Are you interested in Yoga Therapy? If you're a yoga teacher, you should be! Yoga Therapy is BIG. Yoga Therapists are already working in public hospitals, private clinics, psychology practices, cancer clinics, rehab centres and more. If you want to help people to manage their health - and do it safely - yoga therapy training is the way to go.
BUT. There are a lot of misconceptions about Yoga Therapy. Many people, including plenty of yoga teachers, think it's all about modifying yoga poses so that people with health issues can do them. Some think that certain yoga practices have special healing properties. That's not how it works.
There are no prescriptions in yoga therapy. There are no magic postures that fix back pain or special meditations that stop anxiety. The physical, psychological and behavioural causes of back pain and anxiety are different in each person. That means we need to find practices that support each person to manage their unique set of symptoms. Basically, if you're Googling 'Yoga Therapy for back pain/sciatica/anxiety etc' you're not thinking like a Yoga Therapist.
While you can't learn Yoga Therapy from a book, there are some important texts that will help you to start thinking like a Yoga Therapist - and start helping your students to manage their health. Here's our Top 5 Books about yoga therapy. You'll learn more than just postures for good health. These books contain a wealth of information and inspiration on yoga philosophy, psychology and more.
If you want to learn more about Yoga Therapy, or are thinking of training as a Yoga Therapist, get a head start with these great books.
1. The Heart of Yoga by TKV Desikachar
The Heart of Yoga is one of the most influential and important books on yoga. Written by TKV Desikachar, the son of Sri Krishnamacharya who is often described as the grandfather of modern yoga, it’s a deceptively simple book written in a straightforward, easy to read style. I’ve read this book every year for nearly 20 years and each time I pick it up I find a paragraph that I swear I’ve never read before. And that’s the beauty of this book – you can read it according to YOUR level of understanding, from total beginner to experienced practitioner. As you grow and learn, so the layers of complexity in the text unfold. It covers all the key principles of classical hatha yoga, including asana, sequencing, pranayama and meditation. It also delves into yoga philosophy, offering practical ways of understanding one of yoga’s most famous texts – the 2,000 year old Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. In fact, the Heart of Yoga contains a full translation of the Yoga Sutras, complete with Desikachar’s no-nonsense commentary. This book is a MUST for all serious students of yoga and it's a mandatory text for all Adore Yoga Therapy trainings.
2. Teaching Yoga: Exploring the teacher-student relationship by Donna Farhi
This book won’t show you how to perform asana or teach pranayama. It’s about the relationship between teacher and student and should be mandatory reading for all Yoga Therapy and Yoga Teacher trainees. The yoga industry has been rocked by dozens of scandals in recent years, from sexual abuse to financial mismanagement. Nearly every major yoga tradition, including Satyananda, the Krishnamacharya lineage, Yoga in Daily Life, Jivamukti and Anusara, have been devastated by the shocking behaviour of senior figures past and present. And still, ethics are hardly touched on in yoga teacher trainings, largely ignored by industry bodies and are seldom taught in a way that demands the deep critical thinking that every yoga teacher should cultivate. Donna Farhi covers the critical ethical questions for yoga teachers, from exploring the role of teacher (yes, students sometimes put you on a pedestal and that’s a big responsibility), to appropriate teaching practices (when is a class too big? When are adjustments not ok? Is it ever ok to sleep with a student?) through to professional conduct (how much should you charge? Should you keep confidentiality when a student hints at self harm? How do you handle complaints?) This book is a reminder that the 8 Limbs of Yoga begin with ethics, not asana.
3. Yoga for Wellness by Gary Kraftsow
A long-time student of TKV Desikachar, Gary Kraftsow wrote one of the first commercial books on applying the principles of 'viniyoga' (individualised yoga) in a Western context. This book is a treasure trove of postures, pranayama, meditation and great case studies so you can see how this master Yoga Therapist works with real humans rather than abstract health issues. This is one of the first books we ask trainee Yoga Therapists at Adore Yoga to read and we keep coming back to it throughout the course. This book is a must for anybody who wants to understand how to support people to heal through yoga. We also highly recommend (and are always referring to) Kraftsow's book 'Yoga for Transformation' which draws on the chakra system to explore healing yoga practices.
4. Yoga Therapy by AG Mohan
The Mohan family have been highly influential in the development of modern Yoga Therapy. AG Mohan studied and worked alongside the great Sri T Krishnamacharya and his son, Ganesh Mohan, runs highly respected Yoga Therapy trainings around the world. This book faithfully reproduces the principles of Yoga Therapy as taught in the tradition of Krishnamacharya, making the concepts accessible and easy to apply. This book covers asana, pranayama, meditation and ayurveda, effortlessly weaving all the components of Yoga Therapy together into a deceptively simple read. There is a lot of information on pranayama, including breathing ratios and sequencing. This is an authoritative text that every yoga teacher and Yoga Therapist should read and read again.
5. Yoga – The Spirit and Practice of Moving into Stillness by Erich Schiffmann
Erich Schiffmann learned from the greats (including TKV Desikachar, BKS Iyengar, Vanda Scaravelli and Krishnamurti) and is one of the wisest yogis teaching today. This 1996 book includes plenty of asana instruction, but that’s not where the jewels lie. The first two parts of the book are a treasure trove of accessible yogic wisdom. Schiffmann writes with passion and sensitivity, describing the subtleties of the ‘feeling-tone’ and exploring gentle ways to move from busy preoccupation to a profound experience of stillness in which we experience what we really are: ‘God Substance, Consciousness, Love.’ If that all sounds a bit out-there for you, just go with it. Schiffmann’s an engaging writer who uses beautiful analogies to describe the experiences of yoga – he talks about the breath as being the ‘wind through the instrument.’ There’s a lot of clear, easy to follow instruction on asana and meditation, too. I just love this book.
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Nikola Ellis is the founder of Adore Yoga, yoga therapist, counsellor and teacher trainer. She conducts regular trainings that help people of all ages, shapes and abilities enjoy the benefits of yoga and meditation, including Meditation Facilitator Certificate Trainings; Level 1 200hr Teacher Training and Post Graduate Yoga Teacher Training in Mental Health, Adaptive Asana and the Foundations of Yoga Therapy and a highly regarded professional 650hr Graduate Certificate of Yoga Therapy.