For Healthcare Providers
Yoga therapy aligns with a biopsychosocial-spiritual approach to wellness and is increasingly included in university and continuing education curricula for healthcare providers.
Many practicing yoga therapists also hold licenses in other health fields. Yoga therapy can complement physical, occupational, and massage therapy; psychotherapy; and more. Although they do not diagnose or treat diseases unless they are otherwise licensed to do so, IAYT-certified yoga therapists are trained in anatomy, physiology, and mental health; this allows them to interact with clients’ other healthcare professionals effectively and to competently suggest referrals when needed.
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A growing number of healthcare systems integrate yoga therapy in a variety of ways. As Dr. Wayne Jonas, integrative family physician and former president and CEO of the Samueli Institute, notes, “Some of the best medical centers in the country now offer yoga therapy, including the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, and the Mayo and Cleveland Clinics.“
Here are a few examples:
- University of Maryland. The Center for Integrative Medicine offers services such as integrative yoga psychotherapy.
- Cleveland Clinic. Gentle yoga sessions are designed so everyone can participate, regardless of age, physical ability, or experience level.
- CHI Health Care. Group and individual yoga therapy is used as part of clinical care for specific health conditions including type 2 diabetes, anxiety and stress, insomnia, chronic pain, headaches, and more.
- MD Anderson Cancer Center. Group yoga, mindfulness, and meditation support all areas of health—mind, body, and spirit. Classes and are free and open to patients, family members, and caregivers.
- Maryland Proton Treatment Center. Wellness services, including yoga therapy, are aimed at reducing symptoms or improving quality of life for cancer patients.
- Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Small-group classes and workshops in mind-body therapies support patients and others, including survivors and community members, in cultivating personal stress-management practices.
- Mayo Clinic Health System. Several locations offer both individual yoga therapy sessions and ongoing small-group classes.
- Albert Einstein College of Medicine is incorporating complementary healthcare, including yoga therapy, into programs for both patients and medical students.
Yoga therapy and yoga are being included in education for healthcare providers themselves:
- Emory University physical therapy program
- Southern California University of Health Sciences chiropractic, acupuncture, and physician assistant programs
- University of Maryland trainings for medical students and other healthcare providers
- Maryland University of Integrative Health master of science in yoga therapy
- Duke University integrative yoga for seniors professional training
Yogic practices are ideally suited to support healthcare providers and prevent burnout. However, as experienced yoga therapist Carol Krucoff notes in a summary of a study on work-related injuries in plastic surgeons, “Yoga is not a matter of ‘take this pose and call me in the morning.'” The greatest benefits of yoga therapy arguably come from a consistent, integrated practice that includes elements that address all the levels of one’s physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual environment.
“Yoga is strong medicine but it is slow medicine. Don’t expect overnight cures with yoga (though for many people it does start to yield benefits right away). One major difference between yoga and many other approaches to healing is that yoga builds on itself, becoming more effective over time. This is not true of most drugs or surgery, which often gradually diminish in effectiveness. In this sense yoga is something like learning to play a musical instrument: the longer you stick with it and the more you practice, the better you get and the more you will get out of it.”
—Timothy McCall, MD, C-IAYT, Yoga as Medicine
Head to our blog for a brief history of contemporary yoga therapy that includes a few key reasons the practice reaches well beyond simple prescriptive approaches. We’ve also got a note about the potential cost savings of integrating such care into hospital settings.