top of page

Yoga Therapy and Pain

Holistic Health Therapies - Featured business in The Alternative Pain Treatment News! (March 22, 2022 article below)


What is Yoga Therapy?

According to the International Association of Yoga Therapists, yoga therapy is the process of empowering individuals to progress toward improved health and well-being through the application of the teachings and practices of Yoga.

Yoga Therapists use the Koshic System of anatomy which views the human body as made up of five distinct bodies (Koshas)—the physical, subtle, mental, higher intellect, and bliss--and look at all five bodies when assessing patients.

What are some conditions that Yoga Therapy can help with?

  • chronic pain

  • injury-related pain

  • autoimmune diseases

  • arthritis

  • multiple sclerosis

  • heart conditions

  • depression

  • anxiety

  • chronic fatigue

  • post-traumatic stress

  • addiction

  • asthma

  • diabetes

  • hypertension

  • side effects of chemotherapy

  • addiction

Is Yoga Therapy some type of new fad?

Absolutely not! It’s been around since the 1920’s when yoga guru, scholar, and national freedom fighter Swami Kuvalayananda (1883-1996) began studying and researching yoga therapy. Much of his research took place at Kaivalyadhama Health and Yoga Research Center. Founded in 1924, it is the first yoga institute to proactively conduct scientific research for demonstrating the benefits and uses of yoga. Today, the institute has locations in India, France, and the United States.

When were the therapeutic benefits of Yoga Therapy recognized in the United States?

That was a slow process that began in 1990 thanks to physician Dr. Dean Ornish, president and founder of the nonprofit Preventive Medicine Research Institute and a Clinical Professor of Medicine at University of California, San Francisco. Life magazine named Ornish one of the 50 most influential members of his generation.

Ornish conducted a study that indicated implementing a healthy lifestyle—one that included therapeutic yoga—could reverse heart disease. His groundbreaking study, Can lifestyle changes reverse coronary heart disease?, appeared in the July 1990 issue of The Lancet, a peer-reviewed medical journal.

In a 2007 interview with Yoga Journal, Ornish said that the idea of incorporating yoga therapy into a clinical study was considered outlandish at the time.

“When I first began conducting research 23 years ago, we had to refer to yoga as ‘stress management techniques.’ The cardiologists said, ‘We can’t refer to a study that includes yoga—what are we going to tell patients, that we’re referring them to a swami?’ Since then, yoga has achieved much greater acceptance within American medicine as well as in the general population. I am very encouraged by the current state of yoga in America.”

Have there been more clinical studies?

Clinical studies have been limited, and Dr. Timothy McCall, MD, a board-certified physician specializing in internal medicine, explains why. He is a certified yoga therapist and the founder of Yoga As Medicine Seminars and Teacher Trainings.

In an interview with the International Journal of Yoga Therapy, McCall said there are several reasons, cost being just one of them.

“The complexity of Yoga makes it a challenge to investigate it using the usual tools of randomized controlled studies. Yoga involves hundreds of different tools that can be combined, modified, and taught in an essentially infinite number of ways, and the patterns of practices may change over time. Yoga therapy has more variables than reductionist science can ever sort out.”

Can any yoga teacher teach Yoga Therapy?

Definitely not. Becoming a Certified Yoga Therapist (C-IAYT) entails rigorous training which includes:

  • Completing the 200 hours needed to become a yoga instructor

  • Completing 800 hours of yoga therapy training

  • Completing a minimum of 100 clinical hours working with patients

  • Meeting continuing education requirements

To learn more about Yoga Therapy, we interviewed Certified Yoga Therapist Janet Weaver, owner of Holistic Health Therapies in Mill Valley California. She is also a Licensed Massage Therapist, a diet and lifestyle educator, a yoga and meditation instructor, and a Reiki Master teacher.

Q: Can you tell us more about yourself?

A: I am a holistic wellness practitioner who has been in practice for over 15 years. I specialize in treating musculoskeletal injuries and acute and chronic musculoskeletal pain and imbalances. I use manual therapies, yoga therapies and diet and lifestyle interventions to support the health and wellbeing of my clients. I often combine these techniques when working with clients as their health goals change. I have also been a student and practitioner of yoga for 22 years.

Q: Why did you decide to become a Yoga Therapist?

A: As a practicing healer, it was one way that I learned to progress a client on their healing journey. I had been a student of Yoga, living in Ashrams and emersed in yogic teachings. I wanted to learn why and how yoga healed, and that is why I chose that path.

Q: Do all Yoga Therapists offer the same type of program?

A: There are a variety of pathways in the Yoga Therapy world, and people have different specialties. They tend to specialize according to what their additional training is. My training is in manual massage therapy, so my focus is on structural yoga therapy which focuses on musculoskeletal issues. There are other yoga therapy programs that specialize in mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. My program touches on that, but there are ways to focus on that much more deeply.

Q: Do you work with pain patients?

A: The most common problem that my clients come to me with is some sort of pain or minor injury or during injury recovery. There are a variety of reasons for pain, and there are many layers to it. Once the need for additional medical attention is ruled out, I can help design a treatment plan. interventions may include manual therapies, strengthening and stretching and the design of a helpful home practice or lifestyle and dietary interventions. Sometimes I help to address posture or ergonomics or lifestyle and diet patterns that may be causing imbalance. Chronic Pain can be related to diet and lifestyle patterns as well as mental emotional stressors. I work to help people during different stages of their recovery.

Q: How is Yoga Therapy beneficial to those who are recovering from surgery?

A: A body is wrecked after a major procedure like surgery or an accident. During the early stages swelling may be present while tissue is healing. Eventually compensation patterns may form, there may be muscle weakness and also adhesions which can create misalignments, discomfort and tension in neighboring muscle groups. I help them during that long slow process or healing and help fill in the gaps of their primary health providers who cant always take the time to address the whole person nor all their needs. My interest is in helping client achieve a fuller life, help to address underlying patterns that may include mental, emotional or lifestyle habits and do my best to help them recover more fully.

Q: Do you work with virtual clients?

A: Yes, I do. Yoga Therapy isn’t designed to be hands on. I do it in a way that’s hand on because that part of my business, but I also offer Yoga Therapy 1 on1 via zoom. I also teach a Therapeutic Yoga Class via zoom. (An initial assessment is needed to attend my Therapeutic Class). I enjoy applying the assessment lens that Yoga Therapy offers to help understand a client’s condition and then to help develop a helpful practice or program for them. I also conduct diet and lifestyle consultations via zoom and in person.

My web site contains more information regarding the services I offer, and I would encourage anyone with questions to reach out to me.

Christine Graf is a freelance writer who lives in Ballston Lake, New York. She is a regular contributor to several publications and has written extensively about health, mental health, and entrepreneurship. Some edits to reflect accuracy have been made to this article since its original publishing. Link to original article:

46 views0 comments


bottom of page