Yoga Therapy Program Competencies

Yoga Teachings and Philosophy 

Familiarity with the evolution of the teachings and philosophy of the yoga tradition and its relevance and application to yoga therapy, including teachings from Vedic and post-Vedic periods, Samkhya, Yoga, Tantra, and Ayurveda. 

Examples of concepts and models from the above teachings and philosophy relevant to yoga therapy include but are not limited to 

  1. tanmatra/bhuta/indriya (subtle elements/gross elements/senses); 
  2. purusha/prakrti (consciousness/material world);
  3. pancamaya kosha (dimensions of the human system)
  4. guna (fundamental forces of nature); and 
  5. duhkha (suffering/discomfort).

Yoga and the Mind 

Knowledge of yoga perspectives on the structure, states, functioning, and conditions of the mind, including but not limited to 

  1. drashtr (seer), drshya (seen);
  2. antahkarana citta (consciousness), buddhi (intellect), ahamkara (ego), manas (mind); 
  3. citta vrtti (activities of the mind), citta pariama (structural changes in the mind), vyutthana/nirodha (mind’s potential for distraction and focus); 
  4. artha (cognition), bhava (mood), svabhava (inborn nature), vasana (residue of experience), samskara (conditioned pattern of thinking and behavior); and 
  5. states of mind: mudha (stupefied/dull), kshipta (disturbed), vikshipta (alternating between distraction and focus), ekagrata (one-pointed), nirodha (focus enveloped/held/ restrained), vaishvanara (waking), taijasa (dream), prajña (deep sleep), turiya (beyond). 
  6. Knowledge of yoga perspectives on distracted/disturbed conditions of mind and their expressions as expressed in such texts as the Yoga Sutras, the Bhagavad Gita, and other texts, including but not limited to 
  7. klesha (affliction); lobha, krodha, and moha (greed, anger, attachment); 
  8. duhkha and daurmanasya (suffering/discomfort and negative attitude/thinking), sarupyam (identification with the contents of the mind or seer taking the same form as the mind); and antaraya (obstacles to progress in yoga). 

Ayurveda. Framework for Health and Disease 

Knowledge of the basic perspectives on health and disease from yoga and Ayurveda relevant to the practice of yoga therapy, including the concepts of 

  • pancamaya kosha (fundamental structure of the human system);
  • subtle anatomy;
  • tri-dosha (effect of the elements on the physical body);
  • tri-guna (effect of sattva [equilibrium], rajas [activity], tamas [inertia]);
  • prakrti/vikrti (dosha constitution at birth/imbalance of the dosha currently expressed in the body); 
  • ama (undigested food, emotions, etc., accumulated in the body); 
  • agni (internal fire(s) and their contribution to health);
  • prana vayu (prana, apana, vyana, udana, samana)prana prakopa (disturbance of the vayu); 
  • surya/chandra (sun/moon);
  • brmhana/langhana (expansion/contraction); and
  • vyuha model: heya (the symptoms), hetu (the causes), hana (the goal), upaya (the tools).

Knowledge of Ayurvedic physiology: tissues (Dhatus), organs, delivery and circulation systems (Shrotas), their interrelationships, and their unique characteristics in each Dosha, their transformation due to internal and external causes.
Knowledge of categorizing and development stages of disease, including 

  • Development/evolution of disease (samprapti [pathogenesis]), including but not limited to direction, intensity, onset, and duration and their influence on the ease or difficulty of healing and disease management.
  • Setting priorities: symptoms/pacification (shamana [short term]) and purification/strengthening (shodhana [long term]). 

Basic knowledge of Ayurvedic Therapeutics including: Lifestyle Measures, Ayurvedic Yoga, Ayurvedic Nutrition, Purification Panchakarma, Ayurvedic Self Care.

Biomedical and Psychological Foundations 

Anatomy and Physiology 

Basic Knowledge of human anatomy and physiology, including all major systems of the body and their interrelationships, as relevant to the work of a yoga therapist. 

Basic Knowledge of biomechanics and movement as they relate to the practice of yoga and the work of a yoga therapist. 

Basic Knowledge of common pathologies and disorders of all the major systems, including symptoms, management, illness trajectories, and contraindications, as relevant to the work of a yoga therapist. 

Familiarity with common medical terminology, as relevant to the work of a yoga therapist. 

Knowledge of how to access and utilize research relevant to the work of a yoga therapist. 

Psychology and Mental Health 

Basic knowledge of commonly occurring mental health conditions—from psychological distress to psychiatric conditions—their symptoms, and common approaches/interventions, as they relate to the work of a yoga therapist. 

Basic knowledge of psychological concepts and terminology, including mood, cognition, behavior, and personality, as relevant to the work of a yoga therapist. 

Familiarity with the influence of familial, social, cultural, and religious conditioning on mental and medical perspectives of health and healing. 

Body and Mind Integration 

Knowledge of the interaction of the body, breath, mind, intellect, and emotions in health and well-being. 

Yoga Therapy Tools and Therapeutic Skills 

Yoga Therapy Tools 

In-depth knowledge of the application of yama and niyama in the context of yoga therapy.
In-depth knowledge of the range of yoga practices and their potential therapeutic effects for common conditions. Practices may include but are not limited to
asana (postures); pranayama (regulated breathing); meditation and relaxation techniques such as bhavana (visualization), mantra (recitation), and ritualized activities such as nyasa and mudra; and vihara (lifestyle modifications), including basic yogic dietary concepts.

Knowledge of contraindications of yoga practices for specific conditions and circumstances. 

Basic Principles of the Therapeutic Relationship 

Knowledge of well-developed communication skills: listening, presence, directive and non-directive dialogue. 

Demonstrated ability to recognize, adjust, and adapt to specific client/student needs in the evolving therapeutic/professional relationship. 

Demonstrated ability to recognize and manage the subtle dynamics inherent in the therapist/client relationship. 

In-depth knowledge of the scope of practice of yoga therapy and how to assess the need for referral to other professional services. 

Principles and Skills for Educating Clients/Students 

Knowledge of and demonstrated ability to implement effective teaching methods, adapt to unique styles of learning, provide supportive and effective feedback, acknowledge the client’s/student’s progress, and cope with unique difficulties/successes. 

Knowledge of and demonstrated ability to transmit the value of self-awareness and self-responsibility throughout the therapeutic process. 

Knowledge of and demonstrated ability to develop and adjust appropriate practice strategies to the client/student. 

Practicum (Mentored)

Providing Yoga Therapy 

Demonstrated ability to conduct intake and assess the client/student, including 

  1. taking a history of the client and his/her condition(s); and 
  2. assessing the current condition using the tools relevant to the yoga therapist, including an evaluation of the physical, energetic, mental, emotional, and spiritual dimensions of well-being. 

Demonstrated ability to elicit the goals and expectations of the client/student. 

Demonstrated ability to integrate information from the intake, evaluation, and observation to develop a working assessment of the client’s condition, limitations, and possibilities. 

Demonstrated ability to determine which aspects of the client/student’s conditions and goals might be addressed through yoga therapy. 

Demonstrated ability to identify priorities and set both long- and short-term goals with the client/student. 

Demonstrated ability to apply knowledge of how to choose and prioritize the use of yoga tools and techniques, including selecting, sequencing, adapting, and modifying yoga practices appropriate to the needs of clients. 

Demonstrated ability to teach or deliver the appropriate practices for individuals as well as groups, taking into consideration their conditions and limitations. 

Demonstrated ability to facilitate the client/student’s experience of the practice, including instruction, demonstration, and education of the client/student,Demonstrated ability to provide follow up and re-planning, including 

  1. gathering feedback, re-assessing, and refining the practice and determining short-term and long- term goals and priorities; 
  2. addressing new and changing conditions, goals, aspirations, and priorities of the student/client and providing appropriate support; and 
  3. providing appropriate closure for the therapy sessions. 

Professional Practice 

Ethical Principles 

Knowledge of yoga practices and methods for establishing, practicing, and maintaining ethical principles. 

Demonstrated ability to apply knowledge of generally accepted ethical principles and related concepts from the yoga tradition to professional interactions and relationships. 

In-depth knowledge of the scope of practice of yoga therapy, resulting in the demonstrated ability to discern the need for referral to other modalities. 

Knowledge of the extent of one’s own individual training, skills, and evolving experience in yoga therapy, and knowledge of the importance of practicing within such parameters. 

Legal, Regulatory, and Business Issues Pertaining to Yoga Therapy 

Knowledge of current relevant local, state, and national laws and regulations impacting the work of a yoga therapist. 

Relationships with Peers, Mentors, Clinicians, and Organizations 

Basic knowledge of other healthcare fields and their potential role in and relevance to the work of a yoga therapist. 

Personal and Professional Development and Continuing Education 

Knowledge of the fundamental value of ongoing personal practice, long-term mentorship, and skills maintenance/development through continuing education.