The rapid maturation and growth of yoga therapy profession
June 15, 2017
by John Weeks, Publisher/Editor of The Integrator Blog News and ReportsIn the last major survey on use of complementary and integrative practices, yoga leapt off the stat sheet as the most significant area of increased use. The NIH National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) classified the treatment as self-care. What those data did not capture is the robust growth of yoga therapists, the subset of yoga practitioners who get special training to equip themselves as part of healthcare teams.The maturation has been guided by the deft leadership of the International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT). The organization’s promise is “bridging yoga and healthcare.”Under the guidance of executive director John Kepner, IAYT’s Board of Directors, and the organization’s long-time consultant Dan Seitz, JD, the group has hit milestone after milestone in its work to position the profession’s members for inclusion as a player in health and medicine. The work has created a significant following. Membership grew from 2,000 in 2007 to over 5,000 today. Their origins represent over 50 countries.A memo from Kepner referenced the strategic gains. One has been the advance of science. For the past seven years, an IAYT annual symposium convenes yoga researchers. Their International Journal of Yoga Therapy is now searchable and indexed in PubMed. Research in the yoga field has exploded, partly thanks to its prioritization at NCCIH. IAYT recently began a project with top researchers and medical doctors to summarize the evidence base for yoga therapy.In 2008, IAYT first convened the heterogenous group of owners of yoga therapy schools. These yogis from multiple lineages wrestled their way to consensus on plans for an IAYT Council of Schools. The Council now boasts 180 members, with an international reach.Mere completion of an educational program is not sufficient proof of merit for most hospital, government agency and other medical delivery organization credentialing process. These typically require that the schools be accredited by a quality accrediting body. In addition, the individual practitioners need to show that they in fact learned something while in school by passing a professional certification exam.Here Kepner and the IAYT carved a path of what they call “responsible self-regulation,” or, as Kepner put it, “our ‘middle way’.” Rather than establish fully-independent, stand-alone, accreditation and certification organizations such as are typical most established health professions—see examples here—they chose to start “semi-autonomous” entities within IAYT.
- The first step after organizing the yoga therapy educators was to create competency-based standards for educating yoga therapists. Working from 2009 to led to the 2012 publication.
- The next was the development of IAYT’s accreditation arm. Here the help of Seitz, the director of the Council on Naturopathic Medical Education and a former chair of the Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, figured particularly heavily. IAYT now boasts 27 accredited programs. Kepner says “there are ‘only' 27 due to our high standards and rigorous accrediting process.” Many more are presently in the application process.
- The IAYT Certification Committee also engaged an extensive, open process to set its standards. Presently, there are 2,500 IAYT certified yoga therapists.