YOGA THERAPY INITIATIVE TRENDS

 


TREND 1: Yoga Industry Continues Exponential Growth

Over the past decade—and most especially, the past two years—there has been an explosion in the growth of yoga, driven by the changing needs of individuals of all ages living in a sedentary and often socially isolated world. Widespread popularity and growing public mindshare have helped accelerate yoga’s growth trajectory in recent years to exponential levels.

The outbreak of COVID-19 accelerated yoga’s growth trend significantly. Demand for yoga exercise apparel and clothing jumped by 154% and yoga class reservation numbers rose by 25% during the first year of the pandemic. With more than 300 million practitioners in the world today, yoga has never been more popular. And there is no end in sight to the yoga growth story. In fact, the global yoga market is projected to enjoy a compound annual growth rate of 9.6% from 2021 to 2027, which would see 350 million global yoga practitioners representing a global market valued over $66 billion.

Sources:

i: 90+ Yoga statistics 2021 [Research Review] | RunRepeat
ii: 47 Compelling Yoga Statistics: 2022 Data on Industry Growth & Effects on Health – Financesonline.com

TREND 2: Yoga Practitioners Embrace Social Media

Social and digital media have helped drive interest in and practice of yoga worldwide. This has been especially true since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Whereas only 40% of yoga practitioners used online classes (live and pre-recorded) before the pandemic, it became the preferred method of learning during the lockdowns. In 2020, 67% of practitioners cited live-streamed group classes as their top preference for learning.

Instagram and YouTube have been especially powerful platforms for the spread of yoga practice. In March 2020, Instagram posts about yoga grew by 68%; even now, there are about 60 million yoga-related posts actively trending on the popular social platform at any given time. YouTube, meanwhile, is home to more than 2,000 channels related to yoga, some of which have become wildly popular, building an audience of 10.9 million subscribers and garnering more than 1.1 billion total views. Average daily yoga content upload volume to YouTube has risen more than 1000% over the past five years, while video consumption has also risen precipitously. From 2019 to 2020, global viewership of yoga videos on YouTube surged by 165%.

Sources:

i: The Rise of Online Yoga — Jenni Rawlings Yoga & Movement Blog
ii: 47 Compelling Yoga Statistics: 2022 Data on Industry Growth & Effects on Health – Financesonline.com
iii: YouTube Culture & Trends – YouTube Community Spotlight: Yoga

TREND 3: Yoga Therapy Sees Rising Demand

In the currently shifting landscape of medical care, patients are seeking whole-health approaches that address more than just isolated symptoms. Yoga Therapy is well-positioned within the larger trend toward whole-person health, given that it utilizes a holistic model of health and healing. Yoga Therapy combines a clinically oriented, assessment-based, yet personalized approach based on an individual’s goals and health conditions.

In recent years, the development of rigorous standards, accreditation and credentialing processes for both Yoga Therapy schools and practitioners have established Yoga Therapy as a profession. What began as tentative acceptance of Yoga Therapy as a possible complementary option for patients, has evolved into recommendations from physicians and other healthcare providers at an increasing rate. These recommendations are supported by a growing body of evidence-based clinical trials research on the benefits of yoga in general and Yoga Therapy specifically. This has only been made possible thanks to the pioneering efforts of Yoga Therapy advocates over the course of many years to engage with leaders from across the healthcare community, educating and informing them about what Yoga Therapy can do to help achieve better outcomes for patients.

Sources:

i: International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT)
ii: Accredited Programs – International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT)
iii: Yoga Alliance

TREND 4: Yoga Therapy Gains Traction with Medical Establishment

The mainstream application of yoga and yogic practices to the treatment of health and medical conditions has continued to expand, both in scope and scale. Dr. Timothy McCall, author of Yoga as Medicine: The Yogic Prescription for Health and Healing, has spent the last decade tracking medical studies of yoga’s efficacy for the treatment of various medical and health conditions. In 2010, Dr. McCall identified 54 conditions scientifically demonstrated to be positively impacted by yoga. According to the latest update, that number has surged to 117 conditions.

Yoga Therapy is also experiencing greater inclusion within major healthcare systems’ integrative medicine programs and is now a key component of care at numerous healthcare institutions, including the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, US Department of Veterans Affairs, Duke Integrative Medicine at Duke University and the Cleveland Clinic. Yoga therapists are increasingly engaged in clinical roles, collaborating with healthcare providers to develop plans that complement and support patients’ care journeys, with a majority of the more than 5,000 members of the International Association of Yoga Therapists (IYAT) now working in hospital settings, outpatient clinics, physical therapy, rehabilitation and oncology.

Sources:

i: 117 Health Conditions Helped by Yoga
ii: Why More Western Doctors Are Now Prescribing Yoga Therapy
iii: Integrative Medicine | Duke Health

TREND 5: Corporate Wellness Programs Embrace Yoga

 Every year, more companies embrace corporate wellness and wellbeing programs as a way to keep workers happy, healthy and productive. The data suggests that these programs work. According to a Statista survey last year, “79% of employees believed their company’s wellbeing programs helped them be as productive as possible, and similarly 79% also believed such programs had helped them avoid getting sick.”

As the incidence of work-related stress has continued to rise in both volume and intensity, companies are turning increasingly to yoga as a solution. Yoga’s many practices and strategies for managing life stress have been validated by the data. According to the National Institutes of Health, workplace yoga interventions can visibly improve work-related stress management.

The Aetna, Inc. Mind-Body Stress Reduction in the Workplace Trial, published in the online version of the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, is an outstanding example of the impact on perceived stress levels and other variables by the application of two distinct mind-body approaches that include Yoga Therapy. The Viniyoga Stress Reduction Program (therapeutic Viniyoga) and Mindfulness at Work (mindfulness meditation) were each compared to a control group. These programs helped participants significantly reduce their perceived stress levels while improving their ability to respond to stress.

Sources:

i: Workplace health and wellness in the US – Statistics & Facts | Statista
ii: Employees and their opinions towards employer wellbeing programs US 2021 | Statista
iii: Yoga in the workplace and health outcomes: a systematic review
iv: Viniyoga and mindfulness programs result in reduced perceived stress levels
v: Effective and viable mind-body stress reduction in the workplace: a randomized controlled trial – PubMed (nih.gov)


TREND 1:  EMERGENCE OF YOGA THERAPY AS HOLISTIC AND HEALING WELLNESS MODALITY

The global crisis, along with the necessity for individuals to sustain their physical and mental wellbeing, has driven increased recognition of the health benefits of yoga. Yoga is at the forefront of the new wellness surge and is rising in popularity and positioning in the public consciousness. As evidenced by the voluminous statistics on the exponential growth of yoga, there is a shift toward more in-depth knowledge and application of yoga’s holistic offerings and specialized therapies for present-day health conditions.

Yoga therapy, or Yoga Chikitsa, meaning “therapy, cure, medicinal application and treatment,” is one of the earliest sciences of healing and self-care with strategies to address specific health and lifestyle issues that human beings have faced for millennia. Yoga therapy includes comprehensive tools for healing our structural, physiological, mental, emotional and spiritual conditions.

Panchamaya—the ancient, multidimensional and whole-health model for yoga therapy provides a full spectrum of teachings and practices for the body, physiology, mind, behavior and spirituality. It is a proven, tactical plan for optimizing health and is the key to understanding the mission of wellness for the modern human being.

As one of the world’s earliest systems of holistic health and self-care, this human-centric strategy and whole-health model has influenced diverse programs and protocols from healthcare centers and facilities, spa and hospitality brands, and integrative medicine centers to the Veterans Administration, Fortune 500 companies and more.

TREND 2:  INTEGRATION OF YOGA THERAPY INTO HEALTHCARE, A COMPLEMENT TO MODERN MEDICINE

The International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT) defines yoga therapy as “the process of empowering individuals to progress towards improved health and wellbeing through the application of the teachings and practices of yoga.”

In the currently shifting landscape of medical care, patients are seeking whole-health approaches that address more than just isolated symptoms. Yoga therapy is well-positioned within the larger trend toward whole-person health, given that it utilizes a holistic model of health and healing. Yoga therapy combines a clinically oriented, assessment-based, yet personalized approach based on an individual’s goals and health conditions.

In recent years, the development of rigorous standards, accreditation and credentialing processes for both yoga therapy schools and practitioners have established yoga therapy as a profession. What began as tentative acceptance of yoga therapy as a possible complementary option for patients has evolved into recommendations from physicians and other healthcare providers at an increasing rate. These recommendations are supported by a growing body of evidence-based clinical trials research on yoga in general and yoga therapy specifically.

The inclusion of yoga therapy in major healthcare systems’ integrative medicine programs has increased rapidly over the past few years. In the United States, for example, yoga therapy is a key component at institutions such as The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, US Department of Veterans Affairs, Duke Integrative Medicine at Duke University, and the Cleveland Clinic, among many others. According to a 2015 survey, most of IAYT’s over 5,000 members reported working in hospital settings, outpatient clinics, physical therapy, rehabilitation and oncology. These yoga therapists are engaged in clinical roles and collaborate with healthcare providers to develop a plan that complements and supports the patient’s overall care.

TREND 3:  BREATHING AS THERAPY FOR MIND-BODY HEALTH

Research into the respiratory process confirms that the quality of our breathing has dramatic effects on both the body and mind. Ancient science, in concert with recent studies, shows how even slight adjustments to the breathing process rejuvenates the organs; increases the relaxation response; decreases metabolic rate and blood sugar levels; lowers heart rate; reduces muscle tension, fatigue and pain; and increases strength, mental alertness, confidence and emotional stability.

Pranayama, the ancient yogic science of conscious breathing, is defined as the art of regulating, modifying and extending the natural flow of the breath and enhancing one’s vital energy or life force. According to ancient traditions, conscious breathing is used in meditation to affect the quality of the mind, slowing and quieting the thinking process while reducing anxiety and stress. Many cultures around the world incorporate breathing practices as part of their religious and spiritual rituals and prayers.

Evidence-based research has shown the transformative power of breathing techniques through neurobiological and psychological mechanisms, indicating that how we breathe matters. Now, breathing techniques are being used widely and adapted globally by elite athletes and marathon runners, during childbirth, for pain management, by children and medical doctors, and for emotional regulation and general health.

In the yoga therapy process, multiple and varied breathing techniques are practiced separately or in combination with movement (asana) for specific conditions to affect and facilitate desired outcomes.

 

TREND 4:  INDIVIDUAL ASSESSMENT AND CARE VS. GROUP CLASSES

One of the most important factors that differentiates the profession and practice of teaching yoga from the profession and practice of yoga therapy is the use of the individual assessment. This can be done within the context of one-on-one sessions as well as in therapeutic groups.

While “findings…. indicate that yoga appears as safe as usual care and exercise,” the customization of yoga practice can be helpful for creating a comprehensive program not just maintaining health, but for promoting health and wellness, even in the face of challenges. It is recommended that for the purpose of reducing symptom burden, alleviating suffering, and improving quality of life in the midst of chronic conditions resulting in persistent pain, medical providers should instead consider recommending therapeutic yoga for their patients, as the intent and scope of practice differs significantly from contemporary yoga.

TREND 5:  GROWTH IN CERTIFICATION OF YOGA THERAPISTS NATIONALLY AND GLOBALLY, RECOGNITION AS A VIABLE PROFESSION

The profession of yoga therapy is distinct from the profession of yoga teaching in the depth and breadth of its training, the scope of practice, and integration with both the holistic medical community as well as higher education and academic research. To become a yoga therapist, an individual must first be a yoga teacher with a minimum number of years of practice and experience. From there, interested individuals can attend a professional program designed to teach the competencies necessary for fulfilling the Scope of Practice of Yoga Therapists.

As defined by the International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT), “Yoga therapy is the professional application of the principles and practices of yoga to promote health and wellbeing within a therapeutic relationship that includes personalized assessment, goal setting, lifestyle management, and yoga practices for individuals or small groups.”

Founded in 1989, IAYT has consistently championed yoga as a healing art and science. Membership is open to yoga practitioners, yoga teachers, yoga therapists, healthcare practitioners who use yoga in their practice, and yoga researchers.

Certification is a pillar of the comprehensive self-regulatory initiative that began in 2007 with the development of educational standards for the training of yoga therapists and accrediting training programs that meet these standards beginning in 2014. The certification process for credentialing individual yoga therapists who meet IAYT’s standards began in 2016. In 2017, there were more than 3,600 practitioners who earned the credential C-IAYT to demonstrate their training and experience as certified yoga therapists.

As of 2019, IAYT has over 5,000 individual members from over 50 countries and over 170 member schools. Currently, 66 programs at schools around the world are fully accredited by IAYT to offer the curriculum for the 800 hours of training to become a yoga therapist.

TREND 6:  INTEGRATING AND LEVERAGING TECHNOLOGY IN YOGA THERAPY

Over the past few years, yoga therapists have begun to leverage technology for the management and delivery of services. For example, videoconferencing offers access to people who would not otherwise have the opportunity to meet in person with a yoga therapist because of geographic location or other factors. This parallels the larger healthcare trend toward telehealth delivery by primary care physicians, occupational and physical therapists, psychologists and counselors, and other healthcare providers—a trend that was already formed prior to but accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Yoga therapists are also utilizing technology to offer additional options for producing client-specific practice resources. These options include video recordings of sessions or guided personalized videos of the client’s home practice program. Most people have a preferred and optimal learning style (visual, auditory, kinesthetic). The use of technology for creating practice programs expands alternatives for clients who would prefer an option other than written materials to enhance their learning and facilitate engagement with the practices. Especially given the widespread use of apps, many clients prefer an electronic format.

In addition to video conferencing, yoga therapists are increasingly utilizing software programs that streamline the scheduling and assessment process. Clients have the option to schedule an appointment online at their convenience. Assessment/intake forms completed by the client online can be reviewed in advance by the yoga therapist and then discussed together at the appointment.

Technology, of course, does not replace the in-person encounter between yoga therapist and client, especially for those who prefer face-to-face meetings. It can instead be leveraged to supplement and enhance the clinically oriented, assessment-based personalized approach to whole-person health that is the hallmark of yoga therapy.