniors, as it allows you to adapt your practice to fit your unique abilities and health condition. Seniors in particular should modify poses to accommodate their comfort levels and physical limitations. This could mean:

  • Shortening the duration of a pose, breathing technique, or meditation
  • Minimizing the range of motion in a pose
  • Adding yoga blocks or cushions to provide additional support

For those with specific medical conditions like arthritis or heart disease, certain poses may be particularly beneficial or should be avoided altogether. An experienced yoga therapist can assist in creating a customized practice that considers these factors to promote both safety and effectiveness.

Set Up Your Space

Setting up a space for chair yoga can significantly enhance your experience and outcomes. Even if you’re going to a yoga therapist or yoga teacher in their space, you may be able to request certain changes to the environment. For example:

  • Make sure you’re in a calm, comfortable, clutter-free area.
  • Give yourself enough room to move around and stretch.
  • Get a sturdy chair without wheels that has a firm seat and supportive back.
  • Use a yoga mat or non-slip rug under your feet if needed.
  • To help with visibility, make sure you’re in a well-lit environment.
  • Add personal touches if they help relax you, such as cushions, candles, or photos.
  • Have someone available to spot or watch you if needed in case you require help.

Wear Comfortable Attire

To get the most out of your chair yoga practice, be sure to wear the right clothing. Choose attire that offers comfort and allows for a full range of motion.

  • Stretchy, breathable materials that don’t restrict your movements are ideal.
  • Loose-fitting tops and pants or leggings work well, both for allowing you to move and maintaining circulation.
  • Avoid clothes that are too baggy, as they can get in the way of poses or catch on your chair as you move.

6 Example Chair Yoga Exercises for Seniors

A person practicing Warrior II Pose modified for chair yoga

As a yoga therapist, I know that my clients get the best outcomes for their specific goals by using yoga techniques that are tailored to them individually. It’s not possible to provide a chair yoga sequence for seniors that will resolve any individual’s back problems or anxiety—these practices need to take into account your unique circumstances. But to give you an idea of what some chair yoga exercises for seniors could look like, I’ve put together a list of 6 examples below.

  1. Seated Mountain Pose: This fundamental pose lays the groundwork for good posture and a strong spine. It can also help relieve back pain. As a chair yoga pose, it can be performed by sitting on your chair with your feet flat on the ground, elongating your spine as you inhale, and releasing any tension in your body as you exhale.
  2. Gentle Seated Twist: Gentle twists and bends can be excellent chair yoga exercises for seniors. They often promote good digestion and spinal flexibility, and they may also relieve back pain. To practice a seated twist, sit up with your back straight and your feet on the floor, lengthen your spine, and twist at the hips to one side. Then switch sides.
  3. Chair Warrior Poses: Both Chair Warrior I and II can be performed while seated to strengthen several muscle groups, improve your balance, and achieve greater stability. For Warrior I, sit sideways on a chair, keep one leg at a 90-degree angle, stretch the other leg behind you, and raise your arms toward the ceiling. For Warrior II, sit sideways on a chair, keep one leg at a 90-degree angle, stretch the other leg behind you, and hold your arms parallel to the ground above each leg, looking directly ahead over the arm that is above your bent knee.
  4. Chair Pigeon Pose: Forward folds like Pigeon Pose can help sooth and stretch muscles in the lower back, hips, and hamstrings, which also helps improve flexibility. To practice a Chair Pigeon Pose, leave one foot firmly planted on the floor, raise the other leg so its ankle is crossed over the knee of the planted leg, and, hinging at your hips, gently fold forward.
  5. Seated Diaphragmatic Breathing: Deep breathing, either alone or coordinated with movement, can engage your parasympathetic nervous system, or the rest-and-digest response. It has both physical and mental benefits, relieving muscle tension in your body while also calming your mind. To practice Diaphragmatic Breathing as chair yoga for seniors, sit upright in a comfortable chair, inhale deeply and consciously into your abdomen, and exhale slowly and steadily.
  6. Seated Guided Meditation: Meditating can improve your concentration, quiet your mind, reduce stress and anxiety, and help you find inner peace. Seniors can easily follow a guided meditation while seated. For example, you may be directed to close your eyes, pay attention to your breathing or sensations in your body, repeat a mantra or visualize an image to hone your concentration, and gently guide your mind back when it wanders.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can chair yoga be effective in managing chronic conditions?

Yes! You can use chair yoga for seniors to reduce pain, increase mobility, and maintain physical function, helping to manage chronic conditions. Gentle movements and stretches can improve joint health and comfort. Yoga poses, breathing techniques, and meditation can all contribute to better mental health and emotional resilience, supporting seniors in having a positive perspective about their circumstances.

How does chair yoga improve balance and prevent falls?

By strengthening the muscles used for stability, improving posture, and promoting better coordination, chair yoga can help with balance. Better balance can reduce the risk of falling, which is a major health concern for many seniors.

Can you lose weight or belly fat from doing chair yoga exercises for seniors?

Any kind of yoga can support weight loss, including chair yoga! While it’s not the most effective exercise for burning calories, it can support the mobility and functioning that keep you active, reduce stress that can lead to bad habits, make you more aware of your body, and facilitate habit change.

How many times a week should you do chair yoga?

Practicing chair yoga for seniors three times a week, or about every other day, is great! But any amount of yoga is useful, especially if you keep at it consistently over time.

How long does it take to see results with chair yoga?

The time it takes to see results from chair yoga will vary based on your unique circumstances, what you do, how often you practice, and what you’re trying to achieve. Many clients start noticing changes within a few weeks or months.

Which is better for seniors, Pilates or yoga?

While Pilates and yoga can both be beneficial to seniors, chair yoga is a great entry point that requires less skill to get started. If you’re looking for group classes, it may be easier to find a yoga instructor with the knowledge and skills necessary to help you. If you’re open to trying yoga therapy, it gives you the option to address specific pathologies, better manage pain, and improve mental and emotional health in addition to physical health.

Where can I find chair yoga for seniors near me?

First, decide if you’re looking for yoga therapy or group yoga classes. To find chair yoga classes for seniors near you, check local community centers, senior centers, gyms, or wellness clinics. If you’re looking for a reputable yoga therapist, the International Association of Yoga Therapists has a database of certified yoga therapists. For those who would prefer to get guidance online, you can find yoga classes or yoga therapists to walk you through techniques from the comfort of your own home. This can also be helpful if you are struggling to find a suitable class or yoga therapist where you live.

Work with Our Yoga Therapists Online

Carol Day Young with Brandt Passalacqua

At Breathing Deeply, we want to make sure that safe, practical, and effective yoga therapy is available to people regardless of where they are located. Our trained yoga therapists are able to work one-on-one providing chair yoga for seniors over online calls. Visit the page about our online yoga therapy sessions to learn more, and use the contact form at the bottom of the page to get in touch.

Yoga for Menopause Hot Flashes: Techniques for Relief

A calm-looking woman cross-legged on the floor practicing yoga for menopause hot flashes
A calm-looking woman cross-legged on the floor practicing yoga for menopause hot flashes

Many people facing hot flashes from menopause find that traditional Western medicine still falls short of providing them with adequate relief. More and more patients as well as providers are turning to yoga for menopause hot flashes. Yoga provides not only a variety of different techniques you can try, but also frameworks to apply those techniques in an individualized, therapeutic way. The result is that it can be easier to manage hot flashes and find peace from these symptoms.

I’m Brandt Passalacqua, an experienced yoga therapist and the Co-Founder, Director, and Lead Teacher of Breathing Deeply, a yoga therapy training program. I’ve worked with clients who are experiencing menopause, and I’ve also had the great privilege of teaching a student, Fiona Jalinoos, who successfully treated a small group of women with menopause using yoga therapy. I’m here to share my knowledge and experience, as well as what I’ve learned from Fiona’s work, to help more people find relief.

Table of Contents:

Understanding Hot Flashes and Their Impact

The first step to treating menopausal symptoms is to understand them. Not only is it important to understand how hot flashes present, but also how they may affect you.

Defining Hot Flashes and Their Symptoms

For anyone who has had a hot flash before, it needs no introduction. The intense, uninvited wave of heat may be accompanied by rapid heartbeat, flushed skin, and even sometimes a cold shiver. Hot flashes can last anywhere from a few seconds to an hour, though most are around 30 seconds to 5 minutes. Their frequency, duration, and symptoms can vary from person to person.

How Hot Flashes Affect Quality of Life

More than just a physical discomfort, hot flashes can be a major disruption to your daily life. Unpredictable, they can interfere with your work, sleep, and social life. They can negatively impact your mood and concentration, both during and after the episode.

In addition to their physical toll, many people develop anxiety around having hot flashes, which can be just as harmful. According to a study in the Journal of Women’s Health, menopausal symptoms like hot flashes can negatively impact quality of life, and there is a significant need to find better ways of managing these symptoms.

The Transformative Power of Yoga During Menopause

A Black woman sitting in lotus position, representing an example of an eligible student for our scholarship program to reduce the cost to become a yoga therapist

Menopause can introduce a whole host of hormonal changes and unpredictability to your life. Yoga offers you a way to move toward physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual balance. It helps you develop greater emotional resilience. As you practice movements and breathing techniques, you can become more in-tune with your body’s needs.

Yoga teaches us how to accept change and sit with discomfort, working with your body instead of fighting against it. During this major life transition, you can gain self-understanding, acceptance, and inner peace.

Yoga Techniques for Menopause Hot Flashes

Yoga encompasses a wide variety of techniques. These include:

  • Asanas (poses)
  • Pranayama (breathing exercises)
  • Meditation
  • Chanting
  • And more

When it comes to yoga therapy, these techniques are personalized to you, not just your symptoms.

Personalization with Yoga Therapy and Ayurvedic Frameworks

In Western medicine, treatment usually boils down to prescribing the same interventions to anyone facing a particular condition, adjusting for any contraindications. Yoga therapy allows us to use an Ayurvedic framework when applying techniques.

What this means is that the techniques recommended to you by a yoga therapist take into account your unique body, mind, history, imbalances, limitations, and goals. Your treatment is tailored to you in a way that Western approaches tend to miss, making yoga a valuable addition to your medical care.

Yoga Poses for Menopause Hot Flashes

A woman in Cobbler's Pose, demonstrating one of many possible yoga poses for menopause hot flashes

Movement is an important component in yoga therapy. The exact yoga poses for menopause hot flashes that will work best for you may not be the ones that work for someone else. This is why it’s so critical to work one-on-one with a yoga therapist when seeking relief.

With that in mind, there are certain yoga poses that are more likely to be beneficial when hot flashes hit. Consider these examples:

  • Forward bends, such as Big Toe Pose, can increase blood flow to the brain and help you find your cool.
  • Cobbler’s Pose is great for both body and mind, encouraging relaxation while also opening your hips, increasing circulation in the pelvic area, and stretching your back.
  • Supported Bridge Pose opens your chest, calms the nervous system, and reduces anxiety.

In general, I recommend gentle asanas that focus on stretching and relaxation, rather than more intense, challenging poses that will make you feel more overheated and overexerted.

Breathing Exercises for Menopause Hot Flashes

Breathing exercises can be especially helpful for reducing anxiety, releasing tension, and relaxing. The evidence is mixed when it comes to exactly how helpful these techniques are for relieving symptoms in the moment. But pranayama can help you build resilience and give you tools for dealing with discomfort more effectively.

For example:

  • Alternate Nostril Breathing, which involves breathing through a single nostril at a time, can be especially calming and help reduce anxiety.
  • Diaphragmatic Breathing, which involves breathing slowly and deliberately from the stomach, can help you to relax and breathe more effectively.

For best results in combating anxiety, I usually recommend syncing breath and movement, as well as extending exhales. These techniques can often come into play when using yoga for menopause hot flashes.

Meditation for Menopause Hot Flashes

Meditation allows you to observe and acknowledge the sensations of hot flashes without judgment. It helps you put your discomfort into perspective, feel less apprehensive, and achieve greater peace and acceptance.

By meditating regularly, you can regain a sense of control over your life as hot flashes lessen their grip over you. Meditating for even just 10 minutes a day has been shown to facilitate changes in the brain that lessen our reactivity.

It can take practice and professional guidance to learn how to meditate successfully. Tips include:

  • Choosing a quiet space without distractions
  • Positioning yourself in a way that feels relaxed and comfortable
  • Focusing on your body, breath, a mantra, or a calming visual
  • Bringing your attention back if it wanders without judgment
  • Having patience with yourself

How to Safely Practice Yoga During Menopause

As with any new physical exercise, it’s important to make sure you’re practicing yoga safely. That involves understanding your own needs and limitations, as well as knowing how menopause might affect you and the common contraindications to avoid.

Listen to your body and consult with a doctor if needed. By practicing under the guidance of a yoga therapist, you can make sure your yoga practice is tailored to your unique circumstances so it is safe, practical, and effective.

Understand Your Current Health Condition

Before you roll out your yoga mat and start practicing, it’s vital to have a clear picture of your health. You need to understand your body’s limitations and whether any other health conditions you may have could affect your yoga practice. Ask yourself, among other things:

  • Are your joints as flexible as they used to be?
  • Have you experienced any issues with your balance or mobility?
  • Do you have any health concerns that require a doctor’s green light before engaging in physical activity?

By assessing your current health condition, you can make sure your yoga practice helps to relieve the symptoms of menopause, rather than exacerbate or interact poorly with them or other aspects of your health.

Work with a Yoga Therapist

Group yoga classes usually work best if you’re interested in using yoga for exercise and practicing yoga in a social setting. If you want to use yoga techniques to address specific health conditions or symptoms, such as hot flashes, you’re better off working one-on-one with a yoga therapist. This ensures that your yoga practice is tailored to your individual needs.

Yoga therapists are trained to apply yoga techniques therapeutically to treat specific health conditions. We can tailor poses, breathing techniques, and meditation practices to your body’s unique responses to menopause. A personalized, therapeutic approach to yoga will offer you the most relief and holistic wellness.

Modify Yoga Poses for Comfort and Safety

Yoga is not a one-size-fits-all approach. It can easily be modified to make sure you are comfortable and safe, as well as bring more challenging poses within reach. Consider these tips:

  • Make changes as needed. There’s no shame in bending a knee, using a wall for balance, or even opting for an entirely different pose that feels better on your body.
  • Use props like yoga blocks, cushions, bolsters, or straps when needed. They allow you to experience the benefits of yoga poses for menopause hot flashes without strain or discomfort.
  • Consider chair yoga, which involves yoga poses that are adapted to be performed while seated in a chair. This can make yoga more accessible if you have limited mobility or need additional support.

Avoid Overexertion

If you work yourself too hard, you could make your symptoms worse or even injure yourself. With hot flashes in particular, you’re already feeling overheated, so it’s important not to overexert yourself. This can include:

  • Taking breaks as needed
  • Staying hydrated
  • Prioritizing gentle and restorative poses

Avoid hot yoga, which is practiced in a heated environment, and more rigorous styles of yoga.

Stay Hydrated

If you practice yoga for menopause hot flashes, remember to hydrate, as this woman demonstrates by keeping a water bottle handy during yoga

Staying hydrated is important, both when practicing yoga and when experiencing hot flashes. Water can help to regulate your temperature. By adequately hydrating, you also ensure that your muscles and joints are well-lubricated and your body receives the nutrients it needs to function effectively.

Keep track of your water intake before, during, and after yoga. Water bottles with measurements printed on them can help make this easier. Just be careful not to overdo it with the water either. Drinking too much water while practicing yoga can sometimes cause nausea.

Outcomes of Yoga for Menopause Hot Flashes

If you practice yoga techniques, especially under the supervision of a yoga therapist, what outcomes can you expect? For anyone considering using yoga for menopause hot flashes, this is sure to be on your mind. Outcomes will vary from person to person, but these are the main outcomes I’ve observed.

Reducing Stress and Anxiety

Getting hot flashes can cause people to become anxious, worried about when they’ll happen next. Studies indicate that yoga can reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. It can help you to regulate your nervous system responses, shifting from fight-or-flight mode to a rest-and-digest state. This can help you reduce feelings of pain, suffering, and mental anguish after a hot flash, making it one of the biggest benefits that yoga can provide.

Managing Hot Flashes

Hot flashes are one of the most challenging menopause symptoms to manage. In most cases, people are not easily rid of them. With time and interventions such as hormone therapy, medication, and lifestyle changes, you can relieve your symptoms and better learn how to deal with having hot flashes. Yoga gives you another tool you can use to manage your hot flashes throughout the stages of perimenopause and menopause.

Better Sleep Quality

Hot flashes can disrupt your sleep and make it difficult to fall back asleep. Over time, this can become a major problem and have a negative impact on your quality of life. Studies have shown that yoga can improve sleep quality for the elderly and for those experiencing insomnia. Anecdotally, Fiona and I have seen yoga help people with hot flashes to get better sleep and fall back asleep more easily when it’s disturbed.

Accepting Symptoms

A woman smiling and practicing Ayurvedic yoga therapy for physical, mental, and emotional health

Yoga is as much a mental practice as it is a physical one, teaching us to accept what we cannot change. As you move through the transition into menopause, embracing your body’s changes can be empowering. Yoga helps to foster the connection between your mind and body, encouraging understanding and patience.

Through sustained practice, you may notice a shift in perspective, accepting where you are in this journey and feeling better about being menopausal. Even when you experience discomfort, you will be better equipped to accept it, manage it, and live with it. With this acceptance comes inner peace and a deeper connection with yourself during this new phase in your life.

Using Yoga to Support Traditional Medical Care

While hormone therapy and other medical interventions play their roles, yoga can be an incredible complement or support to traditional care during menopause.

  • Yoga can fill gaps left in Western medicine by offering you additional techniques and an individualized approach.
  • It can improve bodily functions while also promoting mental and emotional well-being, creating more holistic care.
  • If hormonal adjustments come with physical, mental, or emotional strain, yoga can build mental and emotional resilience while helping to maintain physical strength, mobility, and endurance.
  • By reducing your stress, yoga can support the efficacy of other medical treatments.

Get Help with Hot Flashes from Our Experts

Ready to try using yoga for menopause hot flashes? We want to make sure you’re practicing yoga safely and effectively. Learn about our private sessions, which are conducted online one-on-one with one of our experienced yoga therapists.

Why Does Yoga Make Me Nauseous?

A person sitting on a couch and clutching their stomach in discomfort, wondering why does yoga make me nauseous?
A person sitting on a couch and clutching their stomach in discomfort, wondering why does yoga make me nauseous?

You’re not alone if you’ve tried yoga only to end up feeling sick, asking yourself, “Why does yoga make me nauseous?” Feeling sick after doing yoga is a common phenomenon that I’ve personally seen many people experience during my years as a yoga teacher and yoga therapist. Even flu-like symptoms after yoga are not unheard of.

Before you either give up on yoga or give it another try, take the time to learn about the possible reasons you may be feeling nauseous and what you can do about it. I’m Anna Passalacqua, Co-Founder and Teacher at Breathing Deeply Yoga Therapy. I’m here to share my knowledge about yoga so more people will be able to use it safely and effectively. Keep reading to learn more!

10 Reasons Why Yoga May Make You Nauseous

So, why does yoga make you nauseous? It can vary from person to person, but these are the top 10 most common reasons I’ve encountered.

1. Low Blood Pressure

Blood pressure issues are one of the biggest culprits for feeling sick after doing yoga. Certain movements that are common in yoga, such as putting your head between your legs and then standing back up, can make you feel dizzy and nauseous if you have low blood pressure. Breathing too slowly or quickly can be another source of trouble, along with holding a pose for too long. If you take medication that affects your blood pressure, then practicing yoga could make you feel sick.

2. High Blood Pressure

Studies have shown that there is a correlation between high blood pressure and nausea. For reference, a normal, healthy blood pressure typically means having a systolic pressure between 90 and 119 and a diastolic pressure between 60 and 79. Holding a yoga pose for too long can trigger nausea and vomiting in some people, especially those who already have high blood pressure.

3. Lack of Food

Yoga, especially pranayama (breathing exercises), can stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, also known as the rest-and-digest response. This causes peristalsis, which means that your stomach juices and acids are activated to help move food through your digestive system. But if you haven’t eaten enough, this can make you feel lightheaded, dizzy, or nauseous.

Lack of food can also be an issue for people with diabetes or other causes of low blood sugar. You could feel lightheaded, dizzy, or nauseous while exercising. When your blood sugar drops too low, it triggers the fight-or-flight response that ramps up your body’s production of adrenaline. This can cause sweating, shakiness, and anxiousness, among other symptoms.

4. Eating Too Soon

While lack of food can cause nausea or flu-like symptoms after yoga, so can eating too soon right before yoga. For this reason, many yoga instructors recommend waiting two hours after eating to practice yoga. That’s a more conservative estimate, as the right amount of time for you will depend on what you eat and your metabolism. Some people will be able to practice yoga just 30 minutes after eating without issue.

5. Overheating

Getting overheated can be another explanation for why yoga makes you nauseous. Hot yoga, a form of yoga performed in hot and often humid conditions, is a prime example. Examples of hot yoga include Bikram Yoga and Power Yoga. These yoga classes are held in rooms ranging from around 80–100° F (27–38° C), and the humidity level is often between 40% and 60%.

This combination of heat and humidity can cause even veteran yoga practitioners to develop flu-like symptoms after yoga, the most common of which include dizziness, muscle or body aches, and nausea. That said, hot yoga is not the only style of yoga known to trigger these adverse reactions. Any yoga practice that challenges or overexerts you and leads you to become overheated can make you feel sick. Ashtanga yoga and Vinyasa Yoga, for example, are more challenging styles where overheating can be an issue.

6. Dehydration

Sweating and not drinking enough fluids while practicing yoga is a surefire way to trigger nausea and other unpleasant symptoms, especially when practicing hot yoga. When this happens, it can lead to nausea or, in more severe cases, vomiting or diarrhea. At the same time, drinking too much water while practicing yoga can also trigger nausea.

7. Too Much Caffeine

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), adults should consume no more than 400 mg of caffeine daily. Anything more than that can negatively affect the body. Along with jitteriness, lightheadedness, and diarrhea, excessive amounts of caffeine can cause nausea. That is especially true when someone engages in physical activity, including yoga.

The combination of being overheated and over-caffeinated can have the same effect. It can also trigger headaches and an irregular heartbeat, both of which further increase the chances of suffering from nausea, vomiting, and other feelings of malaise. Caffeine is also a diuretic, which can cause you to urinate more fluid than you intake, contributing to dehydration.

8. Hormonal Changes

Any hormonal changes can make you more susceptible to nausea, which can leave you feeling sick after doing yoga. Hormonal imbalances are common in middle age, due to low levels of either testosterone or estrogen. Pregnancy and menstruation can also contribute to hormonal changes that make you nauseous from yoga. Even practicing yoga right before or after your period could make you feel unwell.

9. Stress or Anxiety

Stress and anxiety are also common culprits behind nausea. Not only can these mental conditions contribute to your physical symptoms, but they may also be behind certain lifestyle issues that cause you to feel nauseous during yoga.

For instance, if you’re stressed, you might stress eat too soon before practicing yoga. Or your anxiety could curb your appetite and you practice yoga with too little food in your stomach. Maybe you’re too busy dealing with other things, whether it’s work or caregiving for another person, and you end up neglecting your own care and forgetting to eat. The result could be feeling dizzy or sick when you practice yoga.

10. Sensitivity to Certain Poses

A woman practicing a forward bend, demonstrating one possible reason why yoga may make you nauseous.

Not all yoga poses are right for everyone. Poses that require you to be upside down for long periods can cause dizziness, and ones that involve twists or stomach compressions can cause nausea. Many poses involve compressing your digestive system, which some people may be sensitive to. If you aren’t used to bringing your knees to your chest, for example, it could trigger nausea. Moving too quickly from one yoga pose to another can cause dizziness and even nausea for some people.

What to Do if You’re Feeling Sick After Doing Yoga

If yoga makes you nauseous, there are a number of steps you can take to try to remedy the situation.

Listen to Your Body

First and foremost, everyone should have agency over their own body and what they are feeling. Listen to your body. When you’re in a group yoga class, the instructor’s job is to teach to the whole group, rather than to the individual. It’s important for each person to listen to their own body and know how they’re showing up for that class that day. For instance, recognize if you are coming to yoga stressed, if you’re in the midst of any hormonal changes, or if you feel yourself getting overheated.

Take a Break

If you start feeling hot, dizzy, lightheaded, nauseous, or sick, stop what you’re doing. Take a seat and take a break. Sit upright in a chair or against a wall, keeping your spine in a neutral position and keeping your head above your heart. Sometimes I’ve encountered people, especially in yoga classes, who feel embarrassed to take a break. It’s not a problem, and it’s perfectly normal.

Time Your Meals

Be conscious of when you eat, timing your meals and yoga practice accordingly. Don’t eat too soon beforehand, but don’t skip eating altogether either. If you’ve been feeling sick after doing yoga and think this could be the reason, try eating 2 to 3 hours before you practice yoga.

Stay Hydrated

Drink plenty of water before you practice yoga. You may also want to avoid caffeine to help keep you hydrated.

See a Medical Professional

If you have changed your habits and eliminated other causes such as blood pressure issues and still experience nausea from yoga, see a medical professional to ask, “Why does yoga make me nauseous?” Confirm that you are healthy enough to practice yoga and identify any contraindications you may have, especially if you are on medication, have high or low blood pressure, or have been diagnosed with a medical condition.

Work with a Yoga Therapist

Depending on what you want to accomplish with yoga and whether you are deemed fit to practice yoga by a doctor, you could benefit from working with a yoga therapist. If you want to use yoga to treat a specific physical or mental condition, such as back pain or stress, then yoga therapy can help.

A yoga therapist is trained to work one-on-one with clients, applying yoga techniques to specific health conditions while taking the whole person into account. We can design custom yoga sequences and practices based on your unique needs. Unlike group yoga classes, the techniques we recommend are individualized, and we teach you how to practice them at home yourself after working with us. If you want to continue practicing yoga in a group setting, we can also teach you how to do so safely by avoiding or modifying certain techniques.

Want to learn more? At Breathing Deeply, we’re proud to offer one-on-one yoga therapy sessions online via Zoom. Read about our work and submit a contact form to see if yoga therapy is right for you.

Can You Do Yoga on Carpet?

A young woman in Child's Pose on her carpet, bringing up a question that many people have—can you do yoga on carpet?
A young woman in Child's Pose on her carpet, bringing up a question that many people have—can you do yoga on carpet?

Most yogis, yoga instructors, and yoga therapists practice yoga on high-quality yoga mats. And, for added safety and stability, those mats are usually placed on hard, even floors. At Breathing Deeply Yoga Therapy, that’s the approach we use. But sometimes people will ask, can you do yoga on carpet?

When people practice yoga at home, they may have wall-to-wall carpeting. Or they might simply prefer the feeling of doing yoga on a carpet. In these cases, they want to know if it’s safe and effective to practice on carpet, as well as any advice for how to do yoga on carpet.

In short, you can usually do yoga on carpet if you prefer. But there can also be drawbacks to doing yoga on carpet.

With that in mind, we can look at the pros and cons for practicing yoga on carpet, as well as other tips for creating safe, favorable conditions for yoga.

Table of Contents:

The Advantages of Practicing Yoga on Carpet

Can you do yoga on carpet? Should you, even if you can? Most people are able to practice yoga on carpet if they want, and there are even a few advantages to doing so.

  1. More Padding: For starters, when you practice yoga on your carpet, you get extra padding. And that padding might cushion and relieve pressure on your muscles and joints.
  2. Extra Workout: You also might build a little more muscle mass over time if you practice yoga on a carpet. That’s because your muscles may need to work harder on carpeting to keep your body in place. Yoga mats, on the other hand, provide traction to hold you still, thereby doing some of the work for you.
  3. Wider Space: As you’re figuring out how to do yoga on carpet, you’ll have plenty of space for moving and stretching. You won’t need to move a yoga mat around or worry about staying in that space. Some people find this a little more freeing when starting out.

The Disadvantages of Practicing Yoga on Carpet

Simply put, yoga mats are specially designed for yoga practice, and carpets are not. Therefore, doing yoga on carpet is not always ideal.

  1. Instability: On a carpet, you lack the support and stability of a yoga mat. The odds of falling and maybe even injuring yourself could be higher in certain situations. This is especially true when you’re doing poses that require balance. On a plush, carpeted surface, without sufficient traction, it can be quite easy to slip. Avoid a carpet that’s extra cushy since it would be less stable and harder to grip.
  2. Irritation: For some, practicing certain yoga poses on carpet can sometimes lead to rug burns and skin irritations. Not to mention, if there are any bumps in your carpet—and carpet bumps, often caused by moisture, are common—it may be uncomfortable or unstable to press down on them with your hands or feet.
  3. Hygiene Issues: There are also cleanliness and hygiene issues to consider. When you do any type of exercise, you inevitably leave hair, sweat, and oil on your workout surface. Yoga mats, however, are fairly easy to wash by design. By contrast, carpets are more time-consuming to clean.
  4. Allergens and Contaminants: You probably have certain contaminants in your carpet as well. Dirt, dust, pet dander, fungal spores, and other particles abound in carpets. When you practice yoga on your carpet, such materials could easily get into your mouth, nostrils, and pores. Consequently, they could trigger allergies or cause irritation.
  5. Wear and Tear: Additionally, there’s a chance you could rip your rug while doing yoga. Or you might flatten it, create bald spots on it, or otherwise shorten its lifespan due to all that extra wear and tear.

How to Do Yoga on Carpet Safely

If you choose to practice yoga on carpet, make sure to regularly clean the area where you do yoga. You can also either avoid poses that require more stability than you have on your carpet, or else use a yoga mat on top of your carpet. That way, you can take advantage of the mat’s traction and clean surface as well as your carpet’s padding.

If you’re planning to buy a yoga mat to use on your carpet, look for a sturdy product with a textured underside. Such a mat won’t move around or bunch up as much during your yoga sessions.

Creating a Safe Environment for Yoga at Home

Instead of doing yoga on carpet, you can use two yoga mats like this woman or an extra thick yoga mat to provide enough cushion

Of course, settling the “can you do yoga on carpet” question is just one aspect of setting up a home yoga environment. Creating the ideal space for your practice requires some care, thought, and fine-tuning.

  • First, choose a room with plenty of open space. You don’t want to, for example, hit your elbow on a table. It should also be well-ventilated.
  • Once you’ve chosen your spot, make it as conducive to your yoga routine as possible. It should be welcoming, calming, and appealing. As such, personalize it as much as you can. You might add flowers, candles, photos of loved ones, or other items that make you feel happy and secure. Just don’t make it distracting, as many yoga techniques require concentration.
  • Here’s another question to consider: Would you rather do yoga in a private space, keeping the door closed? Or would you prefer to do it in an open area like your living room? It’s totally up to you!
  • Whether you practice on carpet or not, make sure you have enough padding that you won’t hurt your joints. If you don’t want to practice on carpet, you could purchase a yoga mat that’s extra thick. Or you could even buy two yoga mats and place one on top of the other.

Learn More About Yoga with Breathing Deeply

Carol Day Young with Brandt Passalacqua

In the end, the opportunity to learn and practice yoga at home can be hugely beneficial. Whether you’re doing yoga to stay active, increase your mobility, improve your mental health, counteract a specific health condition, or anything else, being able to do yoga at home is convenient and empowering.

With a safe space and a safe surface—yoga mat, carpet, or both—you can enjoy the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual benefits of yoga. But do you have the proper skills to achieve your goals?

At Breathing Deeply Yoga Therapy, we offer private, online sessions with certified yoga therapists. If you’re looking to treat a specific condition with yoga, a knowledgeable yoga therapist can help. We’ve worked with clients who suffer from back pain, arthritis, stress, depression, anxiety, trauma/PTSD, autoimmune diseases, chronic pain, and much more.

Learn about working with our yoga therapists here, or if you want to become a yoga therapist yourself, check out our yoga therapy training programs.

Yoga Poses to Avoid with Hip Bursitis & What to Do Instead

A young woman practicing supine Figure-Four Pose instead of yoga poses to avoid with hip bursitis
A young woman practicing supine Figure-Four Pose instead of yoga poses to avoid with hip bursitis

For some with hip bursitis, yoga can be a safe, practical, and effective way to alleviate pain. Hip bursitis is an uncomfortable and sometimes debilitating condition, particularly when it is chronic. Studies have shown that yoga can help with mobility, managing pain, and reducing stress, which makes it an excellent option for hip bursitis. But first, it’s important to understand which yoga poses to avoid with hip bursitis, which yoga techniques can help, and how to safely get started.

If you’ve seen a doctor, rested your hip, and perhaps even tried medications or injections as prescribed to no avail, it may be time to give yoga a try. I’m Brandt Passalacqua, a certified yoga therapist and co-founder of the Breathing Deeply Yoga Therapy school. My mission is to help others heal with yoga, which is why I’m here to explain everything you need to know about yoga for hip bursitis.

Keep reading to learn more or contact us to work with a yoga therapist for your hip bursitis.

Table of Contents:

How Yoga Helps Hip Bursitis

Finding holistic approaches to improving mobility and reducing pain is a common goal among those with hip bursitis. Yoga can provide this type of approach thanks to its large variety of hip-focused poses that reduce stiffness, expand range of motion, strengthen muscles that support the hips, and minimize discomfort while moving.

Those suffering from hip bursitis may benefit from yoga in 5 main ways:

  1. Greater flexibility and range of motion
  2. Muscle development
  3. Stress, pain, and tension relief
  4. Better posture
  5. Improved circulation and blood flow

To better support and stabilize the hip joint, many yoga poses work to strengthen the muscles in and around it. These include the glutes, the outer hip muscles, and the quadriceps. This not only promotes healthy posture and alignment, but also reduces muscular imbalances that can cause pain and limit mobility.

Yoga’s emphasis on self-awareness, deep breathing, and other relaxation methods makes it an effective tool for combating stress. This can make it easier to manage pain when it does occur.

By knowing which yoga poses to avoid with hip bursitis and which ones may work best, it’s possible to increase blood flow directly in and around the hip area. Increased blood flow delivers oxygen and nutrients to working muscles, reduces inflammation, and benefits the hips as a whole.

Yoga Poses to Avoid with Hip Bursitis

A middle-aged woman who has considered yoga vs Pilates for back pain practices a neutral standing pose

Always pay attention to how your body reacts to different movements or holds, and stay away from poses that feel too strenuous. In general, avoid anything that irritates the hip, which usually involves the ends of your range of motion.

Some of the most common yoga poses to avoid with hip bursitis are:

  • Pigeon Pose: As a hip-opening pose, Pigeon Pose can potentially push your range of motion too far. It can stress your hips in both flexion and extension.
  • Triangle Pose: Triangle Pose involves folding at the hips, potentially stressing your hips in extension and causing hip internal rotation. Similarly, Extended Triangle Pose requires extensive stretching and may be too taxing on the hip sockets.
  • Downward Dog Pose: With your hips raised into the air, this pose puts weight onto your hips that can be too much for those with hip bursitis, straining the hips in flexion.
  • Fire Log Pose: Stacking your shins in Fire Log Pose may put pressure on your hip joints and make your hip bursitis worse.
  • Forward Fold: By bending at the hips, Forward Folds can put strain on your hips and stress them in flexion. Even in a Seated Forward Bend, your hip joints may feel strain because it still requires you to sit with yourself bent forward.
  • Happy Baby Pose: By pulling your thighs up toward your chest, you can strain your hips in flexion with this pose.
  • Lotus Pose: The significant external rotation required by the Lotus Pose might aggravate existing bursitis in the hips.
  • Warrior 1 and 2 Poses: Both Warrior 1 and Warrior 2 involve lunging. If you lunge too deeply, you can reach extremes for your hips in extension.
  • Seated Twist: Sitting cross-legged and twisting from your spine can put your hip in higher adduction as well as stress it in flexion.
  • Crescent Lunge: As with other lunges, stretching too deeply can push your hips to the extreme in extension.
  • Half Moon Pose: This pose involves bending at the hip and holding one leg parallel to the floor, which can put strain on your hips and cause hip internal rotation.
  • Eagle Pose: As you cross your legs at the thighs and balance on one leg, you open up your hips. But Eagle Pose can create too much hip internal rotation for those with hip bursitis and put your hip in higher adduction.

This is not an exhaustive or exclusive list. When determining which yoga poses to avoid with hip bursitis for yourself, keep the following advice in mind:

  • Be careful with deep lunges or squats.
  • Avoid bearing weight on your hip.
  • Don’t stretch your hips too deeply or for too long.
  • Avoid repetitive hip movements.
  • If you have pain on one side of your hips, avoid irritating that side.
  • Don’t try to push through the pain.

Another way to safeguard your hips during yoga is by consulting with a certified yoga therapist or healthcare practitioner who is familiar with your condition. Comfort and safety should always come first. A yoga therapist can teach you about appropriate adjustments and alternative poses that work well for those with hip bursitis.

Modifying Yoga Poses for Hip Bursitis

An older man uses a chair for balance and support while stretching, showing that chair yoga is good for weight loss and mobility

Now that you know which yoga poses to avoid with hip bursitis, we can turn our attention to what you can do instead. People who suffer from hip bursitis can easily adapt a variety of different yoga poses to their specific needs.

The key to using yoga for hip bursitis is to avoid movements that cause pain, avoid repetitive hip movements, and avoid pushing yourself too far when stretching. Even if you don’t feel pain in the moment from repetitive movements or deep stretches, your hip will probably hurt later. Stretching can release chemicals in your brain that can even make it feel good, but if you’re irritating the burse, you’re going to feel it later.

Be sure to really rest your hip long enough for it to get better. Even if you only recently got hip bursitis, you can still move and be active, but take care to let your hip rest and heal.

To help you modify yoga poses safely and effectively, use these additional tips:

  • Support yourself with cushions, blankets, or bolsters to ease the pressure on your hips. For instance, using a cushion to raise your hips can make seated yoga poses more comfortable.
  • Don’t go too deep. To avoid hip discomfort, come into a pose at a shallower depth. With a Forward Fold, for instance, you can reduce the strain on your hip flexors by bending your knees slightly.
  • Use a chair in your yoga sequence to provide you with the balance and support you need. For standing postures like Warrior I and II, for instance, modifying the poses with a chair can increase your stability and lessen the strain on your hips.
  • Take care with twists. Twisting postures can cause hip pain if held for too long. Focus on keeping your spine neutral and your core engaged instead of extending twists.

3 Yoga Poses to Consider for Hip Bursitis

By increasing circulation to the hip area and loosening up the hip flexors, certain yoga poses can offer relief to those with hip bursitis. Poses that gently stretch and strengthen the muscles around your hips (such as the glutes, outer hip muscles, and quadriceps) tend to be especially beneficial.

When using yoga therapeutically, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. By its very nature, yoga therapy takes into account an individual’s specific health conditions, history, lifestyle, and desired outcomes to determine which yoga techniques to use and how to apply them.

For this reason, I can’t say there are certain yoga poses that will work well for everyone with hip bursitis. But there are some poses that may be more likely to help and avoid common contraindications.

1. Half Locust Pose

A person with hip bursitis practicing Half Locust Pose

Half Locust Pose is a pose performed while lying prone on your stomach. It involves lifting one leg up behind you while keeping the rest of your limbs on the floor. By targeting a single leg at a time, it focuses on strengthening the hamstrings and glutes. The glutes are often weak in those with hip bursitis, contributing to poor usage of the hip joint.

Rather than simply holding this pose, I recommend lifting the leg, pausing, lowering it, and repeating several times on the same leg before switching to the other side. This will help build up greater strength in the glutes, supporting good hip function.

2. Reclining Big Toe Pose

An example of someone practicing Reclining Big Toe Pose, which is not among the yoga poses to avoid with hip bursitis

By gradually stretching the hip flexors, you can increase your flexibility and mobility with the Reclining Big Toe Pose. While lying on your back, you’ll keep one leg extended on the mat and the other extended toward the ceiling, held in place by your fingers. This stretch relieves stress on the hip joints by lengthening the groin muscle.

Controlling your movement in this pose is key for those who suffer from hip discomfort, as it enables you to tailor the intensity of the stretch to your unique needs. This kind of gentle and controlled stretching increases blood flow to the hip region as well.

3. Supine Figure-Four Pose

A person practicing Supine Figure-Four Pose to help with their hip bursitis

To practice Figure-Four Pose (also known as One-Legged Chair Pose, Half Chair Pose, and Whooping Crane Pose), you bring one foot over the knee of the other leg while bending slightly at the hips, as if sitting in the air. For the supine version that I recommend, you practice this position while lying on your back instead of standing. The result is a good hip stretch that especially benefits the hip flexors and external rotators.

This stretch can help loosen up stiff hips and improve mobility. It can also be easily adjusted to the appropriate depth by moving your hips and torso lower or higher as needed. To hold this position, you’ll need to use your glutes and external rotators, among other hip muscles, building on their strength.

Additional Yoga Techniques for Hip Bursitis

So far, our focus has been on yoga poses to avoid with hip bursitis and ones to consider instead. But yoga offers more techniques than just asanas, or yoga poses.

Pranayama

Pranayama, or breathing techniques, can be used as pain management tools for hip bursitis. Breath work can reduce stress, instill a sense of calm, reduce pain, and boost general health and happiness. Two types of breathing exercises in particular to consider for dealing with stress and pain are diaphragmatic breathing and alternate nostril breathing.

Yoga Nidra

Yoga nidra is a practice that brings you into a relaxed state between wakefulness and sleep. Most often, a professional guides you through yoga nidra while you lie down. One of its chief benefits is that it is similar to meditation but requires less skill to achieve results.

Hip flexors are only one muscle group that benefits from yoga nidra’s methodical approach to restfulness. Yoga nidra can help induce healing brainwave states, which can potentially help you heal faster. It can also improve your sleep, which can improve healing too.

Yoga nidra can change how you experience pain, anxiety, or trauma. It helps you to regulate your responses, feel calmer, and change your perspective.

How to Get Help with Yoga

Yoga can bring a wide variety of benefits to your life, including increased happiness, less pain, more mobility, and better overall health. To get the best results from doing yoga, it’s helpful to work with a professional yoga instructor or yoga therapist.

When to Do Group Yoga Classes

Because of the uplifting atmosphere and sense of community they foster, many people believe that yoga classes are a great option for those who learn best in a social setting. Those interested in broader health and well-being, as well as a more general yoga experience, will find that group classes provide the best of both worlds.

Yoga classes are led by a trained instructor. The variety of classes available for groups makes it possible to delve into different styles of yoga that may be of interest to you.

When taking part in group yoga, keep in mind that you won’t receive as much individualized attention. As a result, the class may practice some yoga poses you should avoid with hip bursitis. Because of this, it’s best to find a class that moves at a slower speed that allows you to make necessary modifications. But you must be responsible for practicing yoga safely with hip bursitis.

When to Do Yoga Therapy Sessions

Yoga therapy sessions work well for those seeking help with a specific condition, illness, or injury, like hip bursitis. Your yoga therapist will evaluate your mental, physical, and emotional health to create a holistic approach that addresses your condition therapeutically.

Private yoga therapy sessions take your unique circumstances into account, resulting in better health outcomes. Yoga therapy is targeted to your goals and health, unlike group yoga classes.

If you have chronic hip bursitis, a yoga therapist can teach you techniques to even out your musculature and create an environment in which you are less likely to get hip bursitis again. Best of all, you are empowered to practice these techniques on your own. Like physical therapy, yoga therapy sessions are not intended to go on indefinitely.

Work with Our Yoga Therapists

Have you been dealing with hip bursitis for weeks? Or hip bursitis that keeps coming back? Yoga therapy may be able to help relieve your pain and prevent it from returning.

I’m pleased to be able to offer private, one-on-one yoga therapy sessions with myself and several other certified yoga therapists via Zoom. Learn more about our private sessions and fill out the contact form on the bottom of the page today to get started.

Yoga Training for Psychotherapists: Clinical Applications, Benefits, and How to Get Started

A young Black woman using yoga training for psychotherapists to work with a client
A young Black woman using yoga training for psychotherapists to work with a client

Wondering about incorporating yoga into your clinical practice? Combining cognitive treatments with yoga techniques can give you a more powerful, holistic approach that leads to better client outcomes. But first, it’s necessary to complete the proper yoga training for psychotherapists.

I’m Brandt Passalacqua, the Co-Founder, Director, and Lead Teacher of Breathing Deeply, a yoga therapy training school. After helping thousands of yoga therapy clients in my private practice, I turned my attention to training other yoga therapists. Many of our students are psychotherapists and mental health professionals, and I’m confident that our program can help you meet your goals.

Keep reading to learn more about yoga therapy, its clinical applications, the benefits of combining it with psychotherapy, and how to get started. If you’re interested in joining our program, check out the alumni stories below, read about our training, and apply to our school today or start a conversation with our staff.

Table of Contents:

Introduction to Yoga Training for Psychotherapists

You may not know all the ins and outs of yoga yet, and that’s okay! In fact, you don’t have to be an exceptional yogi who has mastered the most complex poses in order to help others heal with yoga.

First, I’ll go over a few key concepts and frequently asked questions to lay the groundwork for a greater discussion on how to use yoga as a psychotherapist.

What Is Yoga Therapy?

Yoga therapy is a holistic practice gaining global recognition. It’s all about harnessing yoga’s power for therapeutic purposes, addressing specific physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual conditions.

This application of yoga caters to individuals, offering a personalized approach, unlike group yoga classes. It can involve a variety of different yoga techniques, such as asanas (yoga poses), pranayama (breath work), meditation, or chanting.

What’s the Difference Between a Yoga Instructor and a Yoga Therapist?

Understanding this difference is crucial. In general, a yoga instructor guides groups of people through asana sequences to enhance general well-being or improve fitness. By contrast, a yoga therapist has additional training to use yoga techniques therapeutically to address a specific person’s health conditions one-on-one.

Yoga instructors:

  • Learn yoga techniques
  • Complete at least 200 hours of yoga teacher training
  • Teach others to practice yoga, especially asanas
  • Help others with general well-being or fitness
  • Offer group classes
  • May focus on a specific style of yoga

Yoga therapists:

  • Learn yoga techniques and therapeutic applications
  • Complete yoga teacher training plus yoga therapy training
  • Teach others to heal with yoga
  • Address specific health conditions
  • Work in one-on-one sessions
  • Personalize and adapt techniques to the situation
A chart outlining when to see a yoga teacher vs yoga therapist.

For more information, read our blog post about yoga teachers vs. yoga therapists.

The Role of Yoga in Mental Health Care

Yoga’s holistic approach balances mind, body, and spirit. By regulating breath and nervous system responses, yoga therapy can lead to better mental health outcomes. It can also lay the groundwork for effective cognitive work in psychotherapy.

More and more studies are showing that yoga is safe, practical, and effective for treating a host of mental health conditions, including:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Trauma
  • PTSD

Yoga is becoming more widely accepted in Western medicine and requested by clients, transforming the mental health care landscape.

Effectiveness of Yoga for Mental Health

There is a wealth of evidence to support the efficacy of yoga for mental health. These are just a few of many studies:

In addition, the American Psychological Association recognizes yoga’s benefits for mental health, and the Department of Veteran Affairs covers yoga in veterans’ medical benefits. The unique mind-body techniques used in yoga therapy are an exceptional complement to traditional therapeutic approaches, making it an increasingly popular method for mental health treatment.

Unpacking the Clinical Applications of Yoga Therapy

A psychotherapist talking with a client about the clinical applications of yoga therapy

If you’re considering yoga training for psychotherapists, you probably want to know more about how yoga therapy can apply to your clinical practice. Fortunately, there are a plethora of ways that yoga therapy can integrate effectively into psychotherapy. This can be as small as teaching a client a breathing technique during a clinical session to scheduling separate sessions just for yoga therapy in addition to your usual appointments.

Regardless of the logistics, yoga therapy gives you additional techniques to use with clients when cognitive techniques aren’t working. Yoga can help a client get to a place where cognitive work can become effective and also enhance its results. It can be applied to a wide range of mental health conditions, including depression and anxiety, and it also offers an approach that can be especially effective for addiction recovery and trauma recovery.

How Yoga Influences the Nervous System

Yoga’s impact on the nervous system is profound, giving psychotherapists new ways to help clients:

  • Through yoga therapy, you can teach clients how to activate the parasympathetic nervous system, or the “rest and digest” response, reducing anxiety and stress.
  • It also promotes neuroplasticity, enabling improved mental fitness and adaptability.
  • Moreover, yoga’s focus on slow, controlled breathing stimulates the vagus nerve, enhancing heart rate variability, a primary marker of resilience.

Not only can this make your clinical work more effective, but it also can give you a way to change a client’s mental environment so they can proceed with cognitive work. For example, someone suffering from depression can use yoga to reduce their depression, allowing them to better work through their depression cognitively.

Therapeutic Benefits of Yoga for Mental Health

Yoga offers many therapeutic benefits for mental health, such as:

  • Reducing stress, anxiety, and depression
  • Regulating emotional states
  • Fostering mental well-being
  • Enhancing self-reliance and agency

In addition to these benefits, which will apply to many clients, yoga therapy can also be used therapeutically for a number of other specific mental health conditions, such as ADHD, OCD, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, PTSD, addiction, and eating disorders.

Incorporating Body-Based Techniques

A client in Warrior Pose, showing how you can incorporate body-based techniques after completing yoga training for psychotherapists

While psychotherapy lacks body-based techniques, yoga therapy can fill this gap with asanas (yoga poses) and pranayama (breath work).

Asanas can be used to:

  • Promote physical health and well-being
  • Encourage relaxation and mindfulness
  • Reduce anxiety, depression, and stress

Pranayama can be used to:

  • Regulate breath
  • Calm the nervous system
  • Clear the mind
  • Cultivate mindfulness
  • Reduce anxiety, depression, and stress

The mind-body synchronization offered by yoga can assist and amplify the healing power of therapy.

Incorporating Meditation and Mindfulness

A woman sitting in Lotus Pose, showing how psychotherapists with yoga therapy training can use meditation with clients

Meditation and mindfulness are potent components of yoga therapy. Mindfulness brings the mind into the present moment, minimizing anxieties related to the past or future. This complements meditation practices that heighten concentration, clarity, and emotional positivity. The result is a deeper sense of inner peace and tranquility, crucial to mental health resilience.

This can be a great complement to cognitive work or offer clients an alternate approach that may work better for them. For example, if you’re struggling to help a client become more aware of their thoughts in your clinical practice, you can teach them to witness their thoughts more easily through meditation practices.

Yoga Therapy for Addiction Recovery

Yoga therapy plays an invaluable role in addiction recovery. For example, yoga can:

  • Balance the doshas (I’ve found that many addicts are pitta imbalanced)
  • Calm and regulate the nervous system
  • Change reactions to thoughts
  • Retrain the unconscious mind so it doesn’t guide actions
  • Break addiction patterns and form new habits
  • Reduce stress, anxiety, and depression
  • Improve mindfulness, clarity, focus, and self-awareness

These can be vital factors in breaking addiction patterns and arming recovering addicts with essential tools to help combat cravings and prevent relapses. Addiction can be incredibly difficult to overcome, and yoga therapy provides additional techniques within a holistic framework to help more people find successful treatment.

Yoga Therapy for Trauma Recovery

Many yoga techniques, including movement, breath work, and meditation, have proven effective in helping people recover from trauma. A trauma-informed yoga therapy approach can:

  • Improve emotional and nervous system regulation
  • Reduce PTSD symptoms and trauma responses
  • Reshape responses to triggers
  • Change unconscious mental patterns
  • Relieve stress, anxiety, and depression
  • Increase self-awareness and concentration
  • Foster resilience and empowerment

I have found that yoga’s mind-body approach is highly effective in treating trauma, and yoga training can give psychotherapists additional strategies to promote healing for these clients.

Benefits of Combining Psychotherapy with Yoga Therapy

Many of the benefits of combining psychotherapy with yoga therapy become clear when discussing the clinical applications of yoga therapy. In addition to these advantages, clients enjoy greater convenience and psychotherapists can fuel their career growth when yoga therapy is offered along with psychotherapy.

More Tools and Techniques to Use with Clients

A woman doing breathing exercises with the help of a psychotherapist with yoga training

As a psychotherapist, integrating yoga therapy into your practice introduces a myriad of additional tools and techniques to support clients. This broadened range includes engaging with physical postures, breath work, meditation, mindfulness, and more. These diverse tools empower you to address a host of mental health conditions in different ways, expanding your therapeutic capabilities and improving client outcomes.

Yoga Therapy Can Support Cognitive Work

In addition to providing different tools and techniques to use when cognitive ones aren’t working, yoga therapy can also be used to enhance cognitive work. Reducing stress, anxiety, and depression with yoga can help pave the way for cognitive therapy to flourish, for instance.

Another major benefit is the mindfulness honed through yoga practices, which encourages conscious thought processing. This mindfulness, intertwined with cognitive techniques, can influence neural pathways, aiding individuals to address destructive thought patterns.

With yoga therapy, cognitive work can become even more comprehensive and far-reaching.

Better Outcomes and More Convenience for Clients

Would you rather research, schedule, and onboard with two health care professionals at two different locations or one? The time and cost associated with multiple practitioners is higher, making it far more convenient for clients to see you for both psychotherapy and yoga therapy. Not only that, but the combination of these services produces a more efficient, comprehensive therapy, which should yield better client outcomes and higher satisfaction.

Making Your Work More Valuable and In Demand

For all of these reasons and more, completing yoga training for psychotherapists and introducing yoga therapy into your practice increases its value. It enriches your skill set, elevating your demand in the mental health care field. More and more, clients are interested in incorporating yoga into their treatment, and professionals who can provide these services will gain more clients.

But yoga therapy is more than just a professional add-on. It’s an investment in a fulfilling, impactful career. You likely got into your profession because you want to help people, and gaining more skills that can produce better client outcomes makes your work more valuable to you as well as to clients.

How to Get Started with Yoga Training for Psychotherapists

Ready to learn how to get started with yoga training for psychotherapists? I’ll answer some common questions and share tips for getting started below.

Do You Have to Be Great at Yoga?

I’ve worked with numerous psychotherapists who are interested in learning yoga therapy, but nervous that it means they need to be an accomplished yogi. Fortunately, you don’t need to be able to perform handstands or other complicated movements in order to be a successful yoga therapist!

As you study yoga, you’ll develop a personal practice and learn how to wield different movements and techniques. This will give you the foundation you need to help others, and it doesn’t require you to be able to practice every single complicated yoga pose yourself.

Do You Need Yoga Therapy Certification?

To become a yoga therapist, you need to successfully complete yoga therapy training. Depending on your needs, you may decide to conclude your studies after learning the foundations of yoga therapy, or you may go on to learn advanced yoga therapy.

As a certified psychotherapist who already has numerous tools at your disposal, you may not need to gain an additional certification or complete more advanced training. If you do want to become a certified yoga therapist at the highest level, you should complete an 800+ hour yoga therapy training program like ours and gain certification from the International Association of Yoga Therapists (C-IAYT).

Choosing the Right Yoga Therapy Training Program

If you have already established a career, then it will probably be important for you to find a program that is flexible and proven in providing yoga training for psychotherapists. At Breathing Deeply, we pride ourselves on making yoga therapy training as accessible as possible. We offer:

  • Self-paced coursework
  • Online lessons with 24/7 access
  • Live online retreats
  • Live Q&As with the head teacher
  • Flexible payment plans
  • Hands-on experience
  • Lifetime access, mentorship, and community

Learn more about our programs, hear from our students below, or contact us with any questions.

Hear from Our Students

Don’t just take our word for it! We’d like to spotlight a few of our students in the mental health profession.

Shervon Laurice is a licensed clinical professional counselor and yoga therapist. She said:

This training has given me a deeper understanding of what my clients are going through, and the movement they might need to move forward to more healthy, balanced lives. Where other programs focused on the clinical, Breathing Deeply accounts for a more balanced consideration of mental and physical health.

It has given me fresh eyes, no longer only looking through the mental health lens I was originally trained with. I now also incorporate the lens of yoga in the work I do with clients.

Julie Kormanyos is a licensed mental health counselor and yoga therapist. She said:

My clients are now receiving the benefits of Yoga Therapy when following the plans designed for them. It is wonderful to see people apply the practices and heal themselves.

I would want potential BDYT students to know that they should not hesitate to join Breathing Deeply. They will be joining a learning community that offers a TA, retreats, weekly Q&A sessions, and a supportive peer group to help them reach their goals. Brandt is extremely knowledgeable and will push you to look at concepts from all different perspectives.

Liza Hahn is a mental health therapist and yoga therapist. She said:

Since I enrolled in the Breathing Deeply Yoga Therapy Program, my knowledge and practice of yoga have expanded not only for myself but in how I work with clients. I feel more confident and know I have a place to turn for ongoing support.

When I applied, I was working on my hours toward becoming a licensed counselor and wanted to integrate my yoga teaching. With the program online, it allowed me to do this at my own pace (Thank you, Breathing Deeply!).

Apply for Our Yoga Training for Psychotherapists

Join yoga teachers, mental health professionals, and other like-minded students who want to help others heal with yoga under our expert guidance. Learn more about our training, apply to one of our programs, or schedule a call with our staff today!

Is Chair Yoga Good for Weight Loss? Tips, Exercises, and How to Start

An older man uses a chair for balance and support while stretching, showing that chair yoga is good for weight loss and mobility
An older man uses a chair for balance and support while stretching, showing that chair yoga is good for weight loss and mobility

Chair yoga can be an excellent modification for those who find seated yoga poses more accessible. But you may be wondering, is chair yoga good for weight loss? The short answer is that any kind of yoga can be beneficial for weight loss in a variety of ways, and chair yoga is no different.

With that in mind, let’s dive in! I’m Brandt Passalacqua, the Co-Founder, Director, and Lead Teacher of Breathing Deeply, a yoga therapy training school. I’ve benefited personally from using yoga for weight loss and studied these techniques extensively. This has led me to help numerous clients lose weight with yoga, as well as develop weight loss training for yoga therapists to help their own clients.

Whether you want to use yoga for your own weight loss or you’re a yoga instructor or yoga therapist who wants to help others, I’m here to share what I’ve learned.

Keep reading to learn more about chair yoga, how it helps with weight loss, example exercises, and tips to get started and achieve the best outcomes. If you’d prefer to work one-on-one with myself or one of the highly qualified yoga therapists I’ve trained, learn about our private sessions and contact us today. If you’re looking to get yoga therapy training yourself, check out our programs.

Table of Contents:

Introduction to Chair Yoga for Weight Loss

Before I answer the question, “Is chair yoga good for weight loss?,” I’ll share some introductory information for those who may not be familiar with chair yoga. If you already know the basics, feel free to skip ahead!

What Is Chair Yoga?

Chair yoga, in essence, is yoga performed while seated. It includes many yoga poses you’ll see in other styles of yoga, but they are modified to be practiced while sitting in a chair. Chair yoga retains the essence and benefits of traditional yoga, but adapts these practices for those who find traditional poses challenging or inaccessible.

Who Should Do Chair Yoga?

A young Black man and a young Black woman practicing chair yoga for weight loss

Chair yoga is inclusive! It’s ideal for a wide range of people and situations, including:

  • Senior citizens
  • Beginners
  • People with mobility issues
  • People who are overweight
  • People who work at desks
  • People looking for low-impact exercises

Benefits of Chair Yoga

Engaging in chair yoga offers a medley of benefits. These include:

  • Increased strength
  • More flexibility and mobility
  • Better balance
  • More stamina
  • Better mood and mental health
  • Better quality of sleep
  • Greater self-awareness and mindfulness

More and more studies emerge to support these claims. For instance, a 2023 study published in Healthcare (Basel) found that chair yoga improved fitness and daily life for elderly adults with knee osteoarthritis. Another study in the International Journal of Yoga suggested that chair yoga can safely and effectively improve mobility for older adults who are at risk of falling.

As we turn our attention to using chair yoga for weight loss, I’ll go into more detail about several of these benefits below.

Is Chair Yoga Good for Weight Loss?

If you’ve been thinking about trying yoga to lose weight but know you might be restricted to seated or otherwise modified poses, you may have asked yourself, is chair yoga good for weight loss? As I stated above, any kind of yoga can be effective for losing weight! Learn more below about why chair yoga can help you lose weight in order to wield these practices successfully.

Does Chair Yoga Burn Calories?

Yes, chair yoga can burn calories, but not as many as vigorous exercise. In general, yoga doesn’t burn as many calories as certain other exercises.

Burning calories, when paired with a calorie-deficit diet, can aid weight loss. But in Western countries, being overweight or obese is often due to poor dietary and mental patterns. Even when people try to cut calories and exercise, they may still struggle with these habits and, therefore, struggle to lose weight.

Calorie burn is not one of the main ways that yoga helps people lose weight. Instead, yoga thrives in its ability to support people in other areas of weight loss, detailed below.

Chair Yoga Can Improve Mobility and Functioning

Regularly practicing yoga can be a great way to improve your mobility and functioning. Studies, such as this one in Age and Ageing, show that yoga can help with mobility.

Yoga helps to stretch and lengthen muscles, enhancing overall flexibility. It can also reduce stiffness, aches, and pains. For those who struggle with mobility, chair yoga gives you a way to safely start stretching and moving.

This, in turn, makes performing daily activities and other exercises easier, reducing injury risk. Over time, chair yoga may make it easier for you to walk longer or to start doing water aerobics, giving you greater mobility, fitness, and bodily function.

Yoga Reduces Stress

Yoga techniques involving movement, breathing, and meditation can all reduce stress—and all of these techniques can be applied with chair yoga. Studies continue to show this, including one published in the International Journal of Preventive Medicine that found yoga effective in reducing stress, anxiety, and depression.

Cortisol, the main stress hormone, surges during times of stress. Stress hormones can contribute to weight gain.

Yoga lowers your cortisol levels, reducing your stress. Feeling less stressed can also support other aspects of losing weight, such as forming healthier behaviors. When you’re stressed, it’s all too easy to fall back on bad habits like stress eating as a way to self-soothe.

Yoga Improves Self-Awareness and Mindfulness

Whether standing, seated, or supine, yoga encourages mindfulness. We become attuned to our bodies, emotions, and even our eating habits. Mind-body techniques like those found in yoga give us greater introspection and awareness of our bodies.

This can help you to:

  • Pay more attention to hunger cues
  • Eat more mindfully
  • Better interpret other cues, such as needing to sleep, take a walk, or step away from the computer if you’re stressed or low on energy
  • Avoid overeating or binge eating
  • Avoid late-night snacking

Yoga Facilitates Habit Change

Yoga also fosters healthy habit change, which is crucial for weight management. In the United States, we lack some of the healthy dietary patterns common in the East. This often means it’s necessary to rework our eating habits.

For example, many of my weight loss clients would wait until later in the afternoon to eat their first meal, then eat far more than necessary. Eating very regularly and at the proper times for you is often the biggest contributor to successfully managing your weight. This can include:

  • Eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner on a regular schedule
  • Eating a balanced, healthy diet
  • Avoiding overeating or binge eating
  • Avoiding late-night snacking

Yoga enables people to create new patterns more easily, contributing to habit change. Regularly practicing yoga can help you to regulate in general, as well as to regulate specific aspects of your life like eating on time or having protein or snacks during the day. Chair yoga can help you commit to changing your diet and other healthy lifestyle changes.

3 Example Chair Yoga Exercises

First, it’s important to explain that there’s no single set of chair yoga exercises that I can prescribe wholesale to anyone who wants to lose weight. You’ll get the best results from yoga if the techniques that you use are personalized for your unique body, circumstances, health, history, lifestyle, and goals. If this is something that interests you, consider working with a yoga therapist.

But if you’re curious to see how traditional yoga poses can be adapted or examples of chair yoga exercises that could support weight loss, I’ve included 3 below.

1. Seated Sun Salutations

A woman practicing Seated Sun Salutations as an example of chair yoga for weight loss

Seated Sun Salutations can be a great way to get started. These movements sequence in harmony with your breath as you inhale and exhale. With Seated Sun Salutations, you can foster calmness and mindfulness while:

With regular practice, Seated Sun Salutations can increase your flexibility, improve your mindfulness, and reduce your stress, all of which can support weight loss.

2. Chair Warrior II Pose

A person practicing Warrior II Pose modified for chair yoga

Warrior II Pose is a fusion of strength and grace. As a chair yoga exercise, it involves sitting sideways on a chair, extending one leg behind you, leaving the other leg bent at the knee before you, and stretching your arms parallel to the floor. When you’re done, don’t forget to switch sides!

This pose helps you to:

  • Align your body
  • Strengthen your legs, including your thighs
  • Stretch your shoulders, chest, hips, and hamstrings
  • Engage your back and lengthen your spine
  • Enhance your focus

By stretching and strengthening your body, you can improve your mobility and functioning over time, making it easier to get active and stay fit.

3. Chair Extended Side Angle Pose

A man performing Extended Side Angle Pose while seated as part of a chair yoga routine

If you’re building a sequence of chair yoga exercises for weight loss, Extended Side Angle can fit right in with the previous pose. Starting from the Chair Warrior II Pose, swing your extended leg back in toward the bent leg and bend it as well. Gently reach one arm to the ceiling while the other descends toward your feet, resting on your calf if you can’t reach the floor. As with Warrior II, remember to switch sides.

Chair Extended Side Angle Pose can facilitate weight loss by strengthening and stretching your muscles to support mobility and function:

  • It strengthens your legs, including your hamstrings and thighs
  • It stretches your legs, hips, sides, and back
  • It opens your chest and shoulders

How to Get Started with Chair Yoga for Weight Loss

Want to get started? I’ll answer a few common questions you may still have about using chair yoga for weight loss.

How Often Should You Practice Chair Yoga for Weight Loss?

Consistency is key, but keep in mind that anything is better than nothing! See what routine will best fit your schedule, ability, and goals.

  • If possible, I would recommend practicing yoga at least 3 times per week. If you can do it every day, that’s great!
  • As a starting place, you might do 15-minute or 20-minute sessions. But longer sessions, such as an hour, are generally more beneficial.
  • You can also break it up over time or with different activities. For example, you could do 20 minutes of movement and 30 minutes of breathing, meditation, or other techniques. Or, instead of doing 50 minutes all at once, you could do 15 minutes before work, 20 minutes during your lunch break at your desk, and 15 minutes after work.

Over time, you can tailor the intensity and duration of each session to fit your goals. Remember, it’s okay to start small at first!

Support Weight Loss with Good Eating Habits

Part of the yoga concept is a regular lifestyle. While some people treat yoga simply as a fitness routine, using it to also support healthy habits will yield greater benefits for weight loss.

There are many healthy patterns you can develop to support weight loss, but good eating habits are some of the most important. Simply eating a balanced breakfast, lunch, and dinner at regular times while practicing yoga 3 times per week can be enough to make a difference.

Can You Practice Chair Yoga at Your Desk?

Yes! You can effectively practice chair yoga poses at your desk. It’s a great way to combat a sedentary lifestyle, break the monotony, stretch, and reduce work-related stress. All you need is a sturdy chair and a little space.

How to Set Up Your Space for Chair Yoga

Setting up for chair yoga is simple. All you really need is a chair! When possible, consider these tips to make the most of your yoga practice:

  • Choose a quiet, clutter-free space.
  • Pick a stable, armless chair.
  • Place your chair on a yoga mat or carpet for added stability.
  • Avoid distractions so you can concentrate better.

Work with Our Expert Yoga Therapists

Many of the clients I’ve worked with have tried unsuccessfully to lose weight and keep it off in the past. Often, their struggles come down to the fact that they were only focused on one or two pieces of the puzzle, such as exercising or dieting. But I’ve seen time and time again that the best results come from a sustainable, holistic approach that takes your body, mind, and habits into account.

Yoga is an ancient, multi-faceted practice designed to promote physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. It can be an incredibly practical, safe, and effective way to treat different health conditions, including overweight and obesity. But it takes a skilled yoga therapist, who receives more training than a yoga teacher, to successfully apply yoga techniques to specific conditions.

I have been honored to help thousands of clients on their healing journeys, including many weight loss clients. I am also proud to make these services more accessible by offering them in a live, one-on-one, online format. I hope you will learn more about our yoga therapy and contact us today if you are interested.

If you are a yoga teacher or yoga therapist who would like to receive training to help others with weight loss and a whole host of other health conditions, please take a look at our programs and apply today.

Yoga vs Pilates for Back Pain: How They Work & What to Do

A middle-aged woman who has considered yoga vs Pilates for back pain practices a neutral standing pose
A middle-aged woman who has considered yoga vs Pilates for back pain practices a neutral standing pose

Anyone who has experienced back pain knows how significant its impact can be on your life. It can be just as much of a challenge to find adequate relief. According to the World Health Organization, most people will have back pain at some point in their lives, and lower back pain is the top cause of disability in the world. In the U.S., 8.2% of adults are facing chronic severe back pain, the majority of whom are disabled as a result, the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health reports. With a growing number of people struggling to find relief, many are considering alternatives to Western medicine, especially comparing yoga vs Pilates for back pain.

Taking either yoga classes or Pilates classes can be beneficial for back pain, depending on your specific circumstances and needs. These group classes can be especially helpful for addressing mild and non-specific back pain, as well as preventing back pain in the future. But it’s important to understand that back pain isn’t just one thing—it can be caused by a range of different conditions. Working one-on-one with a certified yoga therapist can help you treat a specific back diagnosis, learn techniques to practice on your own, and get you to a place where a yoga or Pilates class is enough to keep back pain at bay moving forward.

Keep reading to learn more or contact us today if you are interested in working with a yoga therapist for back pain.

Table of Contents:

What Is Yoga?

Yoga is an ancient practice. Its origins stretch back to ancient India, with the earliest references to yoga found between 1000–200 BCE. Yoga encompasses a wide range of disciplines, practices, and traditions.

Techniques can include:

  • Asanas (yoga poses)
  • Pranayama (breathing exercises)
  • Meditation
  • Chanting
  • And more

For some, yoga is just a fitness routine. It can be a great way to get active, tone your muscles, and improve your flexibility, posture, and balance.

But for many more, yoga is a lifestyle that supports holistic health and wellness. Yoga can promote better physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health.

What Is Pilates?

Pilates is a fitness training method. It was created by Joseph Pilates in the 1920s, though there are several different versions of Pilates taught and practiced today.

As a mind-body exercise, Pilates focuses on practicing physical poses with proper alignment and breathing to improve both physical and mental health. Most Pilates exercises use your own bodyweight, making them readily accessible to a wide audience, just like yoga. However, Joseph Pilates originally developed his fitness regimen with specific equipment or “apparatuses,” such as the Reformer. Some Pilates exercises today still make use of weights, resistance bands, and specialized equipment.

The main goals of Pilates are more narrow than those of yoga, though all of them are also common goals in yoga. These include:

  • Physical and mental health
  • Core strength
  • Flexibility
  • Balance
  • Posture
  • Breathing

What Is Yoga Therapy?

Yoga therapy is a specialized form of yoga whose aim is therapeutic. It involves applying the techniques of yoga (such as asanas, pranayama, meditation, or chanting) therapeutically to address specific health conditions. These conditions can be physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual.

While yoga classes and Pilates classes are made for groups of people to practice together, yoga therapy is intended for one-on-one sessions. This is because yoga therapy is tailored to each individual and their body, history, health conditions, contraindications, and desired outcomes.

Not only is a one-on-one format more conducive to adapting and adjusting techniques, but also to taking a trauma-informed approach. Yoga teachers and Pilates instructors, by contrast, are not generally trained to treat trauma or specific health conditions or diagnoses.

Yoga vs Pilates Classes for Back Pain

So, how does all of this relate to back pain? If you’re like most people considering yoga vs Pilates for back pain, you want to know which one is going to be better for you.

Either yoga or Pilates classes can be effective for back pain under the right circumstances. In general, group classes like these work best for those who have back pain that is mild and non-specific. Gentle yoga classes can be an especially good option for those who are already experiencing pain. We would not recommend trying both yoga and Pilates classes for back pain, as you may overexert yourself and exacerbate the problem.

Always check with a doctor first to see if your back pain is diagnosable and if it involves any contraindications, such as yoga poses or Pilates exercises that would be unsafe for you. If you have back pain that is severe or chronic, or if you have a specific diagnosis for your back pain, then yoga therapy will likely work better and be safer for you. Contact our team to see if yoga therapy is right for you.

Once your back pain has been relieved or is under control, yoga or Pilates classes can be a great way to maintain your health and prevent future back pain.

1. Strengthen and Build Flexibility in Core and Back Muscles

A Black man practicing a core strengthening pose as part of yoga or Pilates for back pain

When core or back muscles are weakened, lacking in mobility, or lacking in motor control, it can cause back pain. More specifically, a study in the Journal of Physical Therapy Science found that common causes of chronic low back pain included weak shallow trunk muscles, weak abdominal muscles, weak deep trunk muscles, and poor control over deep trunk muscles.

Both yoga and Pilates strengthen core and back muscles, aiding back pain prevention and relief. Pilates is heavily focused on core strength, targeting abdominal, upper back, and lower back muscles. While yoga doesn’t concentrate as narrowly on your core and back, there are plenty of poses that can keep these muscles strong.

It’s also important to make sure these muscles are flexible. Losing mobility in your core or back can make it difficult to maintain good posture, leading to slouching and back pain. Yoga and Pilates each offer you stretches that can lengthen your core and back muscles, improving their flexibility.

2. Keep Your Spine Healthy

One of the major causes of low back pain is spinal degeneration and injury, according to the Mayo Clinic. Yoga and Pilates both have the benefit of promoting good spinal health.

Some studies have shown that practicing yoga can have a positive impact on spinal flexion (bending forward) and spinal extension (bending backward). Yoga can both strengthen and stretch the muscles that support your spine, helping you to properly bend and stabilize your spine.

According to a study in the Asian Journal of Sports Medicine, Pilates provides “a core stability approach to augment the neuromuscular system to control and protect the core body or spine.” It uses core stabilizing exercises and breath control to activate muscles that support lumbopelvic stability.

3. Correct Posture Problems

A woman practicing proper posture with yoga or Pilates for back pain

Poor posture can lead to back pain, whether it’s from aging, genetics, illness, or keeping your body in the same position for long periods of time. Practicing proper alignment, becoming aware of your posture, and getting into the habit of using good posture can help make you less likely to develop back problems.

In addition to improving your core strength to support good posture, yoga can help to stretch your muscles and teach you proper alignment for your body. As you practice aligning your body and become more mindful by practicing yoga, you should notice your posture and be able to correct it more easily.

Likewise, Pilates can increase your core strength, stretch your muscles, and model good alignment for you. It is especially concerned with smaller, more stabilizing movements that strengthen core muscles, which, in turn, better protect your spine.

4. Improve Overall Health

Depending on your current health and levels of activity, simply practicing yoga or Pilates can improve your overall health. If you live a sedentary lifestyle, either of these disciplines can get you physically active and support better fitness, postural awareness, and weight loss. In some cases, this can be enough to help alleviate back pain that is mild and non-specific.

5. Gentle Yoga for Those in Pain

Gentle yoga is a subset of yoga designed to be easier, less intense, slower paced, less strenuous, more relaxing, and even quieter. Often using low-impact and seated poses, it can be more accessible to those of various fitness and mobility levels.

It can also be a good option for those experiencing mild and non-specific back pain. As reported by NPR, research has shown that gentle yoga can reduce back pain and improve functioning as effectively and safely as physical therapy.

For those who are weighing yoga vs Pilates for back pain, there is often a concern that yoga classes and Pilates classes have the potential to result in back injury. Gentle yoga presents an option that can make this less likely.

Limitations of Yoga vs Pilates for Back Pain

When comparing yoga vs Pilates for back pain, there are a number of limitations for both group classes to keep in mind. For cases when yoga or Pilates classes are not a good fit for relieving back pain, yoga therapy can be an excellent alternative that avoids these limitations.

1. Better for Preventing Back Pain Than Fixing It

Oftentimes, yoga and Pilates classes work better for preventing back pain. Many of their benefits—including strengthening your core and back, maintaining flexibility in your core and back, supporting spinal health, and promoting good posture—are key for keeping back pain at bay.

But if you’re facing back pain that is severe, chronic, or caused by certain health conditions, general yoga or Pilates classes aren’t likely to help. In fact, they can actively make things worse by potentially causing further injury.

2. Don’t Account for Common Back Pain Contraindications

If your back pain is caused by a specific health condition, there may be certain contraindications that go along with your diagnosis. Contraindications include medications, surgeries, and activities that could be harmful or dangerous in your condition.

For many back conditions and injuries, you either shouldn’t bend backward or bend forward. There are numerous backbends and forward bends among yoga poses. While forward bends seem less common in Pilates, you may come across them and will likely encounter some backbends. A group class, especially one that isn’t specifically for back pain, has no reason to avoid these movements—even if you do.

3. Don’t Adapt Poses to Individuals

Similarly, group classes are made to meet the needs of most people attending. They aren’t set up to be tailored to individual people’s needs.

If you’re dealing with back pain that requires specific techniques and has to avoid specific contraindications, you aren’t likely to find a good match in a group class. You may often need practices to be adapted to your situation in order to be safe and effective.

4. Not Trained to Treat Specific Diagnoses

Even if group classes were designed to address your specific needs, the teachers would generally lack the necessary training to treat back pain. Yoga teachers and Pilates instructors aren’t educated in anatomy or pathology. They aren’t trained to apply techniques therapeutically or address specific health conditions.

Fortunately, yoga therapists are!

How Can Yoga Therapy Help with Back Pain?

Yoga therapy gives you the individualized attention and therapeutic application needed to address a wide variety of causes of back pain. A yoga therapist will work with you to find the techniques that bring you healing and relief. Not only that, but they will teach you how to practice these techniques yourself, giving you more agency over your own health.

Once your pain starts to subside, your function starts to improve, and you get a strong grasp on the yoga practices you’re using, our job is done! We’re here to support you and give you the tools you need, so you eventually don’t need us to be able to manage your back health. At that point, you can continue practicing the yoga techniques you’ve learned as needed or even join a yoga or Pilates class that is a good fit for preventing back pain and supporting overall health.

Keep reading for more information about how yoga therapy may be a better solution than comparing yoga vs Pilates for back pain. If you’re ready to get started, reach out about working with our yoga therapists.

1. Address Specific Pathologies

As opposed to group classes for yoga or Pilates for back pain, yoga therapy is equipped to apply specific yoga techniques to address different pathologies. Yoga therapists can work with a wide variety of clients with back pain, including those with:

  • Disc problems
  • Sciatica
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Spondylolisthesis
  • Upper Cross Syndrome
  • Osteoporosis
  • Chronic back pain
  • Non-specific back pain
  • And more

2. Improve Chronic Back Pain

Studies have shown that yoga can be an effective treatment for mild, moderate, and severe chronic low back pain, as the National Institutes of Health has reported. It’s important to note that this research relied on “a carefully adapted set of yoga postures,” which can be combined with breathing exercises or meditation, as you would find in one-on-one sessions with a yoga therapist. Significantly more people who practiced yoga for back pain reported lower levels of pain and higher levels of physical function.

3. Reduce the Pain Response

Yoga therapy can be instrumental in managing back pain when it does occur. The mind-body connection fostered by yoga promotes relaxation, minimizing stress and improving pain management. A trained yoga therapist can also teach you how to regulate your nervous system responses. You can learn how to use yoga practices like meditation and certain breathing techniques to reduce your pain response when you do experience back pain.

Work with a Yoga Therapist for Back Pain

Our founder working with a student to teach about yoga therapy for back pain

Are you ready to work with a yoga therapist? Don’t waste another minute in pain without a solution in sight.

As a leading yoga therapy school, we have access to the greatest talent in the industry. From our founder, Brandt Passalacqua, who has 20 years of experience successfully helping thousands of clients, to the highly knowledgeable and trained yoga therapists we have vetted ourselves through our program, we’re well-equipped to find the best person to meet your needs.

Learn more and contact us today about using yoga therapy for back pain.

Using Yoga and Massage Therapy: Yoga Training for Massage Therapists

A professional qualified in yoga and massage therapy working with a client
A professional qualified in yoga and massage therapy working with a client

Massage therapy is a rewarding but demanding career. I would know—I’ve been a medical massage therapist myself for over 20 years. Looking for a way to make massage therapy a more sustainable job, supplement your income, advance your career, and better serve your clients? Yoga and massage therapy could be the perfect solution.

I’m Brandt Passalacqua, the Co-Founder, Director, and Lead Teacher of Breathing Deeply Yoga Therapy. It has been my honor to help thousands of yoga therapy clients and students, and I hope I can help you too.

Keep reading to learn about the benefits of yoga for massage therapists and their clients, how to get started with yoga training for massage therapists, and more. If you’d like to start a conversation with us about your career or our program, please feel free to contact our team.

Table of Contents:

Why Massage Therapists Burn Out

Studies estimate that massage therapists last only 3 to 5 years on average before leaving massage therapy, according to Massage Magazine. Reasons why MTs burn out include:

  • Physical strain or stress
  • Physical injury
  • Over-scheduling
  • Financial burdens
  • Lack of work boundaries
  • Lack of recovery time
  • Lack of self-care
  • Limited scope of practice

Massage therapy is physically demanding work, which limits how many clients you can see each week. In my experience, most massage therapists can’t see more than 15 clients per week. Many can’t see more than 10 clients per week, capping out at 2 per day, due to the physical toll. This often makes it difficult to make ends meet without taking on additional work.

Then there are the clients themselves and your ability to help them. Massage therapists can make a real difference to many clients, but there are usually a few who keep coming back, time after time, asking for help with the same aches and pains. You want to help, but you’re at a loss for what else to do. It’s frustrating to realize that you’re limited in your capacity to heal those clients.

Not only do you need to work with clients, but also you need to work on running your business—marketing yourself, building client relationships, and seeking referrals. It’s no wonder that this job starts to take a toll.

Fortunately, there are a lot of opportunities in yoga for massage therapists. Yoga therapy can easily integrate into a massage therapy career. It allows you to make the most of the skills and business you’ve already established, while also expanding them.

How to Advance Your Career with Yoga and Massage Therapy

Interested in advancing your career? Yoga therapy involves the therapeutic application of yoga techniques to specific physical, spiritual, emotional, and mental health issues. For more information, check out our blog post on the difference between a yoga teacher and yoga therapist.

There are a number of advantages that come with combining yoga and massage therapy, from expanding your scope of practice, to leveraging existing relationships, getting more referrals and demand, and safely increasing your client load.

Expand Your Scope of Practice

Expanding your practice to include both yoga therapy and massage therapy can exponentially grow your business. Most clients are looking for holistic care, and many may already be interested in finding other healthcare modalities like yoga to complement massage. Why not be the one to supply them?

Even clients who don’t know about yoga therapy or haven’t been considering yoga will likely be interested if you explain how your yoga therapy services can help with the issues they’re facing. By expanding your skill set, you have more tools at your disposal when a client comes to you with a problem. This not only helps your client, but also helps you be more effective and reduce the risk of burnout.

With yoga therapy, you can effectively double your client load without hurting yourself. Yoga therapy isn’t hands on like massage therapy is, and you don’t have the same physical demands as a yoga therapist.

Ultimately, it’s about enhancing your career’s potency while providing more options to those you serve.

Leverage Existing Relationships

As a massage therapist, you already devote significant time and effort into cultivating strong relationships with your clients. You also put resources into marketing yourself and finding new clients that way. What if you could double the return on your investment?

The solution could lie in yoga for massage therapists. If you’re trained in yoga and massage therapy, every client could potentially be worth double if you end up booking them for massage therapy and yoga therapy appointments.

Every piece of advertising suddenly has double the potential as well. It could catch the eye of someone looking for massage or yoga, and once they’re in the door, you can always explain to them the advantages of both these services.

Your current clients already trust and respect you. If you become a yoga therapist and recommend that they try those services, many of them will listen! You can also ask them for referrals, giving you another source of potential clients.

Get More Referrals and Demand

A graphic showing the cycles of increased demand for your skills once you complete yoga training for massage therapists

Not only does expanding your scope with yoga and massage therapy potentially double the number of appointments for each client, but it also can make your services more in demand and garner you more referrals.

By adding to your skill set, you’re already making your services more valuable. As a professional who can provide both yoga and massage therapy, your services will stand out and rise in demand. This also enables you to offer more solutions and holistic care to clients, which leads to better results, which leads to higher client satisfaction, which leads to more referrals.

As those referrals turn into new clients, the cycle continues!

Safely Increase Your Client Load

As mentioned above, offering both yoga and massage therapy can help to attract more clients. It also allows you to take on more work safely, without risking injury like you would by taking on additional hours of massage therapy.

Yoga therapy prioritizes trauma-sensitive approaches that don’t involve touching clients. While we may sometimes perform muscle assessment (with consent) to help evaluate the physical body, we generally avoid hands-on adjustments or other physical contact. Instead, we invite clients to perform certain actions and teach them how to practice them and align their bodies correctly themselves.

With all of this in mind, working as a yoga therapist is not a physically demanding job. It allows you to schedule additional appointments with clients, while still getting the appropriate rest between massage therapy sessions.

How Yoga and Massage Therapy Can Help Your Clients

Going through yoga training for massage therapists isn’t just good for your career, it’s good for your clients as well. From making your interventions more effective and providing clients with more holistic healthcare, to giving clients more agency and reducing the number of appointments they need to make and specialists they need to see, combining yoga and massage therapy is a win-win scenario.

Make Your Interventions More Effective

Getting effective treatment is most clients’ top concern. No one wants to spend time and money on things that won’t help them. Even worse is experiencing a persistent pain or problem that won’t go away and not knowing how to fix it.

With skills in both yoga and massage therapy, you have more potential solutions to offer your clients. If you end up seeing a client for both yoga therapy and massage therapy sessions, your care will also be more holistic. Both result in better outcomes for clients.

Combining yoga and massage therapy is particularly effective. It allows you to work on the client yourself as a massage therapist, while also teaching them how to continue care at home with yoga techniques. For example, you might manually lengthen a client’s hamstrings yourself during a massage therapy session, then teach them techniques to do at home. With this extra time devoted to their care between sessions, they can see better and faster results.

Provide More Holistic Healthcare

When clients work with multiple specialists, it’s all too easy for their healthcare treatments to stay separate. This creates care that can be disjointed. When healthcare providers work together, they can provide more holistic healthcare for a client. This is even easier if their massage therapist and yoga therapist are the same person.

You see the client more often, get more updates about their health, and have more opportunities to intervene. As their massage therapist and yoga therapist, you can ensure that the interventions for each of these modalities are complementing one another and taking the other into account.

Give Clients More Agency

Massage therapists fix people when they’re on the table. Yoga therapists help people learn how to fix themselves, giving them more agency over their health.

Clients are empowered to use yoga techniques at home and on their own, without needing to wait until they have access to a professional or a piece of equipment. Not only does this produce better outcomes for clients, but it also increases their satisfaction with their treatment.

Fewer Specialists and Appointments

People have a lot of options when they’re injured or in pain. They can see a medical doctor, a physical therapist, an occupational therapist, a chiropractor, an acupuncturist, a massage therapist, a yoga therapist, or, in some cases, even a mental health professional. It can quickly become overwhelming!

If you’re able to offer them yoga and massage therapy, they can get both of these services from one professional at one location. Your clients also save time and energy that would have been spent researching additional specialists, getting set up, going through their history and current treatments, and scheduling appointments.

Plus, you’ll know which sessions will serve them best and at what cadence. They can rest assured that they’re making the most of their massage therapy and yoga therapy, without accidentally booking a yoga therapy appointment too soon after a massage therapy session, for example, when their muscles are still recovering.

Additional Benefits of Yoga for Massage Therapists

With all of this in mind, there are still more benefits of yoga for massage therapists. Whether it’s moving more quickly through certain material that you’re comfortable with already or gaining additional knowledge and skills, there are many ways that these two fields can complement one another. Plus, you’re still able to work for yourself, taking advantage of the benefits of self-employment and doing more with the work you already put into your business.

Take Advantage of Overlapping Knowledge

The knowledge you’ve already gained as a massage therapist gives you a leg up on preparing to become a yoga therapist. There is a notable amount of overlapping knowledge in yoga and massage therapy, including:

  • Anatomy
  • Pathology
  • Rehabilitation and healing

Both professions also learn about specific health conditions they are likely to encounter. For massage therapists, this usually includes skin diseases, nervous system disorders, respiratory system disorders, back problems, and neck problems, giving you an advantage as a yoga therapist who could come across those same conditions.

Gain a Better Understanding of the Body

Brandt stands at a white board teaching an example of the lessons to be learned about yoga for massage therapists

By studying yoga therapy, you can gain an even better understanding of the body, enhancing both sets of skills. This includes:

  • Ayurvedic concepts
  • Koshas
  • Doshas
  • Pranic energy and the chakra model
  • Breath anatomy
  • And more

After completing yoga training for massage therapists, you’re also equipped to handle an even wider range of physical, spiritual, emotional, and mental health conditions with yoga therapy.

Learn New Skills in Mental Health and Trauma

Studies suggest that massage could reduce issues related to anxiety and depression, as discussed in Focus, the American Psychiatric Association’s quarterly clinical review journal. But massage therapists are generally focused on the physical body and lack training on treating mental health conditions.

By contrast, yoga therapists heal minds as well as bodies. We are also trained on using a trauma-informed approach, allowing us to safely and effectively serve these clients.

With yoga therapy training, you can learn new skills that enable you to help clients who have experienced trauma and those who want to heal from a wide variety of mental health conditions.

Continue Working for Yourself

Many massage therapists have an entrepreneurial streak, enjoy setting their own schedules, or prefer self-employment. Practicing as a yoga therapist allows you to continue working for yourself while getting more returns from these efforts:

  • Diversified skills: Yoga training enhances your skills, offering a more diverse range of services to attract different client groups.
  • Enhanced self-care: You can develop a personal yoga practice to promote balance and wellness in your own life, which directly impacts your professional performance.
  • Increased revenue: Yoga therapy opens up possibilities for additional income by booking more sessions.
  • Competitive edge: Combining yoga and massage therapy gives you an edge in the competitive health and wellness market.

Invest in yoga training for massage therapists and your body, your clients, and your business will thank you. Remember, as a self-employed health professional your most valuable asset is yourself!

Get Started with Yoga Training for Massage Therapists

Interested in yoga training for massage therapists? Consider applying to our yoga therapy school!

As an experienced massage therapist and yoga therapist myself, I believe I am uniquely qualified to help you achieve your goals. We pride ourselves on the flexibility of our program to fit into your schedule and finances, with 24/7 access to online lessons and pay-as-you-go plans.

Our students also benefit from direct mentoring through multiple weekly live interactive Q&As as well as lifetime access to our community of teachers and students. We provide more visual and experiential learning than traditional academic degrees, working hard to ensure that every student has a learning environment that suits their needs.

Learn more about our programs, start a conversation with our staff, or apply to our school today. I hope to be a part of your journey!

Yoga Teacher Training for Nurses to Improve Health Outcomes

A woman who has received yoga teacher training for nurses helps a patient with a yoga pose to improve her mobility.

One of the main reasons to consider getting yoga teacher training for nurses is to improve health outcomes. A recent study published in the International Journal of Yoga indicated that patients scheduled for cardiac surgery who spent 5 days using yoga-based breathing techniques reduced both pre-surgery and post-surgery anxiety. Many more studies demonstrate the positive effects of yoga on back pain, shoulder injuries, autoimmune disorders, balance issues, pelvic floor dysfunction, stress, anxiety, depression, and health and well-being in general.

Whether you apply yoga techniques with patients or to help fellow nurses and doctors, stay in a nursing job or transition into a private practice as a yoga therapist, you are able to fill a gap left by using Western medicine alone.

I’m Brandt Passalacqua, the Co-Founder, Director, and Lead Teacher of Breathing Deeply, a yoga training school. I’ve trained hundreds of students in yoga teaching and yoga therapy, many of them nurses.

A headshot of Brandt Passalacqua, the Lead Teacher for Breathing Deeply's yoga therapy training for nurses and professionals from all fields

Keep reading to learn more about how to use yoga in your career, the benefits of yoga for nurses, how to improve patient outcomes, and more. If you’d like to talk to us about your interest in yoga, questions, or concerns, please get in touch today.

Table of Contents:

What Kind of Yoga for Nurses Training Do You Need?

As a nurse, you already have a strong background in anatomy, physiology, pathology, and more. You may hope that all you need to practice yoga with your patients is to take a few yoga classes. Maybe you’ve been successful in using yoga to help improve your own health and well-being, so why can’t you do the same for others?

Just because a particular yoga practice or technique has helped you doesn’t necessarily mean that it will help someone else. Learning how to use yoga techniques therapeutically is a skill set that requires specific training. It involves more than just creating a list of yoga poses for someone with a particular condition. You must also take into account a person’s history, circumstances, goals, pathology, where they are on their health journey, and more.

The practice of applying yoga techniques therapeutically to specific physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual conditions is called yoga therapy. Without proper yoga therapy training for nurses, it’s possible to do more harm than good to your patients.

As Lu Ann Milius, a student of ours who worked as a nurse practitioner, said, “I had been teaching adaptive yoga classes and working one-on-one with clients dealing with various health issues for 18 years, yet I never felt I was truly meeting the yogic needs of my private students from a therapeutic sense. I attended workshops and conferences to deepen my knowledge. I had explored countless options for learning over five years. Ultimately, I gave up. To my knowledge, there was no program that would fit my needs. Six months later, I received a notice about the Breathing Deeply Yoga Therapy Program. It was exactly what I had been looking for.”

Nurses are in a prime position to be able to help others with yoga. With yoga therapy training, you can combine the fundamentals of yoga with evidence-based medical knowledge, creating a unique and holistic approach to improve patient outcomes.

Why You Should Consider Yoga Therapy Training for Nurses

Yoga therapy training for nurses allows you to combine the Eastern practices of yoga with Western medicine. This allows you to achieve better outcomes and more holistic care for patients, while also nurturing your own well-being and career.

Karen Cox, a registered nurse in our yoga therapy program, said, “Learning how to make the body, mind, spirit connection has been the most rewarding and valuable part of the program for me. No other health profession will come close to that. By connecting meditation, mindfulness, pranayama practices, and asanas, yoga therapy is the most complete holistic health practice I know.”

Yoga therapy training teaches you the techniques of yoga, such as asanas (poses), pranayama (breath work), meditation, mindfulness, chanting, and more, as well as how to apply them therapeutically with others. It goes beyond what you would learn as a student in a yoga class or even in a yoga teacher training, allowing you to work safely and effectively with clients one on one to address specific health conditions. You also learn how to integrate yoga therapy with other healthcare systems, manage your own stress, and run a private yoga therapy practice if you ever want to work with clients independently.

Why Is Yoga Teacher Training for Nurses Important?

Even if you have no interest in teaching group classes, the first step is to complete yoga teacher training for nurses. That’s because yoga teacher training is a standard prerequisite for yoga therapy training programs. The reason for this is that yoga therapy students will need to have a strong background in yoga already to get started.

Be aware that most yoga teacher training programs are made to serve people who actually want to become yoga instructors. This means that a significant amount of time is spent teaching you how to teach in group settings. If your interest is just in learning the basics of yoga so you can complete yoga therapy training and work one on one with clients, these parts can be a waste of time.

Because our focus is on yoga therapy training, we offer a yoga teacher training made for people who want to become yoga therapists! It’s taught by yoga therapists and focuses on building the skills you need in yoga, rather than teaching. We also offer a package that combines the yoga teacher training prerequisite with our yoga therapy training program.

3 Ways to Use Yoga for Nurses at Work

There are many ways to use yoga for nurses in their careers, and we encourage you to find whatever path works best for you. These are just 3 of the most common ways we see students move forward after yoga therapy training for nurses.

Integrate Yoga Therapy Techniques for Patients at Your Nursing Job

One option is to continue working as a nurse and use yoga therapy techniques with your patients. This is a great way to revitalize your nursing career, expand your skill set, and use a more holistic approach, leading to better patient outcomes.

Not only can yoga therapy be used to help with specific physical conditions, but also it can be used to help patients manage their stress, anxiety, and mental health. This can be a critical component lacking in traditional medical care, and it can be leveraged to improve a patient’s outcomes and general well-being. A pediatric cancer nurse who spends a lot of time with kids, for example, can teach them breathing or meditation techniques which have been shown to help manage the symptoms of cancer and its treatments.

“I am so proud to have been able to help a couple of clients in particular,” said one of the nurses in our program, Karen Cox. “One client had suffered a stroke and through our work together, I could see a dramatic improvement not only in this individual’s general health but also their outlook on life. The other success story is of a client who has been battling cancer. We worked together to enable her to better tolerate regular chemo treatments.”

The biggest challenge here is having enough time with patients. Many nurses feel rushed throughout their shifts and have less time with patients than they’d like.

For some nurses, however, this is less of a concern. Visiting nurses who go to patients’ homes and have larger roles in chronic, in-home care can teach them yoga therapy techniques throughout the course of their day.

No matter how you bring yoga into your role as a nurse, yoga therapy gives you more opportunities to support your patients and make a difference.

Help Other Nurses and Doctors Combat Anxiety and Burnout with Yoga

Yoga can work wonders in helping you and your fellow nurses, doctors, and other medical staff on a personal level as well. By using yoga therapy to reduce anxiety and burnout, you and your coworkers can become more resilient. Not only does this help your mental health, but it also allows you to perform your work better, benefiting your patients too.

Jeannine McSorley, a nurse practitioner who graduated from our program, said, “I have to say that learning the strategies and gaining the tools required to help myself stay balanced – including getting on a regular schedule, breathing practices and finding the yoga asana that’s best for me, was worth the cost of the training. But there have been other benefits. I feel more confident in helping and empowering others while remembering that healing happens from the innate wisdom within them, with me as a guide.”

With yoga therapy training for nurses, you can empower yourself and your coworkers to:

  • Reduce stress and anxiety
  • Relax more
  • Increase focus and mindfulness
  • Improve sleep quality
  • Address physical aches and pains
  • Improve posture and slouching

Steph McCreary, another student of ours, was able to apply what she learned to help a nurse in need. “Yoga therapy helped my case study client to breathe again, after losing her father to COVID early in the pandemic,” she said. “As a triage nurse working on the COVID floor, her stress levels were high, and her body was tight. Our sessions over six months showed her ability to relax, her sleep improved, and she reported moving much tension out of her system, allowing her to breathe more deeply. I was proud of our work together, even though it was such a difficult time.”

Transition from a Career in Nursing to One in Yoga Therapy

Transitioning from a nursing career to yoga therapy can be a fulfilling and rewarding journey. Not only can it enhance your own well-being, but it can also provide a fresh approach to healthcare that promotes improved self-care and satisfaction for both you and your clients.

Your nursing experience won’t go to waste as a yoga therapist. It gives you a unique perspective that blends a strong understanding of the health conditions that clients face and how they can be addressed holistically with both Western and Eastern healing. If you have developed any areas of expertise as a nurse, such as specializing in cancer, you’ll be able to leverage that knowledge and experience to serve those clients with yoga therapy as well.

We’ve seen a number of our students leave nursing for a successful career in yoga therapy. One such student, Karen Naids, needed yoga teacher training for nurses who lacked a yoga background. After completing our yoga teacher training and yoga therapy training, she said, “I still have more to learn but the biggest lesson is that it is never too late to change your career and your life! I started as a nurse with minimal yoga experience and . . . now, retired, I am able to work teaching yoga to seniors and continue to build my private client base.”

Working as a yoga therapist can also be an excellent option for those who are retiring early. If you’re still interested in working but want to set your own hours, choose your own clients, and still make a difference, yoga therapy is a perfect fit. As one of our students, Karen Cox, can attest, “I have loved yoga since I took my first class, and as much as I enjoy teaching yoga, the thought of working one-on-one with people for specific purposes appeals to me so much more. As I near the end of my career in nursing, my plan has been to start a profession as a Yoga Therapist, that I can take with me beyond retirement age.”

What Are the Benefits of Yoga for Nurses?

The benefits of yoga for nurses are numerous, both for yourselves and your patients. Some of the biggest benefits of yoga for nurses include:

  • Having more techniques to treat physical ailments. Sometimes Western techniques aren’t enough to help patients heal or find relief. Yoga therapy gives you a new toolset to use.
  • Addressing mental, emotional, and spiritual health. Traditionally, nurses are taught to focus on patients’ physical health. Mental and emotional health conditions are often referred out, and spiritual health is left unaddressed. With yoga therapy, you can help clients heal holistically.
  • Improving patient outcomes. Studies have shown that integrating yoga can improve patient outcomes. While this is a huge benefit to patients first and foremost, it also plays a major role in your job satisfaction.
  • Filling gaps in Western medicine. There are pieces missing from our current medical institution, and sometimes Western techniques fail to help patients. Yoga therapy gives you an Eastern perspective that can help address these gaps.
  • Giving patients agency over their health. Yoga therapists teach clients how to use yoga to heal themselves. Clients learn how to use these techniques on their own, empowering them to become more self-reliant when it comes to their health and well-being.
  • Improving your own health and well-being. Nursing is a demanding job, and it’s all too easy to become burned out. The yoga techniques you learn can help yourself and other medical professionals to relieve stress, reduce anxiety, relax your mind and body, sleep better, reduce fatigue, enhance concentration, and more.
  • Forging your ideal career path. Yoga therapy gives you a range of different career options, from staying at your job as a nurse to switching to a career as a yoga therapist. It offers you an in-demand skill set that can help you find meaningful work, whatever path you choose.

Get Started with Our Combined Yoga Therapy and Yoga Teacher Training for Nurses

Brandt working with a yoga therapy student on asana, demonstrating one of the benefits of yoga for nurses

Ready to get started? At Breathing Deeply, we offer a combined yoga therapy and yoga teacher training for nurses like you.

Our program uses online lessons to fit even a nurse’s busy schedule, along with live Q&A sessions so you can work directly with our experts and get your questions answered. Students have lifelong access to our community of their teachers and colleagues, giving you mentorship and camaraderie throughout your career. Learn the skills you need to help others heal with yoga alongside experts and other like-minded individuals who want to make a difference.

Contact us today to start a conversation about your journey or apply to our yoga therapy school. We look forward to hearing from you!

9 Toe Yoga Exercises and Their Benefits

A woman stretching out her leg and foot, an example of toe yoga physical therapy

A woman stretching out her leg and foot, an example of toe yoga physical therapy

If you’re suffering from foot pain, toe yoga exercises may be able to bring you relief. As someone who has spent decades practicing yoga and training yoga therapists, I can’t overstate the importance of our feet and our toes. These are integral parts of our bodies! Not only do you need healthy toes and feet to feel good while standing, walking, and running, but also to support the health of your ankles, legs, hips, and even your back.

Strong toes and feet can promote good balance, posture, and support for your body. If you’ve been thinking about starting toe yoga (or even learning how to teach it), keep reading to learn more about what toe yoga is, the biggest toe yoga benefits, the health conditions it can improve, and how to get started with toe yoga physical therapy exercises at home. If you’re ready to reach out to a yoga therapist for help with your foot pain, contact us today for private, online yoga therapy sessions.

Table of Contents

What Is Toe Yoga?

Toe yoga involves stretches and exercises for your toes and feet. When a yoga therapist works with you to apply yoga techniques to address specific health problems, it’s considered yoga therapy.

Whether you’re ready to seek help from a professional or want to get started with toe yoga exercises at home first, you may be asking yourself, what is toe yoga good for? Can toe yoga physical therapy help with my condition, ailment, or issue?

Fortunately, toe yoga is good for a number of general health benefits as well as improving specific conditions. I’ve listed several below.

Toe Yoga Benefits

Strong, healthy toes and feet are key to a healthy body. Some of the health benefits of yoga toe stretches and exercises include:

  • Good balance

  • Good posture

  • Support for your ankles, legs, hips, and back

  • Pain relief in your toes, feet, and other body parts

  • Muscle strength in your toes and feet

  • Flexibility in your toes and feet

  • Circulation in your toes and feet

Health Conditions You Can Improve with Toe Yoga Exercises

If you’re thinking about using toe yoga physical therapy exercises for a specific toe or foot condition, you’re in luck. Toe yoga has the potential to improve just about any kind of foot pain. Just keep in mind that if you are suffering from a foot or toe injury, then you should seek professional help to make sure that you aren’t doing any yoga toe stretches or exercises that will make your injury worse or get in the way of your healing.

Here are just some of the many health conditions and issues that you can improve with toe yoga exercises and stretches:

As mentioned above, it’s possible to overstretch when it comes to certain conditions. With Plantar fasciitis, for example, you’re dealing with your fascia tearing from your heel. Too much stretching from yoga toe exercises can actually make this tear worse.

Learn more about how yoga therapists can help with Plantar fasciitis in my video below.

Toe Yoga Stats

How much of a problem do our toes pose? Consider these statistics to get an idea of how beneficial toe yoga exercises can be.

  • Around 2 million people seek treatment for plantar fasciitis in the U.S. each year.
  • About 30% of people in the U.S. have Morton’s neuroma, and around 80% are women.
  • Bunions affect more women and elderly people, with about one-third of people over 65 having a bunion.
  • Approximately 7 million people in the U.S. have had a hammer toe or claw toe, with more women than men suffering from the condition.
  • About 75% of people over-pronate to some extent while walking or running.
  • Around 8% of adults in America grow up with flat feet, while about 4% develop dropped arches over time.
  • Runner’s toe is one of the most common injuries among runners, with risk factors including age, previous injuries, running a significant number of miles each week, running without much prior experience or after a long break, and wearing the same running shoes for longer than recommended.
  • 78% of people in the U.S. report experiencing shoe-related pain.
  • 24 million people in the U.S. reported problems with balance in 2008 compared to 37 million in 2016, according to a study in OTO Open. Research suggests that yoga can improve balance, as shown in a systematic review published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.

9 Toe Yoga Exercises

If you’ve been searching for toe yoga exercises and stretches, I’ve included a few of my favorites below. As previously mentioned, just take care to consult a professional first if you are experiencing a toe or foot injury to make sure that none of these yoga toe stretches or exercises will exacerbate your injury.

Spread Your Toes

Spreading your toes is a simple toe yoga exercise to help you warm up.

  • Start by sitting up with good posture and your feet flat on the floor.

  • Spread all of your toes apart on a single foot.

  • If you’re struggling to spread all of your toes, keep practicing! If you need a little help, use your fingers to help guide your toes apart at first.

  • Hold for up to 10 seconds.

  • Release. Relax your toes.

  • Repeat with the other foot.

Spread Your Toes and Arch Your Foot

As you get the hang of spreading your toes, you can also arch your foot at the same time. This is a great exercise if mobility in your toes and feet is one of the major toe yoga benefits you’re looking for.

  • Start by standing up with your back straight.

  • Spread all of your toes apart on a single foot or on both feet.

  • Lift your heels off the floor and stand on your tiptoes with your toes still spread.

  • Hold for up to 10 seconds.

  • Release. Stand with your feet flat again and relax your toes.

  • Repeat with the other foot if needed.

Lift and Drop Your Heel with Spread Toes

Similar to the exercise above, this variation involves spreading your toes when your heels are lifted as well as when they are flat.

  • Start by standing up with your back straight.

  • Spread all of your toes apart on a single foot or on both feet.

  • Lift your heels off the floor and stand on your tiptoes with your toes still spread.

  • Hold for up to 10 seconds.

  • Drop your heels back onto the floor while keeping your toes spread.

  • Release. Relax your toes.

  • Repeat with the other foot if needed.

Lift and Drop Each Toe

This one takes some practice! Use this exercise to easily identify which of your toes have the strongest and weakest flexibility. If you’re looking for a toe yoga physical therapy exercise that will help you continue to build strength and mobility in all of your toes, this one’s for you.

  • Start by sitting up with good posture and your feet flat on the floor.

  • Choose one foot and try to lift a single toe from that foot.

  • Hold for up to 10 seconds.

  • Release. Relax your toes.

  • Repeat with each toe on your foot.

  • Repeat with the other foot.

  • For variation, change up the order in which you lift each toe. For example, start with your big toe and move down the line until you finish with your pinkie toe in one session. Then start with your pinkie toe and move down the line until you finish with your big toe in the next session.

Point and Flex Your Toes

Pointing and flexing your toes is another great toe yoga exercise to help you get started.

  • Start by sitting on the floor with your back straight.

  • Extend your legs straight out in front of you.

  • Spread all of your toes apart on a single foot or on both feet.

  • Point your feet toward your head while keeping your toes spread.

  • Hold for up to 10 seconds.

  • Release. Relax your toes.

  • Point your feet down, away from your head, and curl your toes in toward the bottoms of your feet.

  • Hold for up to 10 seconds.

  • Release. Relax your toes.

  • Repeat with the other foot if needed.

Scrunch Your Toes

Designed to help stretch and strengthen your toes and feet, you’ll need to grab a towel for these yoga toe stretches.

  • Start by sitting on a chair with your back straight.

  • Put a towel under your feet. Make sure your feet are flat on the towel.

  • Curl your toes and feet to scrunch up the towel.

  • Hold for up to 10 seconds.

  • Release. Relax your toes and feet.

Open and Close the Soles of Your Feet

This holistic exercise involves more of your foot to help complement the more focused toe yoga exercises above.

  • Start by sitting on the floor with your back straight.

  • Extend your legs straight out in front of you.

  • Put your legs together so that your feet are touching on the sides and your soles are facing out.

  • Imagine the place where your feet are touching is a hinge. Close the soles of your feet together so they touch as much as you can, while still keeping your feet upright.

  • Hold for up to 10 seconds.

  • Release. Relax your legs and feet.

Roll the Soles of Your Feet

Make sure you have a tennis ball or stress ball handy for this exercise. Yoga toe exercises like this are a great way to gently stretch out your feet, ankles, and toes.

  • Start by sitting on a chair with your back straight.

  • Place your foot on top of a tennis ball or stress ball.

  • Slowly roll the sole of your foot forward and backward over the ball.

  • Slowly roll the sole of your foot left and right over the ball.

  • Repeat with the other foot.

Roll Your Ankles

If you want to give a little extra attention to your ankles, this is the perfect exercise to include with your toe yoga physical therapy regimen.

  • Start by sitting on a chair with your back straight.

  • Lift one foot off the floor and curl your toes slightly.

  • Slowly turn your foot in a circular motion clockwise.

  • Slowly turn your foot in a circular motion counterclockwise.

  • Release. Relax your toes and foot.

  • Repeat with the other foot.

How Do You Start Toe Yoga?

Even if you’re convinced by the many toe yoga benefits, you may be asking yourself, how do you start toe yoga? Keep these tips in mind to help you successfully start a toe yoga exercise regimen:

  1. Pick simple yoga toe stretches to start. Not only will this help keep you motivated, but also, it can help ensure that you are warmed up and don’t overexert yourself or strain your muscles. Consider the exercises to Spread Your Toes, Point and Flex Your Toes, Scrunch Your Toes, or Role the Soles of Your Feet outlined above.

  2. Make it a routine. If you don’t already have time set aside to regularly practice yoga or exercise, it’s important to establish a habit if you want to stick with toe yoga. Focus on doing a few exercises regularly rather than burning yourself out with too much at once. For toe yoga, I recommend practicing after work to help relieve any foot pain, relax your feet, and improve your circulation.

  3. Consult an expert if needed. If you’re suffering from a toe or foot injury, you could actually make things worse and delay your healing if you start doing a bunch of stretches and exercises. But that doesn’t mean that toe yoga therapy can’t help. Get in touch with a good yoga therapist or podiatrist so they can help you develop a safe, customized toe yoga exercise regimen.

How Often Should You Do Toe Yoga?

How often you should do toe yoga will ultimately depend on your unique circumstances. Are you experiencing a problem with your toes or feet? Do you have an injury or have you recently healed from an injury in your toes or feet? Have you been doing any other toe or foot exercises? What are your goals? These answers and more will help determine the most appropriate path forward.

In general, you’ll get the best toe yoga benefits from practicing on a regular basis, unless you’re dealing with an injury. Many people will get the best results from practicing toe yoga exercises once or twice daily for a few minutes per foot. But even practicing a few times per week may be enough to help improve the strength and mobility in your toes and feet.

How Can I Improve My Yoga Toe Stretches?

If you’ve already started practicing toe yoga and want to know how to improve your toe yoga regimen, there are steps you can take to become more advanced:

  1. Incorporate more advanced exercises. Consider some of the more challenging, advanced, and involved variations on toe yoga exercises, such as the exercises to Lift and Drop Your Heel with Spread Toes or Lift and Drop Each Toe outlined above. It’s a great way to reap more toe yoga benefits!

  2. Create a more holistic regimen. Look beyond your toes to exercises that involve your whole foot, ankle, or leg, such as the exercises to Roll the Soles of Your Feet or Roll Your Ankles outlined above.

  3. Work with a yoga therapist. If you find yourself reaching the limits of what you can do by yourself at home, it’s time to seek out a certified yoga therapist or instructor! A yoga therapist can help you if you are looking for toe yoga physical therapy exercises to help with specific health conditions. A yoga instructor can teach you different yoga toe stretches and exercises to help keep you active, relaxed, and looking and feeling good, rather than addressing specific physical issues with yoga.

Contact Us for Foot Relief or Yoga Therapy Training

Looking for more than the toe yoga exercises listed here? Want guidance from an expert yoga therapist? At Breathing Deeply Yoga Therapy, we’re offering individual yoga therapy sessions online with myself and certified yoga therapists who have graduated from our program. Learn more and sign up for a session.

Or are you interested in becoming a yoga teacher or therapist? We offer programs for all levels of experience, whether you’re just looking to get started with a yoga teacher training certification or you want to earn your yoga therapy certification. Read about our yoga therapy programs or apply for one of our programs today.

Yoga in Social Work: Benefits, Best Practices, and How to Start

A woman sitting in Lotus Pose, demonstrating one application of yoga in social work
A woman sitting in Lotus Pose, demonstrating one application of yoga in social work

There is a growing interest among social workers to use yoga in social work, especially for clinical social work. Some integrative psychotherapy practices already have yoga therapists in them now. 98% of students studying social work at Western Michigan University reported that they support the use of yoga as a therapeutic intervention, but many of them lacked specific information about how to use yoga therapeutically and in a trauma-informed manner themselves.

Even if you practice yoga personally, it is critically important that you receive specific training on how to use yoga with clients before attempting it yourself. Without knowing how to assess clients, determine the most effective practices, and apply them appropriately, you risk causing them physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual harm.

As the Co-Founder, Director, and Lead Teacher of Breathing Deeply, I’ve had the honor of training social workers in yoga therapy so they can safely use yoga in social work. Keep reading to learn more about the benefits, best practices, and how to get started with yoga for social work.

Table of Contents:

What Is Yoga Therapy?

Yoga therapy is an integrative approach that blends traditional yoga practices with modern therapeutic techniques to promote holistic wellness. It is designed to support mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional health by empowering clients to learn how to heal themselves. Yoga therapy techniques include:

  • Asana (poses)
  • Pranayama (breathing)
  • Meditation
  • Chanting
  • And more

While you can learn yoga by attending yoga classes, yoga therapy is learned with dedicated yoga therapy training. This teaches you not only the techniques, but also how to apply them therapeutically to a wide variety of mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional health conditions.

What Are the Benefits of Using Yoga in Social Work?

More and more research is being conducted to explore the role of yoga in social work and how it can achieve better outcomes for clients, including a 2022 paper in the International Journal of Humanities & Social Science Studies (IJHSSS), a 2020 paper in Australian Social Work, a 2011 paper in Social Work Education, numerous graduate school theses, dissertations, and projects, and more.

Based on my years of experience working as a yoga therapist and teaching others to become yoga therapists, there are numerous benefits to using yoga in social work, several of which I’ve outlined below.

1. Increasing Clients’ Awareness and Self-Regulation

Increased awareness and self-regulation allow clients to remain attentive and present in the moment, as well as effectively manage emotional and physiological responses to stress. By becoming more aware of their physical, mental, and emotional states, they can more easily take steps to stay present and control their responses. Clients can learn how to use yoga to regulate their emotions and nervous system responses, turning off their fight-or-flight reactions and embracing restfulness through the parasympathetic nervous system.

2. Increasing Clients’ Resiliency and Ability to Cope

As clients increase their self-awareness and learn how to regulate their responses, they can better cope with stress, stay calm under pressure, and be more resilient in the face of challenges. Practicing yoga can help cultivate mindfulness and inner peace, which can greatly improve clients’ resiliency and ability to cope.

3. Reducing Clients’ Stress and Improving Mental Health

Studies have shown that yoga can improve mental health and reduce stress, anxiety, depression, and symptoms of PTSD. As discussed in Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, “yoga’s potential for reducing stress-related symptoms is so well-established that the National Institute of Health recommended meditation over prescription drugs as the preferred treatment for mild hypertension in 1984.” It was also discovered that people who consistently practiced yoga had less cortisol present in their saliva, indicating lower stress levels, and yoga can effectively help to treat issues like anxiety and depression.

4. Giving Clients Agency to Handle Challenging Situations

Yoga therapy teaches clients how to reduce their stress, regulate their emotions and nervous systems, and become more mindful and aware. As clients learn how to apply yoga techniques themselves, they gain more agency in their own health. A major benefit of using yoga in social work is that clients do not have to rely on another person or a machine to improve their health—they become empowered to do it themselves.

5. Using Mind-Body Techniques and Improving Clients’ Physical Health

Two students in Breathing Deeply's yoga therapy program practicing how to use asana with clients, just one way to use yoga in social work

Social workers often have mind-based techniques at their disposal, such as talk therapy or cognitive behavioral therapy. While these can be highly effective on their own, there are situations where clients may respond better to the mind-body techniques of yoga therapy or a combination of both. I have personally found that more and more clients are asking to use yoga in this way, and many clients with anxiety or trauma find yoga therapy to be a key component in their care.

Not only that, but if clients are suffering from physical pain, headaches, or conditions that negatively impact their physical health, it can contribute to their stress, anxiety, and poor mental health. Yoga therapy can provide relief for everything from Upper Cross Syndrome (a common source of neck pain) to cancer treatment. Having yoga therapy techniques that can address physical health conditions offers social workers a more holistic approach to improving outcomes for clients.

6. Learning Skills for Trauma-Informed Care

Trauma-informed yoga therapy can be a powerful tool for providing trauma-informed care. According to a 2021 study published in Evaluation and Program Planning, trauma-informed yoga can be beneficial for improving physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being among vulnerable populations, particularly those who are in the correctional system, those who are in treatment for substance abuse, or those who are looking for mental health resources.

Yoga can help clients who have experienced trauma in many ways, such as:

  • Reducing stress, anxiety, depression, and PTSD symptoms
  • Regulating trauma responses and emotions
  • Improving mood, concentration, and awareness
  • Getting better quality of sleep

Social workers who undergo trauma-informed yoga therapy training can learn the proper approach and appropriate techniques to helping these clients, including what type of language to use, what types of poses to avoid, how to modify poses as needed, and how to invite clients to do things without using verbal commands or hands-on adjustments.

How Can Social Workers Use Yoga?

A social worker who has been trained how to use yoga in social work helps a client do breathing exercises

In order to use yoga in social work, you must first complete yoga therapy training. This ensures that you have the knowledge and skills necessary to provide safe, ethical yoga therapy to clients.

Once you have been adequately trained, you will have an understanding of how to apply yoga therapy to individual clients. Different yoga techniques will be more or less effective for different physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional conditions. Yoga therapy should always be personalized to the individual, taking into account not only their health, but also their history, boundaries, goals, and any other treatments.

A few examples of yoga therapy models that could be relevant in social work are:

  • You might use yoga nidra to reduce a particular client’s anxiety. This could involve putting them in a restful state to help them stay present, regulate their brain waves, and relax.
  • For another client who has anxiety, you might find it works better to combine movement and breath. This could involve extending their exhales while practicing gradually more relaxing poses, from standing poses, to seated poses, to supine poses.
  • To help a client with depression, you might use breathing techniques that extend their inhales, energize their breathing, or both. This could also be followed with breathing techniques to reduce anxiety.

Some social workers may combine yoga and social work in the same client session, while others perform yoga therapy and social work in separate sessions. Knowing your clients, their backgrounds and needs, and what models or techniques will work best for their therapeutic goals will help guide this decision.

What Are Best Practices for Using Yoga in Social Work?

There are many best practices for using yoga in social work, mental health professions, and other healthcare modalities. A good yoga therapy training program will cover this material, both for students who want to become yoga therapists and need to know how to work with other healthcare professionals, and for those in other professions who want to integrate yoga therapy into their existing careers. Below is an overview of several such best practices for using yoga in social work.

1. Train in Yoga Therapy

First and foremost, you must be trained in yoga therapy before you can use yoga in social work safely, ethically, and effectively. For example:

  • The most effective yoga practices for clients with anxiety will differ from those for clients with depression, or PTSD, or other mental health conditions.
  • Social workers need to know which asanas (poses) will help a client and which could be harmful, how they should be practiced, how long they should be held, and more.
  • Breath work is more than just taking deep breaths to lessen anxiety. There are many different ways to breathe, and there are specific ways that yoga therapists use breath.

Proper yoga therapy training can help social workers gain the expertise needed to apply yoga with clients. Want to learn more? Jump ahead to our information about why social workers need training to use yoga and watch my video about how we approach training to use yoga therapy for mental health.

2. Create a Safe Space for Clients

Creating a safe space for clients to practice yoga in the context of social work is critical. Beyond having a space that accommodates for stretching out and holding certain yoga poses, you also need a space that fosters your clients’ mindfulness and empowerment. Making a secure and comfortable environment for a trauma-informed yoga session opens up a world of opportunities for growth and healing.

This should involve identifying your clients’ needs and adapting your space to meet those needs. For example, you might:

  • Keep the lights on.
  • Leave the door open.
  • Allow clients to face the door.

3. Conduct an Assessment

Just as you would conduct an assessment for your clients as a social worker, so too should you conduct an assessment for clients with yoga therapy in mind. This can help in a number of ways:

  • Determining the physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual issues that are most important to your client
  • Identifying any physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual issues that could affect your work
  • Outlining any past or current treatments the client has received
  • Understanding any traumatic events in your client’s history

Ultimately, knowing how to use assessment tools effectively will enable you to know which yoga therapy practices and techniques to apply for a client.

4. Develop a Plan

A trained professional applies yoga to social work by helping a client with mobility issues stretch while seated in a chair

Using your assessment of the client and the yoga therapy training you have received, you can develop an individualized plan for your client. This can include social work or yoga therapy individually or in combination. On the yoga therapy side, you can choose which specific techniques to use and how they should be practiced to achieve the best results for a particular condition.

  • Be prepared to reassess and adjust as needed, taking into account the client’s current emotional state or any new events that may have occurred.
  • Use a trauma-informed approach as appropriate.
  • Adapt techniques as needed, whether it’s modifying a yoga pose for someone with mobility issues, using invitational language for someone who has experienced trauma, or adjusting a sequence to be gentler for a client who is feeling exhausted.
  • Help clients learn how to practice yoga techniques themselves so they can become more self-reliant and empowered in their own health and well-being.

5. Provide Informed Consent and Safety Information

As always, it is important to provide clients with informed consent and safety information. This isn’t just ethical, but also ensures that your clients feel comfortable and secure throughout the process. This can include:

  • Being transparent about what you’ll do and why
  • Discussing any potential risks
  • Encouraging and answering any questions
  • Prioritizing your client’s autonomy
  • Using an informed consent form

By taking this approach, you can smoothly integrate yoga in social work while supporting your clients’ well-being.

Why Do Social Workers Need Training to Use Yoga?

Anyone who wants to use yoga therapeutically to help another person needs to get yoga therapy training. This is the best way to ensure that you will have the knowledge and skills necessary to use yoga safely, ethically, and effectively with others.

Otherwise, you risk recommending yoga poses, breathing exercises, or other techniques that can range from ineffective to actively harmful. Even if something has worked well for you in your own personal yoga practice, that doesn’t mean that it is safe or helpful for someone else.

With proper training, you can learn:

  • The core principles and role of yoga therapy
  • Yoga ethics and philosophy
  • How to use anatomy and pathology with yoga
  • Techniques like asana (poses), pranayama (breath), chanting, and meditation
  • How to work with a range of health conditions
  • How to talk to clients and assemble a plan
  • And more!

Watch my video below to learn more about how we approach mental health conditions in our yoga therapy training.

Breathing Deeply | Yoga for Mental Health

Get Started with Yoga Therapy Training

Want to learn how to use yoga in social work? Ready to get started with yoga therapy training? It would be our honor to teach you!

At Breathing Deeply, our mission is to make safe, ethical, practical yoga therapy more widely accessible. In order to do this, we have worked to develop self-paced yoga therapy training programs with flexible payment plans for students of all skill levels. Join more than 20,000 students who have come to Breathing Deeply.

Learn more about our training programs or apply today!

Yoga for Cancer Training: Helping Patients and Survivors

A yoga therapist who has completed yoga for cancer training helps a client to stretch
A yoga therapist who has completed yoga for cancer training helps a client to stretch

Yoga offers cancer patients and survivors a holistic approach to healing their bodies and minds. Not only can yoga help with the physical and mental effects of having cancer, but also the effects of treating cancer and helping clients regain agency over their bodies. If you’re interested in using yoga to help cancer patients and survivors heal, it’s critical to complete the right yoga for cancer training so you’re prepared to work safely and effectively with clients.

As an experienced yoga therapist and the lead teacher of my own yoga therapy program, my mission is to make yoga more accessible to others. Below, I’ll share my knowledge about the benefits of yoga therapy for cancer patients and survivors, how to use yoga with these clients, yoga cancer training, and more to help you on your journey. If you’d like to apply to our program, you can learn more and apply here.

Table of Contents:

Benefits of Yoga Therapy for Cancer Patients and Survivors

There are numerous benefits to using yoga therapy for cancer patients and survivors. Yoga can help improve physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health, tackling health conditions and side effects at every stage of these clients’ journeys.

Stimulating the Lymphatic System

The lymphatic system is a network of vessels and organs that carry lymph, a clear fluid that helps fight infection and disease, throughout the body. Cancer treatment can damage the lymphatic system, leading to lymphedema, a condition where excess lymph fluid accumulates in the soft body tissues, causing swelling and inflammation. This is especially common among breast cancer patients, where the generally accepted incidence rate is around 30%, as noted by the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Yoga therapy can be a valuable tool in stimulating the lymphatic system and keeping lymph fluids moving, which can help with overall health. The lymphatic system is also a key component of the immune system, and improving lymphatic circulation can help the body better fight off infection and disease. Additionally, stimulating the lymphatic system can help the body eliminate toxins and waste products, further supporting overall health and wellness.

Certain standing poses and inversions can help promote lymph flow, though you should take care to modify them appropriately for cancer patients and survivors. This can reduce the risk of injury while still achieving the same benefits. Examples include:

  • Modified Sun Salutation
  • Modified Warrior 1 Pose
  • Supported Shoulder Stand
  • Supported Bridge Pose
  • Supported Legs Up the Wall Pose

Learning how to appropriately modify poses is a major component of yoga for cancer training.

Reducing Side Effects from Chemo, Radiation, and Medication

Studies have shown that yoga can lessen side effects caused by cancer treatments, such as radiation, chemotherapy, and medication. One study found that yoga reduced cancer patients’ anxiety, depression, and fatigue while improving emotional health.

In my experience, this is often the biggest benefit of yoga therapy for cancer patients, and something we always cover in our own yoga cancer training lessons. Cancer medication can have a significant impact on patients’ quality of life due to the side effects it produces.

Yoga therapy can help combat fatigue and lack of sleep, improve strength and flexibility, and give cancer patients techniques for dealing with anxiety and brain fog. It doesn’t eliminate the side effects of cancer treatment, but it can reduce them and provide better outcomes.

Treating Complications and Comorbidities

A complication is a health condition that occurs during or after another health condition or its treatment. By contrast, comorbidity is a pre-existing condition that coexists with another health condition and may affect its treatment. It is not uncommon for cancer patients to deal with complications and comorbidities. For example:

  • A cancer patient may develop depression after their diagnosis or be dealing with depression that started beforehand.
  • If someone undergoes surgery for their cancer, it could leave behind painful scar tissue.
  • Cancer patients are more likely to develop osteopenia or osteoporosis.
  • Ovarian cancer and certain cancer treatments can cause some people to start menopause early.

Yoga therapy has been shown to be an effective complementary treatment for managing complications and comorbidities that often arise during cancer treatment and recovery. By promoting relaxation, reducing stress and inflammation, and increasing physical and emotional well-being, yoga therapy can help improve quality of life and overall health outcomes.

Reducing Anxiety and Improving Mental Health

A cancer patient safely stretches outside after working with a yoga therapist who has received yoga cancer training

Many cancer patients and survivors face anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions. Yoga therapy can be a powerful tool to help address these issues and improve mental health, with a proven track record of reducing anxiety among cancer patients with a range of diagnoses. A yoga therapist who has received yoga for cancer training can equip patients and survivors with tools for staying in the present and eventually help retrain the brain and nervous system.

Treating Trauma

Cancer patients and survivors often experience trauma related to their illness, treatment, and overall experience. Trauma can manifest in various ways, such as anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which can have a significant impact on their mental and emotional well-being. Yoga therapy can help treat trauma in cancer patients and survivors, providing them with a holistic approach to healing:

  • Yoga therapy can help cancer patients and survivors regulate their nervous systems, reducing the symptoms of trauma.
  • Practices such as pranayama, or breathing exercises, have been shown to calm the mind and body, reducing stress and anxiety.
  • Certain yoga poses can help release tension, promote relaxation, and allow clients to feel safe and grounded.

Trauma-informed yoga therapy is designed to center the client’s autonomy over their own body. A knowledgeable yoga therapist should use invitational language, rather than directives, with cancer patients and survivors, along with other trauma-informed techniques.

Regaining Agency Over the Body and Health

Yoga therapy can help cancer patients and survivors reconnect with their bodies, which can be especially important for those who have undergone invasive medical procedures. Many cancer patients and survivors feel disconnected from their bodies and benefit from feeling agency over their own health and body again. Practices such as body scans, gentle movement, and meditation can help clients become more aware of their body and its sensations, promoting a sense of control and empowerment.

Why Become a Yoga Therapist to Help Cancer Patients?

The best way to help cancer patients and survivors with yoga is to become a yoga therapist and receive yoga for cancer training. A doctor’s scope is limited to treating the cancer, often leaving patients to cope with any consequences that don’t directly impact their cancer on their own. Yoga therapy training will teach you how to work with individuals in a variety of ways—not only with the cancer itself, but all the other things that might be related to a client’s cancer and negatively affecting them.

If you’re looking for a fulfilling career path that involves helping others, consider becoming a yoga therapist. As a yoga therapist, you can provide cancer patients and survivors with a holistic practice that helps improve physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. Yoga is a safe, effective, and low-cost modality that can add considerable value to any cancer care, with demand continually growing among patients.

Whether you’re already an occupational therapist, physical therapist, massage therapist, mental health professional, or other healthcare practitioner looking to add yoga to your repertoire or you come from outside the medical field, yoga therapy training can equip you with the skills you seek and put you on a rewarding career path.

Choosing the Right Yoga Cancer Training

Choosing the right yoga cancer training program is crucial for anyone wishing to support cancer patients and survivors in their journey towards healing. Inadequate training can result in ineffective support for your clients or even injury or harm. To find the best yoga for cancer patients training program, consider the following:

  1. IAYT Accreditation: If your ambitions include becoming a certified yoga therapist, you’ll want to choose a training program that has been accredited by the International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT). They offer the highest level of yoga therapy certification, and gaining your certification involves completing yoga therapy training from an IAYT accredited school.
  2. Teacher Qualifications: If your focus is cancer patients and survivors, then you’ll want to learn from a teacher who has experience working with these clients. The most qualified teachers may also have taken additional oncology or advanced yoga cancer training.
  3. Yoga for Cancer Training Curriculum: The curriculum itself should cover a range of topics that are relevant to cancer care. A good yoga cancer training program should include the physical and emotional challenges of cancer, the benefits of yoga for cancer patients, and specific yoga practices and techniques that address cancer-specific issues. The curriculum should also include an understanding of how to modify yoga poses for cancer patients and survivors, as well as how to work with clients who have had surgery or are undergoing treatment.
  4. The Right Price and Pace: Of course, any student will also need to take into account the price and pace of their education, as well as any other factors that affect a training program’s ability to meet their needs.

Some yoga therapy programs like Breathing Deeply’s include a yoga for cancer training component in addition to the other topics needed to become a yoga therapist. There are also more specialized trainings that focus exclusively on using yoga for cancer, although these tend to be most beneficial if you decide to seek even deeper cancer training after completing a foundational yoga therapy program.

How to Work with Cancer Patients and Survivors

You should only use yoga with cancer patients and survivors if you have been trained how to do so. If you make the decision to complete yoga therapy training, keep these objectives in mind to make sure you are adequately prepared to start working with cancer patients and survivors.

Individualize Yoga Therapy for Cancer Patients and Survivors

Yoga therapy should always be personalized to the client at hand, taking into account their unique circumstances, health, abilities, and goals. Understand the common symptoms, side effects, and limitations that cancer patients and survivors may be facing, and be prepared to adapt to your client.

When thinking about how to plan yoga therapy for these clients, most cancer patients and survivors can benefit from the following as a starting point:

  1. Improving Pranic flow through pranayama (breath work)
  2. Practicing axial extension and proper posture
  3. Strengthening muscles over time with modified poses
  4. Improving lymph flow and using practices to manage fatigue
  5. Reducing stress and anxiety with pranayama and Prana Nidra
  6. Sharpening focus and concentration with meditation

Promote Mindfulness and Use Present-Centered Techniques

A teacher and student engaged in yoga for cancer patients training, assessing how to modify common poses for cancer patients and survivors

At its root, anxiety is fear of the future or what could happen. For those who have cancer, it’s normal for there to be anxiety about their diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis. Even when someone is recovering from cancer, they may be periodically checked months and even years into the future to see if their cancer has come back, which can be a source of anxiety for many cancer survivors. Therefore, it is especially important to teach these clients to stay in the present. This can include:

  • Pranayama (breath work)
  • Gentle asanas (poses)
  • Meditation
  • Chanting
  • Yoga nidra

In particular, pranayama and chanting can act as good preparatory practices to help the mind stay in the present before meditating. Regular practice of these and other present-centered focus techniques can help train the brain to be in the present.

Combining gentle asanas and breath work can be especially beneficial for training a client’s nervous system response to aid in present-centered thinking, as can yoga nidra and other constructive rest practices. The parasympathetic nervous system promotes rest and digestion, as opposed to the fight-or-flight response of the sympathetic nervous system, which is why learning to regulate the nervous system is so important for cancer patients and survivors.

Learn About Different Cancers, Treatments, and Medications

If you plan to specialize in cancer care, it will be helpful to learn about different cancers, treatments, and medications so you can work effectively with a range of clients. If you are just trying to prepare to help a specific client who has cancer or had cancer, you can focus your efforts on researching their specific cancer, treatments, and medications.

For instance, breast cancer patients are more likely to need more focus on the lymphatic system and movement, while lung cancer patients and clients undergoing chemotherapy might involve more anti-anxiety techniques and gentle breath work. Clients who are experiencing joint pain and bone loss from chemo should avoid spending extended time on their hands and knees, as their vertebrates have likely become very delicate and prone to damage, while those with lymphedema may find weight-bearing exercises frustrating and painful but still potentially benefit from them.

In addition to completing yoga cancer training and doing your own research and precautions, you will always need to get clearance from a cancer patient’s doctor to do any yoga with you.

Keep Contraindications in Mind

When working with cancer patients and survivors, it is important to avoid any contraindications to ensure their safety and well-being. These will vary from person to person, depending on their cancer and treatment. Yoga therapy programs like Breathing Deeply’s include yoga for cancer training components that cover some of the contraindications that you’re likely to see with these clients.

A few common contraindications include:

  1. Fatigue: When someone is receiving chemotherapy, they will often be extremely fatigued. Know how much movement someone should do based on where they are in their treatment cycle. You don’t want to physically overexert these clients.
  2. Medical devices: Avoid putting someone in a position that pressures a port or other medical device that has been implanted. Watch out for inversions, deep twists, and strong abdominal work.
  3. Osteoporosis: It’s common for those with cancer to develop osteoporosis, or weakened bones. Make sure any cancer patient or survivor you work with is getting screened for osteoporosis, as certain poses could hurt them if they have it, particularly weight-bearing poses and deep forward bends.

Always communicate with the client and their medical team to ensure that the yoga practice you recommend is appropriate and safe. As mentioned above, you will also need to get approval from their doctor before they can practice any yoga with you. Remember that each person’s needs and abilities may vary, so modifications and adjustments are often necessary.

Learn How to Talk to Cancer Patients and Survivors

Effective communication is crucial when working with people affected by cancer. Clear and empathetic communication can help build trust, reduce anxiety, and improve the overall healing process. Learning how to work with people who are going through major medical events involves not only how you should and should not use yoga to help them, but also how you should talk to someone going through something difficult.

To improve communication, it is important to actively listen to your client, using appropriate language, and acknowledging their emotions:

  • Active listening means paying attention to your client’s verbal and non-verbal cues, asking open-ended questions, and clarifying any misunderstandings.
  • Using appropriate language means avoiding or explaining any medical jargon, as well as using trauma-informed language.
  • Acknowledging emotions means validating their feelings, showing them empathy, and offering your support.

Having strong communication skills can allow your clients to feel more comfortable and supported on their healing journey.

Apply to Our YT Program with Yoga for Cancer Training

Are you interested in becoming a yoga therapist? Do you want to help people facing cancer and a host of other physical and mental health issues?

At Breathing Deeply, we offer yoga therapy training programs for students at every skill level, from those just starting out to those who are ready for advanced training. We provide several days of training devoted specifically to cancer care taught by Meena Ananth, a registered nurse and yoga therapist with over 15 years of experience working in the field of nursing and oncology.

Our students can get started for just $500 down and pay as they go, providing flexible pacing for both coursework and payments. Become a yoga therapist in as little as one year or take as long as you need.

Apply to our yoga therapy school today or contact us with any questions you may have. We look forward to hearing from you!

Yoga Certification for Occupational Therapists

After receiving her yoga certification for occupational therapists, this OT helps an elderly patient stretch with yoga
After receiving her yoga certification for occupational therapists, this OT helps an elderly patient stretch with yoga

As an occupational therapist, you work to help the people you serve to develop the strength, strategies, and skills they need to live happy, independent lives. But have you ever wondered: what can occupational therapists do with yoga? Your services are invaluable to your clients, and getting yoga therapy training and even a yoga certification for occupational therapists can give you even more options to help these clients and expand your career.

At Breathing Deeply Yoga Therapy, we offer yoga therapy training that prepares you to work with a range of clients and their health conditions, both mental and physical. From children to the elderly, mobility issues to autism, yoga can be a life-changing tool to help clients heal and gain better control over their bodies.

We’ve had the pleasure of providing yoga therapy training for occupational therapists in the past, and we’d love to welcome more OTs into our next round of classes. Keep reading to learn about our adaptive yoga training for occupational therapists or get in touch with our team today.

Table of Contents:

Can OTs Do Yoga?

Many people assume that occupational therapy and yoga are mutually exclusive disciplines. This assumption is often reinforced by the fact that people most commonly go to see an occupational therapist and a yoga therapist separately.

Finding a yoga therapist who also has occupational therapy experience can be a huge convenience and benefit to these clients’ health and wellness. More and more OTs are looking into yoga as a means of expanding their practices as well as improving outcomes for the people they serve.

But OTs can’t just start doing yoga without being properly trained first. Yoga therapists learn specific techniques and strategies to work with specific pathologies. Without this specialized knowledge, it is possible to use or recommend yoga techniques in a way that is harmful to clients, which is why it’s critical to undergo yoga training for occupational therapists first.

What Can Occupational Therapists Do with Yoga?

A patient using an exercise ball for support to stretch, showing what occupational therapists can do with yoga

Once you receive training, occupational therapists can do a lot with yoga:

  • Improve clients’ mobility, flexibility, and muscle strength
  • Support elderly clients’ physical health with techniques and strategies for osteoporosis, balance issues, and other common problems
  • Address mental components to a client’s health, such as autism, ADHD, OCD, anxiety, depression, and more
  • Ultimately, have additional tools to give a wide range of clients greater independence

Improvements in these areas would enhance any physical therapy regimen, including almost any occupational therapeutic treatment goal. Studies have indicated that yoga can improve balance and mobility in older adults as well as benefit their mental well-being, among many other benefits for a range of populations.

While physical exercise alone is recommended for almost anyone, it is generally focused on improving muscular strength, flexibility, and cardiovascular fitness. This can leave muscles needed for specific tasks undeveloped, as exercise tends to be done in a repetitive, mechanical fashion.

Yoga remedies the limitations of other exercises by adding organic movements, dynamic tension, and all the benefits of a spiritual tradition that is thousands of years in the making. Not only does yoga support physical health, but mental and emotional health as well, creating a more holistic approach.

How Is Yoga Used in Occupational Therapy?

If you receive yoga therapy training and even yoga certification for occupational therapists, the next step is to bring it into your practice (or start a yoga therapy practice and use your OT techniques there). Of course, this is what you’ll learn how to do throughout the course of your training.

To give you an idea of how yoga can be used in occupational therapy, here is an overview of some of yoga’s most common techniques:

  • Asanas, or yoga poses, allow you to incorporate a variety of physical movements and postures into your practice.
  • Pranayama, or breathwork, involves consciously controlling the depth, duration, and pattern of your breathing.
  • Meditation heightens your attention, awareness, and focus to help clear your mind and achieve a state of calmness.

With these techniques and training on how to use them, you can add even more tools for supporting physical health to your practice. Yoga therapy can also help to fill in the gaps to address mental conditions that your clients may face which affect their lives and treatment. Not only that, but yoga is something that clients can learn to practice on their own as well, giving them greater independence and agency over their bodies.

What Is Adaptive Yoga for Special Needs?

A woman in Warrior Pose demonstrating how to use chair yoga poses for muscular dystrophy.

Many able-bodied people are intimidated by yoga or simply believe they can’t do it well enough for it to be worthwhile. This can be especially true for those who are living with an injury, illness, disability, birth defect, or have other special needs.

That’s where adaptive yoga comes in. Adaptive yoga is a way to make the benefits of yoga available to people who might otherwise not be able to perform the movements and poses in their traditional forms.

Asanas, or yoga poses, are adapted to work for those who may not be able to perform them otherwise. Chair yoga, which adapts asanas to be done while using a chair, is a prime example of adaptive yoga.

For the occupational therapist looking to expand their therapeutic offerings with yoga, adaptive yoga is almost always going to be right on target. It is important to complete adaptive yoga training for occupational therapists to use these techniques safely with clients.

What Are Adaptive Yoga Techniques?

As mentioned above, adaptive yoga techniques are modified versions of traditional yoga poses. The purpose of these modifications is to accommodate physical limitations such as injury or impairment, mobility restrictions, balance deficits, and more.

These modifications are designed to enable those with such physical limitations to gain the benefits of yoga without the pain or risk of injury that attempting to perform the traditional pose might involve. Rather than push a person to perform a traditional pose, adaptive yoga permits clients to work within their bodies’ abilities with confidence.

Yoga can be adapted to accommodate for an individual’s strength, flexibility, mobility, and spatial relationships. Adaptive yoga can help clients who struggle to perform traditional yoga asanas due to a range of circumstances, such as:

Common use cases for adaptive yoga techniques include:

  • Adapting asanas to be performed seated in a chair
  • Adapting asanas to be performed standing while using a chair to lean on for support
  • Adapting asanas to use other props for support, such as blocks, bolsters, straps, and cushions
  • Adapting transitions between yoga sequences to make them more accessible
  • Adapting stances to be wider than usual

With adaptive yoga techniques at your disposal, your OT practice will offer even more value to the people you serve. It can open doors of opportunity for you, make new clients interested in your services, and boost your job satisfaction immensely. The next step is finding adaptive yoga training for occupational therapists to practice yoga safely.

How to Find Adaptive Yoga Training for Occupational Therapists

An OT working with a child to stretch their legs using a prop, demonstrating the uses of adaptive yoga training for occupational therapists

You may not have heard of adaptive yoga before today, but as an occupational therapist, you’ll likely find that it is right in your wheelhouse. As explained above, adaptive yoga is based on the fact that not all bodies are built the same and we cannot all perform the same movements in the same way.

The idea applies to anyone with varying strengths, flexibility, and body mechanics. But more importantly, adaptive yoga is about helping people with injuries, illnesses, and disabilities to safely perform asanas and benefit from yoga.

As an occupational therapist, you are uniquely well-positioned to take advantage of the opportunities provided by adaptive yoga. All you need is the right adaptive yoga training for occupational therapists.

To make the most of your yoga therapy training, think about which health conditions affect the population you want to serve:

  • Are you predominantly focused on balance and mobility issues? Are there other health concerns that tend to come up for the population you want to serve?
  • Do you want to help a particular population, such as children, the elderly, veterans, or amputees? What are the barriers and health issues they most often face?
  • Do you want to specialize in treating a specific condition, such as dementia, Alzheimer’s, cerebral palsy, Down’s syndrome, arthritis, or carpal tunnel syndrome?
  • Are there mental health conditions that impact your clients in their daily lives, careers, or treatments? If so, what are they?

Look for a yoga therapy program that addresses both physical and mental health issues, and ask if they offer lessons, training, or case studies on the health conditions and concerns that affect your clientele.

What Qualifies a Yoga Therapist?

If you’re wondering what qualifies a yoga therapist, the short answer is completing yoga therapy training. The journey to becoming a qualified yoga therapist generally looks like this:

  1. Completing your 200-hour yoga teacher training. This is a prerequisite for yoga therapy programs, and it will give you a starting place for understanding yoga techniques and developing a personal practice. It also allows you to teach yoga poses and certain other techniques to group yoga classes. Even at this stage, you can start seeing the benefits of yoga for occupational therapists.
  2. Completing your yoga therapy training. This specialized training will teach you to apply yoga techniques to specific health conditions, both physical and mental. You will learn how to use yoga therapeutically with your clients in ways that can enhance your OT practice. If you’re interested in starting a private yoga therapy practice and applying your occupational therapy skills there, Breathing Deeply’s yoga therapy training includes lessons on the business side of being a yoga therapist that can help. You will develop a deeper understanding of the theories and practices of yoga, as well as learn how to bridge the gap between Eastern and Western medicine to best benefit your clients.
  3. Completing advanced yoga therapy training if desired. At Breathing Deeply, we offer a Foundations Program that provides you with yoga therapy training in as little as 1 year. For OTs who already have their occupational therapy license, this may be all you need to start bringing yoga therapy into your practice and helping your clients. If you’re looking for more advanced training that will allow you to get certified, however, you can complete our 800-hour Advanced Program in as little as 2 years, which includes all of the training from the Foundations Program.
  4. Getting IAYT certified if desired. The International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT) sets the standard for our industry and offers the highest level of yoga therapy certification. You must complete your 800-hour yoga therapy training from an IAYT accredited program such as Breathing Deeply’s, become an IAYT member, pass the IAYT Certification Exam, and pass the IAYT Ethics and Scope of Practice Quizzes in order to earn certification through the IAYT. This is the best option for yoga certification for occupational therapists.

What’s the Best Yoga Certification for Occupational Therapists?

If you’re looking for the best yoga certification for occupational therapists, you’ll want to get certified with the International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT).

As mentioned above, the IAYT provides the highest level of certification for yoga therapy. Their certification is the industry standard. If you encounter clients who want more information about your yoga therapy credentials, IAYT certification will be one of the best ways to reassure them.

To become an IAYT certified yoga therapist, you must satisfy the following conditions:

  • Complete your 800-hour yoga therapy training from an IAYT accredited program like Breathing Deeply.
  • Become an IAYT member.
  • Pass the IAYT Certification Exam
  • Pass the IAYT Ethics and Scope of Practice Quizzes.

However, you can get started with yoga therapy for your clients as soon as you complete your yoga therapy training.

Is Yoga Certification for Occupational Therapists Worth It?

For those who want to support clients’ independence, healing, and physical and mental health, yoga therapy training is well worth it for occupational therapists to complete. Yoga therapy is an excellent way to supplement your occupational therapy experience and provide a more holistic approach.

Getting certified as a yoga therapist can help signal to others that you have been properly trained to work safely and knowledgeably with your clients. It can help to legitimize your new skills and techniques, putting clients at ease and furthering your career.

However, you can start using yoga therapy with clients as soon as you finish your yoga therapy training. Yoga certification for occupational therapists who already have an OT license may not always be necessary. Your clientele may not be interested in seeing that you are also a certified yoga therapist, as long as you have successfully completed yoga therapy training.

Get Started with Breathing Deeply

Are you looking to take the next step in your career? Do you want adaptive yoga training for occupational therapists to help a diverse range of clients?

At Breathing Deeply, we’re passionate about providing the very best yoga therapy training. Our mission is to make safe, practical, and ethical yoga therapy more widely accessible. We understand and appreciate the importance of working with clients to address their unique bodies and needs.

As one of the co-founders of Breathing Deeply, I would be proud to have you consider our programs. We offer 200-hour yoga teacher training for anyone who needs to meet that prerequisite, as well as our yoga therapy training programs. Our IAYT accredited yoga therapy training prepares occupational therapists for yoga therapy certification if desired as well.

Apply to one of our programs today or get in touch with us for more information.

How Much Does It Cost to Become a Yoga Therapist?

A yoga teacher smiling in her studio. Many yoga teachers ask how much does it cost to become a yoga therapist if they're thinking of advancing their career.
A yoga teacher smiling in her studio. Many yoga teachers ask how much does it cost to become a yoga therapist if they're thinking of advancing their career.

Whether you’ve newly become interested in yoga therapy or have already been pursuing it as a serious career path, you’ll need to first address the question, “How much does it cost to become a yoga therapist?” While the costs are certainly important to consider, our students can attest to the fact that the investment is well worth it when you’re able to work doing what you love and helping others heal.

As a Co-Founder, Director, and Teacher of Breathing Deeply’s yoga therapy training program, I’m here to assure you that there are a multitude of options and resources available to help potential yoga therapists find a career path that suits their unique needs. Keep reading to get a better understanding of the cost to become a yoga therapist, the costs and benefits of certification, and why undertaking yoga therapy training can benefit both you and your clients for a lifetime.

Table of Contents:

What Is the Difference Between a Yoga Therapist and a Yoga Instructor?

Before we get started, it’s important to understand the distinction between a yoga therapist and a yoga instructor or yoga teacher:

  • Both use yoga techniques to help improve their students’ or clients’ physical health.
  • Both require training and have options for certification.
  • Yoga instructors normally specialize in a specific style of yoga, providing expertise, guidance, and oversight in a large group setting.
  • Yoga instructors teach students poses, techniques, and practices that can be physically engaging and restorative.
  • Yoga therapists use yoga to address their clients’ specific physical or mental health conditions in a one-on-one, private environment.
  • Yoga therapists often use specialized, trauma-informed approaches and techniques to address chronic health issues as opposed to general fitness.
  • Yoga therapists spend more time training, completing yoga teacher training as well as more specialized yoga therapy training.

For more information, read our blog post about the difference between a yoga teacher and a yoga therapist.

How Much Does It Cost to Become a Yoga Therapist?

If you think that you’d like to take the next step with yoga therapy training, you’ll want to know how much it costs to become a yoga therapist. There are several parts of the process to consider:

  • Tuition costs for yoga therapy training and any scholarship opportunities
  • The costs of obtaining and maintaining yoga therapy certification
  • Once you’ve become a yoga therapist, the costs of running a private practice

If you are not yet a yoga teacher, it’s worth noting that yoga teacher training and its costs will need to come before yoga therapy training.

In addition, keep in mind that there are career opportunities outside of running a private practice. However, private practice is a common component of many yoga therapists’ careers, so we’ll go through information about that process as well as tuition and certification in more detail below.

Tuition Costs for Yoga Therapy Training

At Breathing Deeply, we’ve structured our training programs to offer flexibility to students. This means flexible payment options that can be paid over time, as well coursework that can be completed at your own pace. Whether you want to move faster or need more time to pay for training and fit it into a busy schedule, we’re able to work with you.

You can become a yoga therapist fastest by completing our Foundations Program. It is designed to be completed in a year, but can be done at your own pace:

  • Tuition is $2,995 in full (or you can pay $500 down and then $235/month for 12 months).
  • There are 3 online retreats that cost $350 each.
  • The final exam costs $250.
  • The total cost to become a yoga therapist with the Foundations Program is $4,295.

For those who want specialized training and to get IAYT certified, you can complete our Advanced Program in as little as 2 years (which includes 1 year of working through the Foundations Program). The initial financial commitment of the Advanced Program is only the Foundations Program tuition. Payments for modules and other components of the program are paid as you go, including:

  • 3 online retreats from the Foundations Program that cost $350 each.
  • 8 additional week-long online retreats that cost $1,100 each.
  • The final exam costs $250.
  • The practicum fee costs $1,800.
  • The total cost to become a yoga therapist with the C-IAYT accredited 875-hour Advanced Program is $14,895 in total (paid over time).

Breathing Deeply works with all of our students to find a path and a pace that feels feasible and reasonable so you can invest in yourself and your career in yoga.

Breathing Deeply’s Scholarship Program

A Black woman sitting in lotus position, representing an example of an eligible student for our scholarship program to reduce the cost to become a yoga therapist

Breathing Deeply recognizes that certain communities have historically encountered high barriers to entry in this career path and many others. We are committed to providing resources to expand the field of yoga therapy to include all those who wish to participate in it.

In the coming months, we are excited to launch a scholarship program that will be available to students from traditionally marginalized communities. We see this as an important first step to making yoga therapy a more equitable and inclusive field, and we invite you to contact us with any questions about this opportunity.

The Costs of Obtaining and Maintaining Certification

Getting certified as a yoga therapist helps give you credibility and may open up more work opportunities for you. The International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT) is the highest level of yoga therapy certification and the industry standard.

The costs associated with IAYT certification include:

  • A $100 application fee
  • A $125 exam fee
  • $85/year IAYT membership costs

In addition, you will need to meet continued education requirements in the years that follow in order to stay IAYT certified, which may have a cost as well.

With Breathing Deeply, you can become a yoga therapist in as little as a year, depending on the state where you want to practice. With our pay-as-you-go model, you can complete your yoga therapy training at your own pace and even take a break if needed before getting certified.

The Costs of Running a Private Practice

A yoga therapist helping a client with an asana. A furnished space such as this is one of the costs to become a yoga therapist with a private practice.

Yoga therapists have access to a variety of jobs and career opportunities nationwide. More and more commonly, yoga therapists are finding work in public settings, such as hospitals, addiction centers, and wellness centers. Most often, however, yoga therapists will choose to build their own private practice, either part time or full time.

In terms of the cost to become a yoga therapist with a private practice, there are many factors to consider. Initial costs include:

  • Buying equipment, such as yoga mats and blocks
  • Renting a space
  • Advertising your practice

Fortunately, there are creative ways to keep costs down. If you work part time at your private practice, you may be able to rent space from a physical therapist or other private practitioner for a few days per week. With most clients wanting to visit a yoga therapist in person, your advertising budget can be limited to a small, local geographic area.

It’s essential to remember that these initial costs pale against the many benefits that building a private practice provides. Each of these costs will help you make your private practice profitable. Overall, the largest cost you’ll face is the time it takes to establish your business, build your clientele, and make lasting connections.

Breathing Deeply is uniquely positioned to support yoga therapists in starting private practices in a number of ways:

  • We incorporate lessons about running a private practice into our yoga therapy training to help you prepare.
  • We provide our students with lifelong access to our community of yoga therapists, allowing you to continue to network and get advice from your teachers and fellow students.
  • We offer private yoga therapy sessions to clients online, run by Brandt (our Co-Founder, Director, and Lead Teacher) and some of our graduates. This gives our students an opportunity for work right after completing their training.

How Much Does a Yoga Therapist Earn in the U.S.?

A yoga therapist’s salary can be impacted by the location of your practice, whether you work in a private practice or at another institution, and, most importantly, your level of experience and any areas of specialization. Broadly speaking, according to ZipRecruiter, a yoga therapist can earn anywhere between $20,000 and $135,500 a year, with a national average of $68,275 annually.

Read our blog post about yoga therapy salaries for more information.

Is There a Demand for Yoga Therapists?

The demand for yoga therapists increases more and more with each passing year. As public knowledge around the therapeutic benefits of this profession expands and deepens, so too does the job market as it grows to encompass this emergent field.

Our students have found work in hospitals, mental health departments, addiction centers, chiropractors’ offices, wellness centers, and school districts in addition to starting successful private practices. Yoga therapists are well-qualified to fill a number of positions at healthcare institutions across the country and meet the public’s demand in both public and private settings.

Is Getting Yoga Certified Worth It?

In short, becoming a yoga therapist is highly rewarding, and getting certified is well worth it when it aligns with your goals. The time it takes to become a yoga therapist provides a deeply meaningful return on the investment, both to those building their therapeutic practice and to their clients.

Yoga therapy can be life-changing for a client who has been failed by Western medicine and searching in vain for relief. If you want to be able to help clients heal using yoga techniques that are targeted to the specific health conditions they face, then yoga therapy is the path for you. Certification can help provide you with the professional credentials to find work and build trust with clients.

Become a Yoga Therapist with Breathing Deeply

Whether you’re beginning your journey today or are a seasoned yoga teacher looking to deepen your practice, Breathing Deeply is here to guide and support your path towards becoming a knowledgeable, capable, and qualified yoga therapist. We’re here to answer your questions on logistics, such as how much it costs to become a yoga therapist and how long it takes, as well as any questions you may have about our teachers or the contents of our training programs.

For over a decade, Breathing Deeply has made it our mission to provide our students with flexibility, community, and access, enabling them to participate in our programs at their own pace and on their own time. Through our yoga therapy training programs, you can become a yoga therapist online in just one year, or take as long as you’d like with pay-as-you-go training modules.

We are proud to offer IAYT-accredited courses that can further your career and your ability to provide physical, emotional, and spiritual care to those in need. Apply to one of our programs today to join our thriving community of teachers and peers that will last a lifetime.

Beginner Yoga Teacher Resume Tips

A new yoga teacher leading their first class after getting a job with a beginner yoga teacher resume
A new yoga teacher leading their first class after getting a job with a beginner yoga teacher resume

Every yoga teacher has to start somewhere, but how can you get a job if you have no experience? What do you put on a resume for your objective, work history, and skills? How do you stand out from the crowd and find a good fit? I’m here to answer these questions and more with my beginner yoga teacher resume tips.

I’m Anna Passalacqua, a Co-Founder, Director, and Teacher at Breathing Deeply Yoga Therapy. I am a certified yoga teacher and yoga therapist myself and I regularly work with yoga teachers who are training to become yoga therapists.

Keep reading to find my advice for writing a great yoga teacher resume, no experience needed. I’ve also included a yoga teacher resume sample and tips for furthering your career. Let’s get started!

Table of Contents:

What Should a Yoga Teacher Put on a Resume?

Even a beginner yoga teacher’s resume can include many of the same things as an experience yoga teacher’s resume, including:

  • Name
  • Contact information
  • An objective statement
  • Work history or experience
  • Education and certifications
  • Skills
  • Accomplishments and activities

In addition to these more concrete items, I recommend trying to describe yourself and your personality to help you find the right job. If you’ve been to enough yoga classes, you’ll know that there are some you’d like to join and others that aren’t a good fit. It’s the same for both the students and the teachers!

For example, don’t be afraid to mention your age as a descriptor of yourself or include a photo. Some studios are looking for more youthful energy to teach a fast-paced, athletic crowd. Others need someone who can be more patient, understanding, or approachable to vibe well with their audience. Just be sure that if you do include a photo, it’s a high-quality shot that shows what you look like in action when you’re teaching—not a headshot or a selfie.

Finding the best possible match between yoga teacher, students, and studio is critical. Most yoga teachers are paid based on the number of students they teach. The better the match, the more likely you are to attract and retain students while also enjoying your work.

How Do You Make a Beginner Yoga Teacher Resume with No Experience?

Writing a yoga teacher resume can feel daunting if you haven’t gotten a job as a yoga instructor yet. Some of the most important things to include are the style of yoga you want to teach (whether or not you have job experience teaching it yet) and the audience you want to serve. You can also highlight the training you’ve received so studios know what you’ve learned and where you’ve trained.

Learn more about how to create an impressive beginner yoga teacher resume with no experience below.

Describe the Yoga Style You Want to Teach

Yoga studios need to understand what kind of yoga class you’d be interested in teaching. If there is a specific style of yoga you’d like to teach, such as Vinyasa Yoga, Yin Yoga, or hot yoga, be sure to name it. If you have any specialized knowledge in something specific like chair yoga, toe yoga, or face yoga, you can share that as well.

You should also describe what the yoga classes you teach are like (or what you want them to be like if you haven’t taught yet). You can discuss the yoga style, target audience, and key techniques. For example:

  • “I teach a slow-paced Vinyasa style that’s good for most people, incorporates a lot of breathwork, and I always teach meditations at the end of classes.”
  • “My favorite classes to teach are upbeat, fast-paced sessions where the goal is strength and fitness. I enjoy teaching introductory courses but my biggest passion is working with more advanced, practiced students.”
  • “I teach a slow-paced class designed for students who are older or have mobility issues, utilizing chair yoga for accessibility.”

Identify Who You Want to Teach and Why

As mentioned above, focus on identifying who you want to teach, help, and serve. What would be a fun class for them (and for you)? What would a useful class look like? What draws you to want to serve this population? For example:

  • “As a former athlete myself, I understand the unique needs of their training routines and how yoga can help.”
  • “I’d like to teach the elderly because I’ve seen firsthand how difficult it can be to perform basic movements as they age, and I know the importance of staying active for their physical and mental health.”
  • “I’m a young woman who’d like to teach yoga to other young women like myself, giving them guidance in a way that’s relatable.”
  • “I have a youthful spirit and love teaching yoga to kids!”

Emphasize Training You’ve Received

You may think a beginner yoga teacher resume has no experience on it, but job experience isn’t the only thing that matters. Training is another kind of experience, and employers like to see what you know and that you’re eager to learn.

Be sure to list any relevant training you’ve received on your resume, such as 200-hour or 500-hour yoga teacher training. If you’ve completed a lot of training, be sure to highlight this as well.

In general, the yoga training you’ve received will be more important than any college education, yoga credentials, or yoga certifications. Employers want to know where you’ve trained, what you’ve learned, and who you want to work with. Getting a bachelor’s or master’s in yoga is far from the norm, though you should include it if you have it.

Avoid Personal Philosophy on Yoga

As a new yoga instructor, you’re stepping into a field with countless established yoga philosophies already. It’s more important to show that you’ve learned from others than that you’ve formed your own yoga pedagogy.

This isn’t to say that you can’t have your own ideas and beliefs about yoga, but when you’re just starting out, being one in a million isn’t as important as showing you’re someone who is eager to learn and willing to work hard. Generally, employers like someone who is humble enough to acknowledge that they still have more to learn and are willing to do so.

What Do You Put in the Objective of a Yoga Teacher Resume?

Posing in Warrior Pose, an example of an action shot to include on a yoga teacher resume with no experience

One of the key components of a resume is the objective section. It’s a short summary of the professional goals you’re looking to achieve in a new position, as well as the relevant experiences and skills you’ve developed toward those goals that make you a good candidate for the role you’re applying for. Appearing at the top of a resume, it’s an important introduction of yourself and what you’re looking for.

While not every resume has an objective, for a yoga teacher resume with no experience it’s a great opportunity to describe yourself and the reasons why you’d like to become a yoga teacher. Why do you want to teach a certain style or specific audience? What kind of yoga classes do you teach or do you want to teach? What makes you qualified to do so?

A yoga teacher resume objective will change a little depending on the job you’re applying to, but the key facts you should include are:

  • What type of job position you want
  • What you want to achieve in that position
  • 2–3 relevant skills (such as leadership, people skills, or relevant yoga training)

What Yoga Teacher Resume Skills Should You Include?

When writing a beginner yoga teacher resume, deciding which skills to include can be intimidating. What types of skills should a yoga teacher have? What types of skills should you highlight over others?

A good tip for helping you think about your skills is to make a list of hard skills and one of soft skills.

Hard Skills

Hard skills are specific, measurable technical skills. These are most often learned on the job or through formal education or training. They tend to be directly related to a person’s ability to perform a particular job effectively.

For yoga teacher resumes, hard skills are incredibly important. Examples include:

  • Working in specific styles of yoga
  • Experience with restorative yoga techniques
  • Experience with pranayama (breath work)
  • Experience with yoga nidra or prana nidra
  • Experience with chanting
  • Experience with singing bowls
  • Familiarity with different yoga equipment

This section is your chance to display any and all hard skills. Only the most important ones should be named in your objective or expanded on in a cover letter, while your skills section allows you to give a full list of your yoga teacher skills on a resume.

Soft Skills

Soft skills are interpersonal skills related to dealing with people or situations more generally. While they can be just as important to your job performance, they are less specific to a particular job and instead can apply to many different jobs.

People don’t just go to yoga instructors to learn specific yoga styles or techniques, but also for their presence in classes and their teaching style too. While the general opinion on whether or not to include soft skills varies, for beginner yoga teacher resumes, soft skills may help indicate the type of teacher you’ll be.

Examples of soft skills include:

  • Leadership
  • Communication
  • Problem solving
  • Critical thinking
  • Creativity
  • Adaptability
  • Decision making
  • Time management
  • Organization

Many people may think they have a yoga teacher resume with no experience, but they’re overlooking job experiences they’ve had outside of yoga. While these won’t speak to your hard skills as a yoga teacher, they can help show the soft skills you’ve developed.

Talking about any previous customer service jobs you enjoyed or how much you like helping people are good options to help round out a beginner yoga teacher resume. Even just showing that you like people and enjoy working with them can do wonders in a job search.

Yoga Teacher Resume Sample

Below you’ll find a yoga teacher resume sample for someone at the start of their yoga career. Feel free to use this example to help jump start your own resume!

Our yoga teacher resume sample for a fictional yoga teacher with no experience

How to Advance Your Career with Yoga Therapy

If you’re looking to expand your skills, become a more desirable job candidate, and gain techniques to help people use yoga for specific physical and mental health conditions, then yoga therapy may be right for you. Yoga therapy is a steadily growing and specialized career path within the field that offers a wide range of job and career opportunities.

Although yoga in general can be restorative and healing, yoga therapy is especially fulfilling as you apply different yoga techniques (including asanas, pranayama, or meditation) to help clients heal from specific health issues. If there is a specific population that you want to serve, becoming a yoga therapist can give you the additional knowledge, skills, and techniques to provide specialized help.

In addition to running your own private practice, as a yoga therapist you could find work in a variety of other settings, such as:

  • Hospital programs
  • Mental health departments
  • Addiction centers
  • Chiropractors’ offices
  • Wellness centers
  • School districts

Not only does yoga therapy allow for a range of specializations and job opportunities, but a range in salary too. Like many careers, a yoga therapist’s salary depends on a multitude of factors, including experience, skill level, specialization, location, hours, and what kind of job you get.

If you’re interested in becoming a yoga therapist, you’ve already taken the first step by becoming a yoga teacher! The yoga teacher training you’ve already received will give you an important foundation in yoga and fulfill a common prerequisite for yoga therapy training.

Apply to Our Yoga Therapy Training Program

Looking for yoga therapy training? At Breathing Deeply, we provide yoga therapy training that can be completed in as little as 1 year or less. Our online lessons and coursework can be done around your schedule, and we also offer flexible payment options to meet our students’ needs. More importantly, we offer plenty of opportunities to learn from certified yoga therapists with live Q&A sessions, retreats, and a private online forum for our teachers and students.

Apply today to start training as a yoga therapist. New classes are starting soon!

Yoga Therapy Training for Mental Health Professionals

A yoga therapist who has completed yoga therapy training for mental health professionals sits with a client in their private practice
A yoga therapist who has completed yoga therapy training for mental health professionals sits with a client in their private practice

Mental health professionals are always looking for new and effective ways to help their clients. Yoga is an ancient practice that is becoming increasingly popular as a way to improve mental health. Before turning to yoga therapy training for mental health professionals, however, you may have questions you want answered.

I’m Brandt Passalacqua, founder and director of Breathing Deeply Yoga Therapy. My mission is to make quality, ethical, practical yoga therapy more accessible to others. In this piece, I’ll explain the principles and techniques of using yoga therapy for mental health conditions, how mental health professionals and their clients benefit from using yoga therapy, and how to get started with yoga therapy training.

Table of Contents:

What Is Yoga Therapy for Mental Health?

Using yoga therapy for mental health is similar to using yoga therapy to address physical conditions in many ways. It involves using yoga techniques, such as asanas (yoga poses), pranayama (breathing techniques), and meditation.

These techniques are applied strategically in order to promote healing and relief from a specific mental health condition. You can use yoga therapy for many mental health issues, including depression, anxiety, trauma, and PTSD.

Understanding Yoga Therapy Principles

A mental health professional trained in yoga therapy helps a client with physical movements and poses

To better understand how to use yoga therapy for mental health, consider some of the principles of yoga therapy:

  • Educating, empowering, and enabling clients to take an active role in their health and wellness.
  • Using yoga techniques and Ayurveda traditions in combination with Western medicine research and perspective.
  • Applying yoga techniques to specific health conditions.
  • Integrating yoga practices into client sessions.
  • Focusing on the clinical and therapeutic applications of yoga and related practices.
  • Using thorough intake procedures and personalized assessment for individuals.
  • Bridging the gap between yoga and conventional medical systems.
  • Understanding the body and the full spectrum of therapeutic yoga modalities.

With this framework, yoga therapists can provide more individualized treatment, ongoing assessment, and different mind-body techniques to use.

Understanding a Mind-Body Approach

The mind-body approach within yoga therapy is an integrated approach to health and wellness that seeks to address the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual aspects of a person. It recognizes the interconnectedness of the mind and body, as well as how physical or mental conditions can be disruptive to a person holistically. Through this approach, yoga therapy works to bring balance and harmony to these different aspects of a client, helping to alleviate any physical or mental health issues.

Yoga therapy can enable clients to recognize the power of the body and its connection to the mind. Through physical movement, breath work, and meditation, clients can learn to access and control their own bodies and minds. This can help them to manage stress, regulate emotions, and heal from trauma. Additionally, yoga therapy can help to strengthen the body and increase resilience to further support a person’s journey through their mental health issues.

Benefits of Using Yoga Therapy for Mental Health Conditions

The benefits of using yoga therapy to treat mental health conditions are numerous and varied. A few of the top advantages include:

  • Numerous studies indicate that yoga can reduce stress and improve mental health. As the American Psychological Association reports, “With a growing body of research supporting yoga’s mental health benefits, psychologists are weaving the practice into their work with clients.”
  • Yoga therapy gives you mind-body techniques to use when talk therapy or cognitive behavioral therapy aren’t producing the desired results on their own. In my experience, many clients find yoga therapy techniques more effective for trauma or anxiety. With so much research on its effectiveness, it’s usually not a hard sell to clients—in fact, many are already asking for it.
  • Clients can learn to regulate their emotional states and nervous systems themselves, rather than relying on another person or a piece of equipment. This builds their agency, empowerment, and self-reliance.

Moreover, yoga therapy offers a holistic, cost-effective approach that can be integrated into current treatments for a variety of mental health conditions. It is a promising tool for jointly addressing the physical, mental, and emotional needs of clients. With the right yoga therapy mental health training and knowledge, yoga therapists can provide personalized support and healing for their clients.

Watch my video below to hear how we leverage the benefits of yoga therapy to treat mental health conditions more effectively.

Breathing Deeply | Yoga for Mental Health

How Yoga Therapy Training Advances Mental Health Careers

Yoga therapy training can open up a wide range of opportunities for clinical psychologists, psychotherapists, psychiatrists, counselors, social workers, and other mental health professionals, allowing them to better serve their clients while also becoming more profitable.

As mentioned previously, yoga therapy training gives mental health practitioners more strategies and tools to use, making you more effective. Being better equipped to help clients, while also getting to do more varied work throughout the day, can also be instrumental in helping to prevent burn out for those in the mental health field.

Not only that, but mental health professionals who also provide yoga therapy can increase their income. You can provide both services to clients and charge for both, rather than only one. In addition, you open yourself up to more clientele when you can treat clients who want mental health services, clients who want yoga therapy, and clients who want both.

In my experience, I’ve seen numerous of my yoga therapy students take this approach with great success. Some work at an organization providing mental health services and run a private yoga therapy practice, while others have their own private practice for both mental health and yoga therapy. In either case, they are able to earn more while also better serving clients, which for many is the ultimate goal.

To learn more about the value of yoga therapy training for mental health professionals, read about yoga therapist jobs and career opportunities.

Yoga Therapy Techniques for Mental Health

A trained yoga therapist guides a client in chair yoga.

It’s important to understand that yoga therapy must be personalized to each client’s needs. Therefore, any yoga techniques used for mental health should be chosen on a case by case basis. For any clients who have experienced trauma, it’s also critical to use invitational language that maintains their agency at all times and with every choice.

When choosing the way clients practice yoga, we use yoga therapy models rather than a set of yoga poses. For example:

  • One client might do moving and breathing in and out of poses to reduce anxiety. This generally involves lengthening their exhales. The client might practice standing poses to start, then progress to floor work, and then rest. This model can be adapted to chair yoga as well, which can help to make it more accessible to people who cannot stand or experience mobility issues.
  • Another client might be given a specific breath practice for depression. This could involve extending their inhalation, using more energizing breath practices, or both. Often, it may be followed by anxiety-lessening breath work to leave the client feeling calm and balanced.
  • Another client may learn meditation techniques to improve neuroplasticity and encourage proper sleep patterns. Meditation can be useful for some mental health issues, but it can also be contraindicated, meaning it could potentially prove harmful to some. This is very individual, which is why a well-trained yoga therapist is so important. A yoga therapist will usually assess the client and assign movement and breath practices first before considering if meditation is the right fit.

Yoga Therapy Training for Mental Health Professionals

Interested in yoga therapy training for mental health professionals? Check out some of the frequently asked questions we receive below for more information. If you’re ready to look for a training program, I would be honored if you would consider Breathing Deeply’s yoga therapy training or contact us for more information.

What Is the Difference Between a Yoga Instructor and a Yoga Therapist?

Yoga instructors and yoga therapists are two distinct roles that are often confused. While both have a baseline of knowledge and skills related to yoga, there are significant differences between the two.

Yoga instructors typically have 200–500 hours of yoga teacher training. They are trained to lead their students through different yoga poses aimed at improving their general health and well-being. Yoga teacher training does not cover how to apply yoga techniques therapeutically to address specific physical or mental health conditions.

Yoga therapists, on the other hand, must have 1,000 hours of training (800 from a yoga therapy program plus the requisite 200 from yoga teacher training). Certified yoga therapists are trained to provide yoga in a therapeutic manner for a variety of conditions. They may choose to specialize in a select few conditions or keep their practice more general.

Ultimately, knowing the differences between yoga instructors and yoga therapists is important to ensure that the most appropriate practices are being used to meet the client’s needs. A yoga teacher who is not trained in yoga therapy could unintentionally cause harm if they try to treat a specific condition. To learn more, read about the difference between a yoga teacher and yoga therapist.

What Is the Highest Degree in Yoga?

The highest degree in yoga is a PhD, though there are very few PhD programs in yoga. For this reason, many consider a master’s in yoga therapy or yoga studies to be a terminal degree.

However, it is not often that a master’s in yoga is required. In most cases, a yoga therapist can gain the necessary knowledge and skills for their career at a far lower cost by completing a yoga therapy training program and becoming a certified yoga therapist. To learn more, read about whether you need a master’s in yoga therapy.

What Is the Highest Level of Yoga Certification?

The highest level of yoga certification is yoga therapy certification through the International Association of Yoga Therapists (C-IAYT). This recognizes you as a trusted, ethical, and knowledgeable yoga therapist, allowing you to work in the field of yoga therapy.

How Do I Become an IAYT Yoga Therapist?

In order to obtain C-IAYT certification, you must complete your 200-hour yoga teacher training, complete your 800-hour yoga therapy training with an IAYT-accredited program, pass your IAYT Certification Exam, and pass your IAYT Ethics and Scope of Practice Quizzes.

Get Yoga Therapy Training from Breathing Deeply

At Breathing Deeply, we offer a comprehensive yoga therapy training program that equips mental health professionals with the necessary knowledge and skills to effectively utilize yoga therapy to help their clients.

We provide online lessons and self-paced coursework to fit your schedule, alongside live Q&As with myself, retreats, and an engaged community of students and graduates. In as little as two years, you can become a certified yoga therapist who is able to confidently use yoga therapy as a tool to help your clients heal and achieve greater well-being.A new class will be starting soon! Learn more about our yoga therapy program and apply to join us today.

What Is the Most Popular Type of Yoga, and How Can You Practice It Safely?

Four women practicing yoga poses in a studio, demonstrating some of the most popular types of yoga.
Four women practicing yoga poses in a studio, demonstrating some of the most popular types of yoga.

There’s no doubt that yoga is gaining popularity, but you may be asking yourself, what is the most popular type of yoga? Where is each type most popular in the U.S. and around the world? And for those who are interested in trying it themselves, how can you practice these styles of yoga safely?

For decades, I’ve been devoted to the mission of making quality, ethical yoga more accessible. I’ve worked with thousands of clients and hundreds of students training to become yoga teachers or yoga therapists themselves. I’m happy to share my insights about how to practice yoga safely and avoid injury—which is more common than you might think!

Take a look at the data on the most popular types of yoga below, along with my tips for how to practice them safely.

Table of Contents

What Is the Most Popular Type of Yoga in the World?

The most popular type of yoga in the world is hot yoga, based on data from 2022. The next most popular types of yoga are hatha yoga, Yin Yoga, Power Yoga (which is another heated yoga), and Ashtanga yoga, respectively.

To see which country is most interested in each style of yoga, check our chart below.

Type of Yoga Most Interested Country
Acro Yoga Austria
Aerial Yoga Greece
Anusara Yoga Switzerland
Ashtanga Yoga Norway
Bikram Yoga Australia
Hatha Yoga Singapore
Hot Yoga New Zealand
Iyengar Yoga New Zealand
Jivamukti Yoga Norway
Kundalini Yoga Switzerland
Prenatal Yoga Singapore
Power Yoga United States
Restorative Yoga Canada
Sivananda Yoga Austria
SUP Yoga Switzerland
Vinyasa Yoga Switzerland
Yin Yoga Netherlands

A few more interesting facts about this global data are:

  • Users tend to search for hot yoga in person more than through video. “Hot yoga near me,” one of the top related queries for hot yoga, was searched nearly twice as much as “hot yoga video,” another top related query.

  • The highest interest in Yin Yoga is found in Northern Europe. The Netherlands were the country where Yin Yoga had the highest search popularity, followed by Denmark and Sweden.

  • The peak global popularity for hot yoga, prenatal yoga, restorative yoga, Ashtanga yoga, and Kundalini yoga was in January. Hot yoga also peaked in its popularity in December.

  • The peak global popularity for Power Yoga, Bikram Yoga, Iyengar Yoga, aerial yoga, and Acro Yoga was in February. Power Yoga peaked in its popularity in the final week of February and first week of March, as well as in December.

  • The peak global popularity for Sivananda Yoga was in March, with significantly less interest the rest of the year.

  • Global interest in SUP Yoga climbed in the summer, with interest in the query “sup yoga near me” increasing 250% in June and July. But interest dropped off during the rest of the year.

What Is the Most Common Type of Yoga in the U.S.?

A chart with search term popularity showing the most common types of yoga in the U.S.

The most common type of yoga in the U.S. is hot yoga, based on data from 2022. The next most common types of yoga are Power Yoga and Bikram Yoga (both heated as well), Yin Yoga, and Vinyasa Yoga, respectively.

To see which U.S. region is most interested in each style of yoga, check our chart below.

Type of Yoga Most Interested U.S. Region
Acro Yoga Colorado
Aerial Yoga Hawaii
Anusara Yoga District of Columbia
Ashtanga Yoga District of Columbia
Bikram Yoga Vermont
Hatha Yoga Hawaii
Hot Yoga Vermont
Iyengar Yoga Hawaii
Jivamukti Yoga New York
Kundalini Yoga New Mexico
Prenatal Yoga District of Columbia
Power Yoga Rhode Island
Restorative Yoga District of Columbia
Sivananda Yoga New York
SUP Yoga Colorado
Vinyasa Yoga District of Columbia
Yin Yoga Maine

A few more interesting facts about this U.S. data are:

  • In addition to being the most popular type of yoga in the U.S., hot yoga was the only style that registered search data for all 50 States and the District of Columbia.

  • The peak U.S. popularity for Yin Yoga, Vinyasa Yoga, Ashtanga yoga, and hatha yoga was the week of March 27–April 2. Sivananda Yoga and aerial yoga also hit their peak U.S. search popularity in March.

  • December and January were also peak search times for several types of yoga. Hot yoga, Power Yoga, prenatal yoga, Acro Yoga, Anusara Yoga, Kundalini yoga, and restorative yoga all hit their peak U.S. search popularity in December or January.

  • Jivamukti Yoga was only searched enough to register search data in 3 U.S. regions: New Jersey, New York, and California.

  • Sivananda Yoga was only searched enough to register search data in 5 U.S. regions: New Jersey, New York, Illinois, California, and Florida.

Where Is Yoga Most Popular in the World?

A map of the world with 5 countries highlighted where yoga is most popular.

More than 300 million people practice yoga around the world. Yoga is most searched for in Switzerland, followed by India, Singapore, Canada, and Australia, based on data from 2022. Globally, the peak popularity of searches for yoga last year occurred during the week of June 19–25.

Where Is Yoga Most Popular in the U.S.?

In the U.S., more than 28 million people practice yoga. Yoga is most searched for in Vermont, followed by the District of Columbia, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Hawaii, based on data from 2022. Americans searched for yoga the most last year in the first week of January.

How to Practice Yoga Safely

A study published in the Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine found that the rate of yoga-related injuries increased from 2001 to 2014, with a total of 29,590 yoga-related injuries reported from hospital emergency rooms in that time. More recently, a study published in the Journal of ISAKOS found that about two-thirds of yoga-related musculoskeletal injuries impact the lower extremities (hamstring, knee, hip, ankle, foot, or toe).

Whether you’re just getting started with yoga for the first time or you’ve been practicing for years, it’s important to take proper precautions in order to practice yoga safely. The best way to learn how to practice yoga safely is through one-on-one yoga sessions. This allows you to work closely with a yoga expert who can focus on your unique needs.

By contrast, if you practice yoga in a group setting, you won’t have the same opportunities for personal attention from the instructor. Some people in your group class may be stronger and able to do more repetition, while others may fatigue faster. If you push yourself too hard, you could injure yourself, making it important to know your limits and listen to your body if you ever practice yoga in a group.

Practicing yoga safely relies heavily on your unique circumstances, the yoga instructor or yoga therapist you work with, and your ability to receive personalized attention. Even if a specific style of yoga is more susceptible to certain kinds of injuries, you may find a yoga teacher or yoga therapist who can help you practice it safely and avoid those injuries.

To learn about common injuries for the most popular types of yoga, check out my advice below.

How to Practice Ashtanga Yoga Safely

Ashtanga yoga is known for being active and energetic. Those who practice Ashtanga yoga typically follow a specific sequence of poses, with vinyasa transitions in between.

If you want to practice Ashtanga yoga safely, it’s important to keep in mind that those series of poses will not be safe or effective for everyone. Don’t push yourself too hard, hold a pose too deep or too long, or make yourself do something that could injure you.

In particular, some of the alignment points in Ashtanga yoga may not work well for every body type. In some cases, Ashtanga yoga can involve over-twisting, which may result in injury.

How to Practice Bikram Yoga Safely

Bikram Yoga is a type of hot yoga, performed in a room that is set to 105° F (41° C) with 40% humidity. It is meant to promote exercise and fitness with a fixed sequence of 26 yoga poses.

As with Ashtanga yoga, any type of yoga that prescribes specific poses for everyone will run the risk of injury for those who are not well-suited to those poses. In order to practice Bikram Yoga safely, you need to assess whether you should perform each pose and adjust accordingly.

Hot yoga, including Bikram Yoga, is usually not safe for people with high blood pressure or heart conditions. In addition, I have observed that some of the cues in Bikram Yoga can be anatomically incorrect. For example, one client still experiences issues with her neck as a result of Bikram Yoga, despite going more than a decade without practicing it.

How to Practice Hatha Yoga Safely

Hatha yoga uses physical practices to maintain and direct one’s energy. It can involve using yoga poses for exercise, as well as practicing a specific diet, breathing techniques, meditation, ethics, and spirituality. Many different traditions fall under the umbrella of hatha yoga.

While hatha yoga can be many things, one common issue I’ve observed with hatha yoga at a gym or general yoga studio is it may or may not have good alignment instruction. Some instructors are great, but if you want to practice hatha yoga safely, you shouldn’t automatically assume that the instructor knows how to keep you safe.

For example, you might get a yoga instructor who was trained in a certain lineage that does things a specific way, which may not be safe for everyone. A couple common examples are flattening your neck out or staying in poses that keep your hips locked.

Hatha yoga is frequently performed in general group classes, making it readily available to many people, but restricting the instructor’s ability to meet each individual’s specific limitations and needs.

How to Practice Hot Yoga Safely

Hot yoga is a style of yoga that is meant to be practiced in hot, humid conditions, typically as a form of exercise. Bikram Yoga and Power Yoga are examples of hot yoga. The temperature for hot yoga can range from around 80–100° F (27–38° C).

One major risk of hot yoga is exercising in the high heat and humidity. Some people cannot practice hot yoga safely due to these conditions. Hot yoga may not be safe for those with high blood pressure or heart conditions. If you are pregnant, you may want to check with a doctor before performing hot yoga, as you could face a higher risk of lightheadedness, exhaustion, and fainting in these conditions.

Additionally, by warming up your body with hot yoga, you may be more flexible than usual. If you aren’t careful, this can lead to overstretching and injury. For people who are more flexible or have given birth recently, you may be at greater risk of potentially overstretching with hot yoga. Make sure you know your body’s limits so you don’t accidentally surpass them in a heated environment where you may not get the signals your body would normally send if it were being pushed too far.

How to Practice Power Yoga Safely

Power Yoga, like Bikram Yoga, is a type of hot yoga. It is practiced under hot and humid conditions, and it tends to be an energetic form of exercise.

As with any type of hot yoga, you run the risk of overheating, experiencing exhaustion, and even fainting when you exercise in high temperatures and humidity. For those who have high blood pressure or heart conditions, it may not be safe to practice Power Yoga. Someone who is pregnant may also want to abstain from Power Yoga, as they may be more susceptible to becoming lightheaded, exhausted, or fainting under these conditions.

Heat can improve flexibility and range of motion while reducing pain. On the surface, this seems like a good thing, but it can mean that some of your body’s usual safety mechanisms aren’t as effective. You may not experience the pain you usually would from overstretching, which can lead to injury. In order to practice Power Yoga safely, you must be careful not to stretch too deeply or repeatedly.

How to Practice Vinyasa Yoga Safely

Vinyasa Yoga can describe a number of different yoga styles. If you practice Vinyasa Yoga, you will flow from one yoga post into the next, both in terms of your movement and your breathing. In general, Vinyasa Yoga tends to be faster paced, which can make it more physically demanding.

While Vinyasa Yoga can be many different things, if you’re practicing a more fast-paced and physically challenging style, you run the risk of repeating the same motions over and over resulting in injury. Some people may also struggle with not being able to hold their alignment.

In particular, I’ve seen some Vinyasa Yoga practices overuse Chaturanga. To perform this pose, you get into a low plank position, which can be taxing on your abdominal muscles, back, arms, and wrists. In Vinyasa Yoga, it is sometimes overused as a transition between poses, such as when you’re returning to Downward Dog Pose or performing an advanced Sun Salutation.

If you overuse Chaturanga, you could hurt your shoulders or wrists. It takes a lot of strength to perform, and fatigue can occur.

If you want to practice Vinyasa Yoga safely, make sure you are aware of your body and its limits. Take a break if you get too tired or modify poses as needed, such as by using blocks or putting your knees on the ground during Chaturanga.

How to Practice Yin Yoga Safely

Yin Yoga is a slow-paced type of yoga. It involves holding yoga poses for longer periods of time and can be more relaxing and meditative.

Yin Yoga may be used to target connective tissues (joints, ligaments, tendons, or fascias) in order to improve flexibility, mobility, and circulation. It is the opposite of Yang Yoga, which is more active and energetic.

Although Yin Yoga is meant to be restorative, you can overstretch your connective tissues if you stay in a single position for too long. Sometimes in Yin Yoga, the poses may also be too deep of a stretch for certain people’s bodies to maintain for the length of the hold. The mental challenges of holding poses for a longer period of time or in certain positions can be an issue for some.

While yoga blocks, pillows, cushions, and other bolsters can sometimes help to modify certain yoga poses, even these aids may not be enough to allow certain people to hold a position for a sustained period of time. Personally, one of my biggest injuries came from a Yin seminar in which I stayed in Triangle Pose too deep for too long.

Don’t go to your extremes in any of these poses if you want to practice Yin Yoga safely. Everyone has their own threshold for what’s safe for them, so take care not to exceed it.

Find Ethical Yoga Teacher or Yoga Therapy Training

At Breathing Deeply Yoga Therapy, we offer training to become a certified yoga therapist or yoga teacher. Our programs are designed to meet you at any skill level, whether you’re just starting out, have your 200-hour teacher training, or are ready for advanced training and C-IAYT certification.

We pride ourselves on making yoga more accessible through quality, ethical training programs. Learn more about our courses and apply online today!

Methodology

In order to determine the popularity of different types of yoga globally and in the United States, search data was retrieved from Google Trends. The date range for this data was January 1, 2022 through December 31, 2022, and this data was collected on January 18, 2023.

Benefits and Limitations of Yin Yoga for Trauma

A woman using a cushion while in Caterpillar Pose to stay comfortable. Holding poses for long periods can be a benefit and limitation to Yin Yoga for trauma.
A woman using a cushion while in Caterpillar Pose to stay comfortable. Holding poses for long periods can be a benefit and limitation to Yin Yoga for trauma.

Yoga can be an incredibly powerful, therapeutic, and healing force, especially when guided by a knowledgeable and ethical yoga therapist. It has even been shown to help trauma survivors, reshaping their responses to triggers and reducing their symptoms, stress, and anxiety. But there are several important considerations to take into account in order to provide a safe, healing experience for survivors, especially if you’re considering Yin Yoga for trauma.

I’m Brandt Passalacqua, the Founder, Director, and Lead Teacher at Breathing Deeply Yoga Therapy, where I train students to become certified yoga therapists. I’ve had the privilege of working with thousands of clients and have seen firsthand how yoga therapy can help those who have suffered trauma. Below I’ll share my thoughts about the benefits and limitations of Yin Yoga for trauma.

Table of Contents:

What Is Yin Yoga?

Introduced in the 1970s by Paulie Zink, Yin Yoga is a slower paced, more passive yoga practice. It focuses on stretching connective tissues (including ligaments, fascia, tendons, and joints), especially around your spine, sacrum, hips, pelvis, and knees. Guided meditation is also common in Yin Yoga, with a focus on deep breathing and reducing stress.

Poses are often performed on the floor as opposed to standing. They are usually held for 3 to 5 minutes or even longer to achieve a deeper stretch and stimulate the Pranas.

What Are the Limitations of Yin Yoga for Trauma?

Despite its potential benefits, there are several important limitations of Yin Yoga for trauma survivors to consider.

First, Yin Yoga is most often offered in group classes. In any yoga class, you run the risk of getting an instructor who is not trained in trauma-sensitive practices. Unless you are able to find a class specifically for trauma survivors, your needs will likely be different than those of others in the class.

If they don’t know better, your yoga instructor may use directive language, which can be triggering for trauma survivors. Trauma-informed yoga therapy relies on maintaining a survivor’s agency at all times, which is not how most yoga classes operate.

Another major potential issue for those who have experienced trauma is that Yin Yoga is based on holding poses for longer periods of time. This can also be triggering.

Some people may find that there are mental challenges to holding poses for longer periods of time or in certain positions. Survivors should have agency over their bodies at all times, repeatedly getting to make choices about their bodies to understand that they can feel safe in their bodies and have the agency to get out of anything uncomfortable that may occur. This can be at odds with the goal to stay in the same position for an extended period of time.

What Are the Benefits of Yin Yoga for Trauma?

Any style of yoga can potentially be helpful to someone who has experienced trauma, as long as it does not cause them harm or distress. There are some trauma survivors who swear by Yin Yoga.

With Yin Yoga, you have the opportunity to hold poses for longer periods of time. Slowly learning to tolerate certain sensations in your body can be helpful, and for some, Yin Yoga provides a safe place to do this. In addition, Yin Yoga often incorporates breathing exercises, which can be useful techniques for those who have experienced trauma.

At the same time, there are limitations to using Yin Yoga for trauma which make it not the right fit for every survivor. Be sure to consider the limitations of Yin Yoga for trauma survivors outlined above before practicing it.

Can You Heal Trauma Through Yoga?

As mentioned above, yoga can be an excellent avenue for releasing the stress that comes from trauma and healing your body and mind.

Studies have shown that yoga can offer relief from stress, anxiety, and depression. According to an article in the International Journal of Yoga, “The practice of yoga produces a physiological state opposite to that of the flight-or-fight stress response and with interruption in the stress response, a sense of balance and union between the mind and body can be achieved.”

In addition, a study by Dr. Bessel van der Kolk examined the effects of using gentle yoga for women with PTSD in healing classes. The women showed a 30% reduction in symptoms, and several women were no longer diagnosed as having PTSD after 10 weeks of practicing yoga.

What Type of Yoga Is Best for Trauma?

There is no single type of yoga that is universally best for treating trauma. In fact, there is no one best style of yoga for any health condition. Yoga therapy should be personalized to the client at hand whenever possible for best results.

With that said, however, I have seen the best results for trauma survivors come from holistic approaches that involve healing both body and mind. There are a variety of yoga styles that can help heal from trauma, such as yoga nidra, which has helped a number of my clients find healing and peace.

Does Yin Yoga Release Emotions?

Yin Yoga can lend itself well to physical as well as emotional release. It involves tensing, stretching, and releasing your connective tissues, which promotes mobility, flexibility, good breathing, and energy flow.

When someone is tensing their body as a result of emotional stress, anxiety, or fear, there can also be an emotional release associated with the physical release of the body or breath. Yin Yoga can help you engage and clean out several different meridians in your body, which can produce emotional release.

If negative emotions or stressful energy has been repressed, they may also become trapped deep in your connective tissues. Yin Yoga can gently release these emotions and energy, helping you to process them and heal from them. As difficult emotions arise, Yin Yoga can enable you to identify, observe, and accept them through stronger bodily awareness, deep breathing, and meditation.

However, emotional release is not the only factor to take into consideration when using yoga for trauma. Be sure to review the limitations of Yin Yoga as well.

Yin Yoga Poses for Trauma

Before using Yin Yoga for trauma, be sure to consider its limitations and determine if it’s the right style of yoga for you. For best results from any yoga practice for trauma, I recommend working with a certified yoga therapist who can use a trauma-informed approach.

In general, yoga therapy should be tailored to each individual, addressing their unique health conditions and needs. For this reason, it’s not possible to prescribe a one-size-fits-all list of yoga poses for trauma or any other condition. With trauma survivors, constantly providing the choice to do what feels right and decline what doesn’t is more important than any particular pose, reinforcing their agency in everything that they do.

That being said, there is only a limited number of Yin Yoga poses to begin with (somewhere between 16 and 26, depending on who you ask). If you want to get an idea of what Yin Yoga poses a trauma survivor might encounter, I’ve included a few common Yin Yoga poses below.

Caterpillar Pose

A person performing Caterpillar Pose, which you might encounter if you seek Yin Yoga for trauma

This pose can help stretch your spine, hamstrings, and backs of your legs. It can also stimulate your digestive system.

  1. If it feels right to you, start by sitting on your yoga mat. You may find it more comfortable to sit on a cushion or blanket for more support.
  2. If it feels right for you, stretch your legs straight out before you and lean forward from your hips, rounding your spine. You may find it more comfortable to rest your head against a cushion on your legs or use cushions or yoga blocks to support your arms.
  3. If it feels right, allow your legs and spine to relax, with your feet gently resting together or falling outward.
  4. If it feels right to you, hold this pose for 3 to 5 minutes.

Dragon Pose

A person holding Dragon Pose, one of the Yin Yoga poses for trauma you might see

There are actually a number of different variations of Dragon Pose, including Dragon Flying High, Dragon Flying Low, Winged Dragon, Overstepping Dragon, Dragon Splits, Twisted Dragon, and Fire-Breathing Dragon. All of these poses serve to help stretch and open your hips, hip flexors, and quadriceps. The general Dragon Pose, also known as Baby Dragon Pose, is the one described below.

  1. If it feels right to you, start on your hands and knees on your yoga mat, then bring your right foot forward between your hands. You may find it more comfortable to put your hands on yoga blocks rather than on the mat.
  2. If it feels right for you, keep your right knee directly above your right foot while moving your left knee back as far as you comfortably can, dropping your hips and keeping your shin flat on the floor. You may find it more comfortable to rest your left knee on a cushion or blanket.
  3. If it feels right to you, hold this pose for 3 to 5 minutes, rest for 1 minute, and then repeat on the other side.

Revolved Abdomen Pose

This pose engages the abdominal organs to promote circulation in the gut, while also improving strength and flexibility in your core muscles.

  1. If it feels right to you, start by laying on your back on your yoga mat with your knees drawn up to your chest.
  2. If it feels right for you, extend your arms straight out to the sides from your shoulders with your hands resting palms-up on the floor.
  3. If it feels right to you, pull both knees to the right as you exhale, bringing your knees toward your right elbow.
  4. If it feels right for you, breathe deeply and focus on the twist in your abdomen, pressing on your left shoulder blade and revolving your abdomen to the left as you exhale.
  5. If it feels right, hold this pose for 3 to 5 minutes, rest for 1 minute, and then repeat on the other side.

Shoelace Pose

A person demonstrating a forward fold in Shoelace Pose, a Yin Yoga pose

This pose can be great for improving flexibility in your hips. When folding forward, it can also stretch your back and help promote digestion.

  1. If it feels right to you, start by sitting on your yoga mat with your legs in front of you and your knees bent. You may find it more comfortable to sit on a cushion.
  2. If it feels right for you, slide your left foot underneath your right leg, bringing it out past your right hip.
  3. If it feels right, slide your right foot out past your left hip so your right knee is stacked on top of your left knee (or as close as you can comfortably get). You may find it more comfortable to use a cushion or blanket between your knees.
  4. If it feels right to you, you can hold the pose like this or fold forward from your hips. If you fold forward, you may find it more comfortable to rest your chest on a cushion or yoga block on top of your legs.
  5. If it feels right, hold this pose for 3 to 5 minutes, rest for 1 minute, and then repeat on the other side.

How to Get Trained in Yoga Therapy for Trauma

If you’re interested in helping others heal through yoga therapy, I would be honored to be a part of your journey. I’ve spent years practicing yoga therapy privately with clients as well as training aspiring yoga therapists. My personal mission is to make high-quality, ethical yoga therapy as widely accessible as possible, and it starts with each one of my yoga therapy students.

At Breathing Deeply, we offer programs for every level of skill and experience. If you still need to earn your initial 200-hour yoga teacher certification, a prerequisite for all yoga therapists, our program can get you certified while setting you up for success in becoming a yoga therapist, not just a yoga teacher. If you already have your prerequisites completed, you can join our 800-hour advanced yoga therapy program, which ends in yoga therapy certification.

Learn more about our yoga therapy training and apply now to get started.

Do You Need a Master’s in Yoga Therapy?

A woman sitting on a yoga mat in a library studying for a master's in yoga therapy.

Yoga therapy is a growing field, with more yoga therapist jobs and career opportunities emerging all the time. But for those who are interested in working as yoga therapists, it’s important to know what education and training you’ll need to succeed in your career. In particular, many aspiring yoga therapists are asking if they’ll need a master’s in yoga therapy.

The answer will depend on what you’d like to do with your career. When I first became a yoga therapist, most of us earned a living by running our own private practices. As time has gone on, however, I’ve seen an increase in yoga therapists working in hospital programs, addiction centers, mental health departments, chiropractors’ offices, wellness centers, and school districts. There are even a few academic positions related to yoga therapy at colleges and universities.

In most cases, it’s enough to go through a reputable yoga therapy training program and become C-IAYT certified, the highest level of yoga therapy certification. It’s also significantly less expensive. But there are a few exceptions where a Master of Science in yoga therapy would be more beneficial. Keep reading to learn what educational path is right for you.

Table of Contents:

Yoga Therapy Program Benefits

For many students, a yoga therapy training program makes the most sense for achieving their goals. As the founder and director of my own yoga therapy program, Breathing Deeply, I can speak from direct knowledge about how training such as ours often compares to a master’s in yoga therapy.

Lower Costs

Master’s programs tend to be more costly than yoga therapy programs, which can be a major factor for many students to consider.

For example, at Maryland University of Integrative Health (MUIH), there’s a Master of Science in yoga therapy that the university itself estimates would cost $36,656 in tuition alone. That’s not including their $50 application fee, $275 university fee every trimester, or $75 graduation fee.

A comparison showing how MUIH's Master of Science in yoga therapy costs $38,431 in tuition and fees compared to Breathing Deeply's program that costs $13,695 in tuition and fees.

Soul of Yoga offers a program in collaboration with the California Institute for Human Sciences in which students can earn a master’s in integral health while gaining their yoga therapy certification as well. This program comes at a similar cost of $34,184.50 in tuition.

Most yoga therapy training programs have lower overhead costs, allowing them to offer much lower prices. At Breathing Deeply, students can complete our Advanced Program and become C-IAYT certified for just $13,695 total. This includes not only tuition, but also 4 week-long online retreats, 4 week-long residential retreats (including room and board), a practicum fee, and final exam costs.

Read our blog post about the cost to become a yoga therapist to learn more.

Fewer Prerequisites and Requirements

By operating outside of the college and university system, most yoga therapy programs do not need as many prerequisites and requirements.

At Breathing Deeply, even our highest program (the Advanced Program) only requires a high school diploma or equivalent. We have no required GPA, no application fee, and no essay application requirements—just a questionnaire to help us understand your background and experience.

A comparison of the requirements for a typical Master's in yoga therapy versus Breathing Deeply's program

By contrast, master’s programs typically require a Bachelor’s degree and minimum college GPA. Many also require you to pass the GRE, a standardized test that you must pay to take. Master’s programs can have a limited number of seats available and be highly competitive, making it more important to include a compelling essay application, list of references, and relevant work experience. You may even be required to interview to secure a spot.Whether you enroll in a yoga therapy program or at a college or university for a master’s in yoga therapy, it’s important to note that you are likely to need to have completed your 200-hour yoga teacher training and have at least one year of personal practice and teaching experience.

Better Integration with Yoga Teacher Training

As mentioned in the previous section, you’re likely to be required to complete your 200-hour yoga teacher training beforehand whether you attend a yoga therapy training program or pursue a Master of Science in yoga therapy. The only difference is that a yoga therapy program may also offer a 200-hour yoga teacher training in house.

This may not seem like a major benefit at first, but most yoga teacher training programs are focused on teaching rather than yoga therapy. That’s great if you want to become a yoga teacher, but many students who want to become yoga therapists find that their 200-hour yoga teacher training is almost completely irrelevant to their goals, interests, and what they learn in a yoga therapy program.At Breathing Deeply, we’re pleased to offer a 200-hour yoga teacher training that is designed with yoga therapists in mind. Not only does it better prepare students for an education in yoga therapy, but we also allow students to seamlessly combine their yoga teacher training with our Foundations Program, which then integrates into the Advanced Program where students can become C-IAYT certified yoga therapists.

Flexibility to Work at Your Own Pace

Many yoga therapy programs allow students to work at their own pace. This gives busier students more flexibility to juggle various responsibilities, while other students can work faster to finish sooner.

At Breathing Deeply, for instance, students can complete our Advanced Program in as little as 2 years. Coursework is self-paced and lessons are available 24/7 online.

By contrast, most master’s programs operate on strict semester schedules. Full-time graduate students usually need 2 or 3 years to complete a degree, but may take longer if they experience scheduling issues in a semester or need to retake a class.

Jobs in Public Centers and Private Practice

The vast majority of yoga therapy jobs available today do not require a Master of Science in yoga therapy. More often, you’ll need to have completed yoga therapy or yoga teacher training, become certified, and gotten relevant work experience.

I’ve seen my own students go on to get jobs as yoga therapists at hospital programs (such as cancer centers or in the V.A.), addiction centers, mental health departments, chiropractors’ offices, wellness centers, and school districts. Of course, you can always open your own private practice as well.

The one career where a master’s in yoga therapy is necessary is in academia. Most college professors must have a PhD in their field (or a master’s degree if it is considered a terminal degree, meaning that their field typically does not offer anything higher than a master’s degree).

Master’s in Yoga Therapy Benefits

Although many yoga therapists don’t need to earn a Master of Science in yoga therapy, there are several benefits to this educational path that students should consider. Depending on your career goals, a master’s in yoga therapy may actually be necessary.

Jobs in Academia or Research

As mentioned above, if your ambition is to become a college professor in yoga therapy, then you will need a graduate degree. While most college professors need a PhD, fields that do not have many or any PhD programs are usually satisfied with a master’s degree.

Currently, there are limited options for earning a Master of Science in yoga therapy, which means you likely won’t need a PhD for some time to come in order to teach yoga therapy in college. At the same time, this means that there are very few positions available for professors of yoga therapy.

For those who are interested in the research side of yoga therapy, however, a master’s program may offer more academic research opportunities and support. For instance, Loyola Marymount University (LMU) offers graduate yoga therapy studies where one of the learning objectives is for students to be able to objectively assess research in the field of yoga and be able to present research findings at academic conferences. This skillset is unlikely to receive as much focus in a yoga therapy training program outside of the university setting.

Better Integration with Other Graduate Programs

For students hoping to earn other graduate degrees, a master’s in yoga therapy might better integrate with their educational goals. In order to become a licensed healthcare provider, for example, you’ll likely need to go to medical school.

It may be easier to transition into another graduate program at the same institution where you receive your master’s in yoga therapy. There may even be options to combine both degrees, or you might be able to earn your graduate degree in the medical field of your choice and simply add on a post-master’s certificate in yoga therapy.

That being said, you can also always go to medical school and then simply complete a yoga therapy training program. If you do not need a full academic degree in yoga therapy, this may be a faster and less expensive way to get the additional training you’d like to supplement your medical degree.

More Mentorship Opportunities in Conventional Healthcare Settings

Depending on the program, students may have more access to mentored clinical experiences in conventional healthcare settings on or off campus through a master’s program. While many yoga therapy programs still offer significant clinical experiences, a master’s program may have more connections to healthcare centers within the university or local community.

Students who pursue a Master of Science in yoga therapy at Maryland University of Integrative Health (MUIH), for example, have access to mentored clinical experiences in MUIH’s Natural Care Center. If there are specific clinical experiences or working relationships that are critical to your career goals, you may want to look for master’s programs or yoga therapy training programs that can provide the access you want while in school.

Access to Student Loans

Student loans are commonplace at colleges and universities, while other yoga therapy training programs may lack the infrastructure and resources to offer such loans. However, yoga therapy training programs tend to cost significantly less, which can lessen the need for student loans.

Such programs outside of academia may also offer flexible payment options to help address this need. This is why it’s important to do your research on financing options whether you’re looking at graduate programs or yoga therapy training programs.

Frequently Asked Questions

Have more questions about yoga therapy education and training? Check our frequently asked questions below for guidance.

What Is the Difference Between a Yoga Teacher and a Yoga Therapist?

A yoga teacher teaches yoga to others. While many yoga teachers offer group classes, you can also offer private, one-on-one yoga sessions. Yoga teachers often use a particular style of yoga, such as Ashtanga yoga or hot yoga. In their classes, yoga teachers usually instruct students how to perform different asanas (poses), but they may also use pranayamas (breathing techniques), meditation, chanting, or yogic philosophies.

By contrast, a yoga therapist uses yoga to help treat specific health conditions, whether physical or mental. More often, yoga therapists work with clients one-on-one rather than in groups to provide individualized care. Yoga therapists must have a stronger understanding of health issues and complete more training in order to become certified.

Read our blog post on the differences between a yoga teacher and a yoga therapist to learn more.

What Is Yoga Therapy Used For?

Yoga therapy is used to apply yoga techniques to physical and mental health conditions. These can include everything from back pain to anxiety, depression, trauma and PTSD, chronic pain, arthritis, autoimmune diseases, rehab and healing, and more. The goal of yoga therapy is to help clients heal, and it can be used on its own or as part of a holistic health and wellness treatment plan.

What Is the Highest Degree in Yoga?

The highest academic degree in yoga is a PhD. There are several options to earn a PhD in yoga abroad, and Vivekananda Yoga University (VaYU) started the first PhD program for yoga in North America in November 2022. Given the scarcity of PhD programs, however, many may consider a master’s in yoga therapy or yoga studies to be a terminal degree.

The highest level of yoga therapy certification in the world is C-IAYT, or certification through the International Association of Yoga Therapists.

Apply for Yoga Therapy Training Today

If a yoga therapy training program is the right choice for you, I’d like to humbly offer Breathing Deeply’s programs for your consideration. We take pride in providing practical, ethical training for yoga therapists so more people will have access to quality yoga therapy.

For those who are just starting their journey, we have a 200-hour yoga teacher training program that can be combined with our Foundations program to get you started. Once you have completed this training or if you come to us with previous experience to meet these prerequisites, you can move on to our Advanced program and become a certified yoga therapist.

Learn more about our yoga therapy programs or get in touch by applying today.

Does Insurance Cover Yoga Therapy?

Women practicing yoga in a group session. Before attending, many have to ask, does insurance cover yoga therapy?
Women practicing yoga in a group session. Before attending, many have to ask, does insurance cover yoga therapy?

Yoga therapy allows those who are suffering from certain health conditions to find relief when other medical interventions fail or are less desirable. But for most who consider it, they must ask themselves a pressing question: “Does insurance cover yoga therapy?” In most cases, insurance either does not cover yoga therapy or only covers it under very specific circumstances.

As more and more people learn about yoga therapy and seek it out, I hope to see this change! That’s why I believe that it’s always worth consulting your specific insurance plan to see what’s covered and checking back for any new developments. Yoga therapists can also account for these challenges by making sure they are well-versed in seeking reimbursement from different insurance companies, working clinic days with shorter appointments at a discounted price, offering online yoga therapy options to reduce overhead, or providing payment plans or sliding scale fees with more flexibility.

Keep reading to learn more about when insurance might cover yoga therapy, what clients should do if insurance won’t cover yoga therapy, and more.

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What Should You Do if Insurance Does Not Cover Yoga Therapy?

If your insurance doesn’t cover yoga therapy, you’re in the same situation as the majority of clients who seek yoga to treat a health condition. If the cost of yoga therapy is a concern, there are options available that can help.

  • Ask about sliding scale fees, payment plans, or discounted appointments. In order to make yoga therapy more accessible to a wider range of clients, some yoga therapists offer sliding scale fees, payment plans, or discounted appointment options. Ask any yoga therapist you’re interested in if they offer any more flexible options such as these.

  • Look for lower-cost clinics. Aware of the fact that yoga therapy may be cost-prohibitive to certain clientele, some yoga therapists work at clinics that can offer shorter sessions at lower rates. Similarly, some yoga therapists will set aside specific clinic days to serve clientele at lower rates with shorter appointments for part of the week.

  • Consider online options. Another way to lower costs is to provide yoga therapy online to reduce overhead, especially with pre-recorded sessions that focus on a particular health condition. At Breathing Deeply, we offer one-on-one yoga therapy sessions live over Zoom with myself and qualified, certified graduates from our yoga therapy program. Learn more and submit your information today.

What Programs Cover Yoga Therapy?

To date, I am only aware of a single program that is breaking ground by offering yoga therapy that can be covered by insurance. As the yoga therapy industry continues growing and working toward more widespread acceptance, I hope to see even more programs like these.

The Ornish Reversal Program at Saline Heart Group offers an Ornish Lifestyle Medicine™ Program for cardiac rehabilitation. There is a certified Yoga Therapist on staff, along with a Medical Director, Program Director, Exercise Physiologist, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, Registered Nurse, Group Support Specialist, and Administrative Assistant. Together, they provide 18 sessions over 9 weeks to help prevent or reverse heart disease, diabetes, and many other chronic illnesses. According to Saline Heart Group, most health insurances will provide coverage for the program.

Does UnitedHealthcare/UnitedHealth Group Insurance Cover Yoga Therapy?

In most circumstances, it does not appear that UnitedHealthcare plans cover yoga therapy. Your best bet is to call the phone number on your health plan ID card to see what is included in your plan. If you’re eligible for UnitedHealthcare’s Sweat Equity Program, you may be able to seek reimbursement for yoga therapy.

Your UnitedHealthcare benefits can differ based on your location or plan, so you’ll need to determine your personal eligibility. In Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, and Washington, for example, yoga is included in the list of complementary and alternative medicine services that are not covered, along with meditation, tai chi, Pilates, and more. California also does not cover yoga, massage therapy (unless it is part of an authorized physical therapy treatment plan), meditation, Pilates, tai chi, and more.

One possible workaround is UnitedHealthcare’s Sweat Equity Program, a physical fitness reimbursement program. To qualify, you must have an active membership in an eligible insurance plan and attend eligible fitness facilities or classes a total of 50 times in a 6-month period. If you meet these requirements, you could receive up to $200 in reimbursement.

Yoga is listed among the examples of qualifying fitness centers and classes for the Sweat Equity Program. If you receive yoga therapy through an approved facility or class, you may be eligible for reimbursement through the program.

Does Anthem/Blue Cross Blue Shield Insurance Cover Yoga Therapy?

As with many other major insurance companies, it can be difficult to get any type of yoga covered by Blue Cross Blue Shield. But this insurance may cover yoga therapy under the right circumstances.

The best way to determine your coverage is to speak to a BCBS representative by calling the number on your insurance card. Coverage can differ based on your plan or location, so you’ll need to determine what you’re eligible for and what you aren’t.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois (BCBSIL) offers the BlueExtrasSM Complementary Alternative Medicine (CAM) Discount Program, for instance. This program covers up to 30% of standard fees for eligible participating practitioners, spas, and wellness and fitness centers.

Meanwhile, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts offers a Living Healthy Naturally® program. This covers up to 30% of standard fees at in-network alternative health practitioners in 10 different disciplines across all 50 states. The 10 disciplines are:

  • Yoga

  • Massage therapy

  • Acupuncture

  • Pilates

  • Tai chi

  • Qi (chi) gong

  • Personal training

  • Nutrition counseling

  • Naturopathic medicine

  • Mind/body therapies

Some Blue Cross Blue Shield members may also have access to the Blue 365 Program, which offers up to 30% discounted from holistic and wellness offerings, such as

  • Yoga

  • Massage therapy

  • Acupuncture

  • Pilates

  • Tai Chi

  • Personal training

  • Nutrition counseling

  • Mind/body therapies

The Blue 365 Program offers discounts on eligible health and fitness memberships, programs, classes, equipment, and sportswear. To see if you are eligible, you should consult your BCBS plan or call the number on your insurance card.

Does Aetna/CVS Health Insurance Cover Yoga Therapy?

At this time, Aetna does not offer yoga therapy among its eligible complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) services. However, you may be able to get certain yoga products and services at a discount through the Aetna Natural Products and Services Program.

Aetna has approved acupuncture, biofeedback, chelation therapy, chiropractic services, and electrical stimulation as alternative medicine interventions that are eligible for properly selected members with applicable benefit plans. Yoga is among the list of alternative medicine interventions that are still considered investigational and experimental by Aetna.

Anyone who has an Aetna health insurance plan or health benefits has access to the Aetna Natural Products and Services Program for free, however. Most other major health insurance companies have a similar program, but it is not often available to all members for free.

Aetna’s program provides discounts on complementary health care services and natural products offered by American Specialty Health Networks, Inc. These include:

  • Massage therapy

  • Acupuncture

  • Chiropractic care

  • Aromatherapy

  • Dietetic counseling

  • Over-the-counter vitamins

  • Nutritional and herbal supplements

  • Yoga equipment

It’s unclear whether any yoga programs would be eligible under the program. As with other insurance providers, the best way to confirm whether you can receive any coverage for yoga therapy is by checking your healthcare plan or by calling the number on your insurance card.

Does Cigna Insurance Cover Yoga Therapy?

Cigna does not currently cover any yoga services under the umbrella of exercise or movement therapy or under mental health and substance use disorder services. However, complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) services such as yoga could be eligible for coverage if they are included in approved rehabilitative or habilitative therapy treatments.

Given these restrictions, it is unlikely that you will receive coverage for yoga therapy with Cigna insurance plans. Cigna’s Healthy Rewards® Program, available to medical, behavioral, and dental plan members in select states offers alternative health and wellness products and services at discounts up to 25%. However, at this time, only yoga products such as mats, gear, and online classes are included.

As with other healthcare providers, the best way to check your coverage is by looking at your specific plan or calling the number on your insurance card to ask.

Does Humana Insurance Cover Yoga Therapy?

It does not appear that Humana insurance covers yoga therapy. However, Humana’s Special Discounts Program can provide savings on select complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) providers and services.

According to Humana, the Special Discounts Program offers discounts up to 30% and access to over 35,000 licensed practitioners across over 35 CAM specialty areas, such as acupuncture, massage therapy, chiropractic care, and nutrition services. These providers and services are available through WholeHealth Living Choices® (WHL Choices) by Tivity Health.

Humana’s Special Discounts Program may not be available in every state. To confirm whether you are eligible for yoga therapy coverage through your insurance or the Special Discounts Program, review your plan or call the customer number on the back of your member ID card.

Does Medicare Cover Yoga Therapy?

It is highly unlikely that Medicare will cover yoga therapy. Even massage therapy, which could fall under a similar category as yoga therapy, is only very rarely covered by Medicare.

There is a lot that is currently not covered by Medicare, including such staples as routine dental and vision care. I would expect to see more sought after benefits covered before yoga therapy.

The fastest way to determine if a yoga therapist’s services will be covered by Medicare is to ask that therapist or the facility they work for if they accept Medicare as a billing option. If you find a therapist or facility that is contracted with a carrier of an Advantage Plan, you can contact that carrier directly to see if you have any coverage options.

Other options include trying to get yoga therapy prescribed as physical therapy through a physical therapy facility, which Medicare may partially cover. Medicare Advantage plans or Medigap supplement policies may include gym or fitness center membership within their benefits, although Original Medicare Part A and Part B do not. If you could apply that coverage to a gym or fitness studio that offers yoga therapy, you may be able to get it covered.

Speaking to a Medicare agent, however, he said he would be surprised to see yoga therapy covered by Medicare.

Does Medicaid Cover Yoga Therapy?

As with Medicare, it is unlikely that Medicaid will cover yoga therapy. However, there are some circumstances to look for if you’re hoping to make a case for Medicaid to cover your yoga therapy.

According to “Medicaid Reimbursement for Alternative Therapies,” a study in Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, “A growing number of complementary and alternative therapies are eligible for reimbursement by third party payers in the United States. . . . Of the 46 states participating in the study, 36 Medicaid programs (78.3%) provide coverage for at least 1 alternative therapy. The most commonly reimbursed therapies are chiropractic by 33 programs (71.7%), biofeedback by 10 programs (21.7%), acupuncture by 7 programs (15.2%), and hypnotherapy and naturopathy by 5 programs each (10.8%). Many Medicaid programs are paying for the use of CAM [complementary and alternative medicine].”

While yoga therapy is not listed among the most common complementary and alternative medicine therapies that were reported as being reimbursed by Medicaid programs, it is possible that it will become covered as yoga therapy grows in popularity and usage. The article also notes that it did not research awareness among Medicaid recipients about these opportunities, so it is possible that coverage may be available but it is not being utilized.

If your state has allowed yoga therapy to be considered a treatment for pain management or behavioral health with Medicaid, then you may be able to request reimbursement. You may also want to check to see if yoga in general is considered an acceptable treatment. If so, you may be able to apply Medicaid coverage to yoga therapy if it is provided through certain yoga classes as part of an in-patient treatment at a behavioral health facility, for example.

The best way to check if Medicaid covers yoga therapy in your plan is to contact your provider directly. Medicaid policies can differ from state to state and provider to provider, so it’s important to determine your specific options and eligibility.

Does the Affordable Care Act Cover Yoga Therapy?

Yoga does not fall under the 10 essential health benefits that all plans offered in the Marketplace are required to cover under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). However, different states and different plans may offer other services and additional benefits.

There are several parts of the ACA that may be relevant to complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). The ACA prevents health insurance companies from discriminating against healthcare providers when it comes to their coverage or participation in healthcare plans, which could include CAM providers. The law also discusses creating community health teams, which could include chiropractors and other licensed CAM practitioners, for patient-centered care.

CAM coverage differs from state to state and plan to plan, so the best way to see what will be covered under the ACA is to compare specific Marketplace plans and their offerings in your state. If it is unclear whether a plan will cover yoga therapy, you can call the plan to ask if it is covered.

Does a Health Savings Account (HSA), Health Reimbursement Arrangement (HRA), or Flexible Spending Arrangement (FSA) Cover Yoga Therapy?

If you have a Health Savings Account (HSA), Health Reimbursement Arrangement (HRA), or Flexible Spending Arrangement (FSA), you may be able to cover yoga therapy under specific circumstances. If your doctor produces a letter of medical necessity (LMN) and prescribes yoga to treat a specific medical condition, then you may be able to receive coverage. By contrast, you will not be covered by an HSA, HRA, or FSA if you are practicing yoga because your doctor said you should get more exercise in general.

To ensure that you are eligible, you should review your specific HSA, HRA, or FSA plan or call your plan to consult a representative about your coverage.

Do Accident Settlements or No Fault Insurance Cover Yoga Therapy?

In some situations, accident settlements and no fault insurance cover yoga therapy. However, not every state requires no fault insurance, and the details for these plans and any settlements will differ.

Getting coverage for yoga therapy will depend on the terms of an accident settlement or the coverage included in a particular no fault insurance plan. Research the specifics of your situation in order to determine your eligibility or speak to a professional.

Get Started with Yoga Therapy

I founded Breathing Deeply to help make yoga therapy accessible to as many people as possible. For us, that means training new yoga therapists first and foremost, but also helping clients in diverse populations.

We offer yoga therapy training for students at every level of yoga expertise. Whether you’re just starting out or you’ve already completed your 200-hour yoga teacher training certificate and you’re ready for advanced training, I’m excited to help you become a certified yoga therapist. Learn more about our yoga therapy training courses and apply to one of our programs today.

To help bring quality yoga therapy to more people, I’m also offering private yoga therapy sessions online with myself and other hand-picked graduates from our yoga therapy program. If you cannot find a yoga therapist covered by insurance or prefer to work from the comfort of your home, check out these private sessions to see if we can help.

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