A National Survey of Yoga Instructors and their Delivery of Yoga Therapy


Yoga therapy may improve a variety of symptoms and health conditions, but little is known about how yoga therapy is being delivered in the real world. The purpose of this study was to describe the delivery of yoga therapy by yoga instructors across the U.S. In this cross-sectional survey, certified instructors were recruited from the Iyengar Yoga National Association, United States (IYNAUS) (n = 966) via an email that contained a link to an anonymous online survey that collected information on demographics, their delivery of yoga therapy, and the health conditions and symptoms seen and records kept by the instructors. A total of 487 instructors (50.4%) completed the surve y. Instructors ranged from 28 to 82 years in age (m = 56.4 ± 10.1 years) and had been teaching for 17.0 ± 10.0 years. The majority (n = 384, 81.4%) reported teaching some form of therapeutic yoga either in groups (n = 261, 55%) and/or privately (n = 340, 73.4%). All instructors (100%) reported modifying poses in their regular yoga classes for students because of health conditions or symptoms. Other than attendance, the majority (n = 255, 57.3%) reported keeping no records on their sessions. Students came to instructors for help with over 54 health conditions, most commonly musculoskeletal conditions and injuries (n = 267, 62.8%), followed by pregnancy (n = 56, 13.2%) and hypertension (n = 22, 5.2%). Nearly all (n = 373, 85.6%) reported pain to be the symptom that brought students to yoga therapy most frequently. Whereas yoga in randomized controlled trials typically is delivered to individuals in large, homogenous groups, the instructors reported that most yoga therapy is being provided individually or in small, general therapeutic classes that include a variety of health conditions. Research is needed to examine the effectiveness of yoga therapy under such conditions. A clear set of guidelines for assessing and documenting the effectiveness of yoga therapy using standardized, valid, and reliable methods is needed, particularly for pain-related conditions.

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