As you seek to turn your passion for yoga into your profession, you may have questions about becoming a yoga teacher, such as, “What’s the difference between a yoga therapist vs. a yoga instructor?” and “What training is required for each position?”. Luckily, you’ve come to the right place. We’ll break down the difference between a yoga therapist vs. a yoga teacher and what requirements you’ll need to complete for both in this article.
Let’s start with a yoga teacher. As a yoga teacher, you’ll be tasked with teaching yoga which is often taught within a certain system. Ashtanga, Bikram, Sivananda, as examples, all have their ways of training yogis to teach. In the western context, yoga teachers are often trained to teach yoga classes that are primarily a physical practice. These sessions have labels like “vinyasa” “Hatha” “restorative” “yin”, etc.
A well-trained and skilled yoga teacher can lead groups in a class setting, helping students learn whatever style or system they are sharing. Yoga classes have a therapeutic effect for many. In addition, a very experienced and skilled yoga teacher can educate students in all aspects of yoga, helping them progress on a spiritual level. This is mentioned because even an enlightened teacher is technically a yoga teacher as opposed to a yoga therapist.
On average, a yoga teacher will make $30/hour. Many yoga teachers can also set their own schedules, giving plenty of flexibility to those in this role.
As a yoga therapist, on the other hand, you’ll be tasked with applying yoga techniques to specific health conditions. A yoga therapist, therefore, must be trained in both the techniques (asana, pranayama, chanting, philosophy or point of view, and meditation) and the therapeutic applications of these techniques.
A yoga therapist — like anyone in the health field — must have knowledge of the conditions they are working with, including anatomy and physiology. Yoga therapists are trained to look at health conditions through a yoga therapy lens, as well as assess from a western medicine perspective. From there, they use yoga therapy as a way to improve the well-being of their clients.
In the U.S., yoga therapists make an average of $136/hour. Similarly, you’ll have flexibility to work as you would like, helping clients heal and maintain high-quality health.
Now that we’ve defined these roles, we’ll discuss the required training for a yoga therapist vs. a yoga teacher.
Although yoga teachers and yoga therapists are usually lifelong learners, the training entry point for yoga therapists is much higher. The IAYT (International Association of Yoga Therapists) has set standards that have a minimum training time of 800 hours. This is in addition to the prerequisite of a 200-hour YTT (yoga teacher training). Also, yoga therapy schools are tasked with graduating competent yoga therapists with a proven ability to work with medical conditions in a safe, effective way.
Since yoga therapists are always yoga teachers it is easy to see why the public can get easily confused. Yoga therapists often play both roles — teaching interested students yoga and working individually with clients that have health challenges. Most essential is that those with physical or mental health issues looking to yoga for help consult with a yoga therapist as opposed to a yoga teacher.
Individualized education from a yoga therapist will have much better outcomes and minimize the chance of an untrained yoga teacher inflicting harm due to a lack of knowledge and education.
At Breathing Deeply Yoga Therapy, we pride ourselves on providing high-quality yoga therapy education with continuing support for yoga therapists. We are confident that our students and in turn, graduates are educated in a way that promotes positive client outcomes and integrity in this rapidly growing field.
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