Overview of the New Yoga Therapy Policy

January 25, 2016 | Last updated: November 20, 2017

Over the last year, Yoga Alliance Registry (a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization) has become concerned about the growing use of the words “yoga therapy” and “yoga therapist” in the market. Based on in-depth research and the mission of the Registry,Yoga Alliance Registry has adopted a new policy.

Going forward, any teacher or school registered with Yoga Alliance Registry must remove the terms “yoga therapy,” “yoga therapist” and related words from their profile on the Yoga Alliance Registry Directory. Registrants using these words on their own website or in marketing materials must add a disclaimer explaining the source of their “therapy” training. If there is no disclaimer, they need to remove this language entirely. Full details are available here and in the FAQs on the website.

Brandon Hartsell, Chair of the Yoga Alliance Registry Board commented, “I think we all agree that yoga has significant therapeutic benefits for general health and well-being. It is at the core of why we teach yoga. That is not in question. The issue is that the Registry’s mission is to protect and inform the public; we made the decision in keeping with that mission. Teachers and schools using the terms “therapy” and “therapist” may be unintentionally misleading the public about their qualifications and expertise. The term “therapy” implies the treatment or diagnosis of mental or physical health conditions, and this type of training is not part of our RYT or RYS Standards.”

Andrew Tanner, a spokesperson for Yoga Alliance who is himself a Registered Yoga Teacher added, “The Registry was established to serve the public interest. By providing greater clarity and information, the Registry’s decision is in the best interests of everyone: students, practitioners and teachers alike. Confusion about the meaning of the terms ‘yoga therapy’ and ‘yoga therapist’ creates risk for Yoga Alliance members and the yoga community as a whole, with the potential for lawsuits or state charges against individual yoga teachers or schools using these terms. As well, use of these terms has the potential to trigger state regulation of yoga.”

Several key factors contributed to Yoga Alliance Registry’s adoption of the new policy:

  • The terms “yoga therapy,” “yoga therapist,” “therapeutic yoga” and similar terms suggest that the yoga instructor can diagnose and/or treat a mental or physical health condition. Those claims fall within the scope of practice of medicine or other regulated health care professions. Any yoga instructor making these types of claims without an appropriate license risks a charge of the unauthorized practice of medicine.
  • Practicing medicine is highly regulated in most states, and there have been many cases of individuals, often in less traditional health-related occupations, who have been charged with practicing medicine without a license. There are several examples of these on our website. So far few of these cases have involved yoga practitioners, but increasing use of “yoga therapy” language increases the risk.
  • “Therapist” in most people’s minds implies a significant degree of training and certification and some medical training to diagnose, treat or cure specific mental or physical health conditions. There is currently no governmentally recognized designation or training program for yoga therapy, and there are concerns that this could cause confusion among the public about the kinds of services and medical benefits being offered.
  • Until there is a clear definition of yoga therapy that makes obvious the difference between yoga therapy and the practice of yoga, the term “yoga therapy” increases the likelihood of regulation. No-one knows exactly what this would mean, but regulation almost always means a more narrow definition of practice , more fees and more bureaucracy . In that case, teaching yoga could be limited to only a few instead of many.

Tanner added, “We know our community will have a lot of questions about this and we are happy to answer them.” Yoga Alliance Registry will be holding two webinars and will also be updating its FAQs regularly. Please check out Our Statement on Yoga Therapy where you can find a summary of the research, relevant articles, legal cases, and FAQs.

Want to Know More About the Yoga Therapy Policy?

If you have any other questions, please contact us at 1-888-921-9642.

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