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

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.

Info Session

Brandt talks about common questions applicants have about the Breathing Deeply Yoga Therapy Program. Tune in to get the full program details.