Why Yoga Therapy Belongs in Your Organization!

Clinical Healthcare Referral

Yoga Therapy as a Form of Integrative Healthcare

Yoga therapy functions through three goals, known as the Triple Aim. The Triple Aim intends to optimize health system performance by improving the health of populations, reducing costs, and improving the patient experience of care. Yoga therapy focuses on the patient’s current state and goals by utilizing specific yoga models, theories, scientific research, and practice methods. Yoga therapy can help reduce and manage symptoms, improve function, and help patients’ attitudes concerning their conditions. Yoga therapy includes co-creating individualized practice interventions.

Kimberly Searl integrative sustainable movement yoga therapy

What is Yoga Therapy?

The International Association of Yoga Therapists defined yoga therapy as “the professional application of the principles and practices of yoga to promote health and well-being within a therapeutic relationship that includes personalized assessment, goal setting, lifestyle management, and yoga practices for individuals or small groups.”

Complementary Therapy for your patients

Yoga therapy includes the use of selected meditations, therapeutic movements, and breathing practices that are complementary to the patient’s standard of medical care and can be performed as inpatient or outpatient services. As an outpatient service, an intake is done that includes a motivational interview as well as musculoskeletal and breath assessments to create a co-developed plan of care with the patient. An integrative medical assessment can be provided in writing to the patient’s healthcare team with consent and placed in the patient’s medical file. As an inpatient, the therapist can attend grand rounds and enter information into the electronic medical record.

All techniques offered are safe, with virtually no side effects, and have the potential to improve the patient’s overall health and wellbeing. Meditation practices may consist of mindfulness, visualization, progressive relaxation techniques, and affirmations. Therapeutic movements may include gentle postures, joint mobilization, and restorative relaxation. Breathing practices work gently with the natural flow of the breath and may consist of breath awareness, breath regulation techniques, and directing breath to areas of discomfort.

The Evidence & Benefits of Yoga Therapy

Evidence-based research uses simple tools and practices that have shown that yoga therapy has the following benefits:

  • Assists with pain management
  • Creates a sense of balance and wellbeing
  • Instills a sense of empowerment with personal health
  • Can be taken home to integrate into a daily self-care routine

Yoga research illustrates the efficacy of this practice as a cost-effective, preventative, and complementary treatment. Additionally, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines for low blood pressure (LBP) and sciatica include yoga as one of the recommended treatments for this condition. Researchers estimate a 95% probability that integrating yoga into the National Health System (NHS) would result in significant cost savings as compared with usual care.

The International Classification of Disease (ICD) even has an ICD-10 procedure code for yoga therapy (8E0ZXY4.d). Yoga therapy services can be delivered in ways that are not top-heavy in staff, administration, or equipment; from a lifestyle medicine or prevention perspective, these costs are almost negligible.

Kimberly Searl integrative sustainable movement yoga therapy

Look Who's Doing It!

Yoga therapy has exponentially expanded into conventional U.S. healthcare over the past decade. Here are a few full-time yoga therapists in healthcare organizations across the country: 

  • Cleveland Clinic, Ohio – Judi Bar
  • Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Washington D.C. – Lynne Valedes
  • Casey Health Institute, Maryland – Mary Pappas Sandonas
  • Beaumont Hospital System, Michigan – Veronica Zador
  • Howard County General Hospital (HCGH), Maryland – Diane Finlyason
  • Duke Integrative Medicine, North Carolina – Carol Krucoff
  • C.H.O.P., Pennsylvania – Tonia Kulp

Yoga therapy is perfect for anyone with a mindset that includes a desire for self-care and who wants to be an active participant in their health and wellbeing. Yoga therapy can be provided in a one-on-one session and has the advantage of tailoring a practice to the individual’s needs. This allows for a recursive process of trial and modification via the patient’s feedback to refine the plan of care.

Closed-door group yoga therapy provides a framework for a simple assessment of each person before attending the group session to assist with symptom management. Group sessions have the added benefit of community (sangha) for patients who are facing similar health challenges while making emotional and social connections. Yoga therapy is multi-model and closely resembles the bio-psycho-social-spiritual model.

Disease Conditions & Departments Yoga Therapy Works In

Yoga therapy can benefit a wide range of disease conditions and healthcare departments, including: 

  • Cancer – caregiver support, navigating treatment, survivorship
  • Cardiorespiratory and pulmonary conditions – heart disease, hypertension, asthma, COPD
  • Endocrine conditions – diabetes, metabolic syndrome, obesity
  • Geriatrics – maintaining a healthy lifestyle, functional movement patterns
  • Mental health conditions – depression, generalized anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, insomnia, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, substance use disorders
  • Musculoskeletal and neurological conditions – various back conditions, arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, traumatic brain injury, fibromyalgia, autism, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, stroke
  • Obstetrics and gynecology – premenstrual syndrome, dysmenorrhea, pregnancy, chronic pelvic pain syndrome, menopause, infertility
  • Pediatrics – social and communication development, emotional intelligence, developing a positive body image
  • General prevention and wellness – support for all patients and healthcare staff
Kimberly Searl integrative sustainable movement courses

Yoga Therapy Educational Standards

Yoga is inherently therapeutic, but there is a clear distinction between a yoga class and a yoga therapy session. Although both yoga teaching and yoga therapy are valid and valuable professions, there is a noticeable difference. Yoga therapy is a complementary and integrative therapeutic approach that may provide useful information on contraindications and comorbidities. Ultimately, yoga therapy is self-empowering and includes careful guidance and application of the proper tools by a fully trained yoga therapist using the methods of yoga to potentially restore health.

Kimberly has a Master of Science in Yoga Therapy. This level of training consisted of the formal rigor of graduate school education along with meeting science competencies, university faculty qualifications, assessments, clinicals and practicum, a year-long internship at Johns Hopkins University Hospital (HCGH), knowledge of grievance protocols, personal liability insurance, HIPAA training, immunizations, background checks, and more.

How to Refer to Yoga Therapists

Kimberly Searl integrative sustainable movement yoga therapy

Coordinated efforts are needed and typically arise from grounded conceptual models. To refer to a yoga therapist, simply write “Yoga Therapy” on a prescription pad and hand it to your patient, along with a printout of the flyer “What is Yoga Therapy?” When the yoga therapist receives the prescription, they will know where to send the integrative assessment updates for your patient’s file. Clients can often use their health savings accounts, flexible spending accounts, and other such accounts as well.

Request a Formal Presentation Today!

Let's Get Started!

I specialize in consulting with healthcare organizations and businesses to help them build their yoga therapy department. If you are interested in adding yoga therapy into your organization, make sure to sign up for my on-demand course that walks you through the process step by step. Or you can set up a formal presentation at your office in which I will walk you and your staff through the process face to face. Let’s get started!


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