Yoga Therapy: A Follow-Up
April 18, 2016
Since Yoga Alliance Registry launched its official Policy on the Use of Yoga Therapy Terms, we’ve heard a lot of feedback from the community. We’re pleased that many members of the yoga community support the policy and understand that it was the right decision based on our responsibility to serve the public interest and reduce any confusion about what our credentials cover.
As expected, there were a lot of questions about the policy. After talking with the community for several weeks, we’ve compiled the most frequent questions we received and provided the answers below.
1. I am a legitimate ______ therapist with other credentials, a degree and/or a license. I should be able to promote that other credential in my bio on my RYT profile; why won’t the system let me?
We’re continuing to refine our system’s programming to ensure that specific credentials and titles (particularly licensed professions, such as occupational therapist, psychotherapist, massage therapist, etc.) can be used on the profile page.
One exception to this, of course, is “yoga therapist.” We cannot allow this term on the profile page because of the inherent potential for public confusion as to whether the Registry credential qualifies a registrant to work as a yoga therapist. Many fields that use the terms “therapy” do not involve the same potential for confusion. Those fields may be clearly distinct from yoga practice, like aromatherapy, or they may require a license, like physical therapy.
While we recognize that some teachers may rely on other credentials to call themselves a yoga therapist, we do not allow the term on our RYTs’ Registry profiles. Of course, yoga therapists may still market themselves as a yoga therapist on their external websites with the required Registry credential disclaimer. If we allowed registrants to use their Registry profile as a platform for marketing their yoga therapy practice, it could appear to the public as a Registry endorsement of those claims. Registered Yoga Teacher designations have nothing to do with yoga therapy.
Some have pointed out that some Registered Yoga Schools may use yoga therapy terms on their Registry profiles with a disclaimer. This is only true for schools that have “yoga therapy” or “yoga therapist” as part of their legal name. We require that any RYS use their legal name in their profile. Rather than asking our schools to change their legal names (which we’d never want to do), we determined that a disclaimer was our best option for this small set of cases.
We encourage teachers who have a yoga therapy credential from a different organization to link their RYT profiles to their personal websites or social media pages. They can explain their other credentials on those external pages, using the Yoga Alliance Registry disclaimer if they also mention their RYT credential.
2. Why can’t I use the name of my school/training/place of work/works that I have authored in my teacher bio?
The primary purpose of Yoga Alliance Registry profile page is to provide the public with an easy source of information about teacher training programs from RYSs and about yoga instruction offered by RYTs. Some registrants like to include additional information in their profile pages that does not have a direct bearing on the services they offer as a RYT or RYS. In some cases, the Policy on Use of Yoga Therapy Terms restricts the terms used to describe this information. If there is information about yourself or your background that contains restricted terms, you can invite readers of your profile to learn more about you and your credentials by linking to an external website.
Additionally, our system’s programming is still being refined to ensure that some specific credentials and titles (like occupational therapist, physical therapist, massage therapist, etc.) can be used. This is also true for some institutions that award credentials or that employ our registrants but have names that use restricted terms.
If you would like to request that your credential, school’s name, or employer’s name be allowed by the system, please submit your request in writing to email@example.com. If approved, our development team will begin to implement this exception in our system. There is no guarantee that your request will be approved, but we will try our best to make sure that we can help our registrants showcase their other credentials that are unrelated to yoga therapy.
3. How are you working with IAYT on this policy?
The International Association for Yoga Therapists (IAYT) and Yoga Alliance Registry are separate, unrelated organizations with different missions. We know that IAYT is working hard to create clarity around its definition and scope of practice for yoga therapy. For example, IAYT has recently issued a new, non-binding Scope of Practice guidance document that recommends that IAYT certified yoga therapists avoid diagnosing or treating any health conditions. IAYT also recommends that all yoga therapists provide their clients written information about the yoga therapist’s qualifications (a recommendation that is similar to Yoga Alliance Registry’s disclaimer requirement). There are also other organizations, such as the Professional Yoga Therapy Institute (PYTI), that have defined medical therapeutic yoga and have yoga therapy accreditation programs. Because we do not set yoga therapy standards, we did not think it would be appropriate to invite yoga therapy organizations to influence our policies – just as we do not tell IAYT or PYTI what policies they should or should not adopt. We have not taken a position on whether or not these organizations’ models are good or bad, as that is not for us to decide.
4. My teacher training has several modules that are focused on teaching yoga to people with [medical condition or disease] safely and effectively. Based on your new policy, this won’t count toward my RYS’s training hours, right?
Actually, a training module that educates its trainees in how to teach yoga to someone with a medical condition without hurting them is not restricted under our new policy. Teaching about contraindications when instructing students with disabilities or medical conditions falls within the Registry’s educational categories. We encourage RYSs to teach their trainees how to safely conduct a yoga class with these populations. Those hours would count towards an RYS’s training hours. In contrast, modules that focus on treating symptoms or diagnosing medical conditions do not fall within the Registry’s Standards and would not count towards the minimum training hours.
Here are some examples of things that our Credentialing team would/wouldn’t consider yoga therapy:
Considered Yoga Therapy; Would Not Count Towards the RYS Standards
- Teaching trainees how to treat a disease, medical condition, or symptom through yoga
- Teaching trainees how to heal or cure someone’s specific medical condition with yoga
Not Considered Yoga Therapy; Would Count Towards the RYS Standards
- Showing trainees how to teach yoga to someone with a specific medical condition, disability, or other limitation
- Contraindications for certain poses or positions
- Alternative or modified postures for populations with medical conditions or disabilities
If your training contains content that would not count toward the RYS Standards, these sections of your training would be considered “Supplemental Content.” Simply put, this means that it does not fall under one of our Educational Categories. Therefore, you would need to ensure any missing Contact or Non-Contact Hours are met in the educational categories that lack the minimum training hours. You may list Supplemental Content in your syllabus, but any yoga therapy-related class descriptions must include a disclaimer. This disclaimer would describe the non-Registry source of your qualifications to teach that content.
5. Why didn’t Yoga Alliance consult its members before making this decision?
Our Policy on the Use of Yoga Therapy Terms was adopted by Yoga Alliance Registry, our nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization that is responsible for our registry and credentials—not Yoga Alliance, the nonprofit membership association. Yoga Alliance Registry does not have members, and its tax-exempt status requires it to serve the public interest. If there is ever a conflict between the public interest and the economic interest of Yoga Alliance members, Yoga Alliance Registry, would not be allowed to adopt a policy to benefit Yoga Alliance members at the expense of the public. We also believe that our registrants benefit and support being transparent with the public about the nature and source of their credentials.
We don’t doubt that our registrants help their students improve their overall health and well-being. We also recognize that many of our members have other credentials that help them serve their students in deeper, more transformative ways. If you still have questions about how our policy affects you, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.