Yoga is one of the nation’s leading natural therapies used by millions of Americans to address chronic and acute conditions, and to promote a lifetime of health and well-being. From professional athletes and physical trainers to gym-goers and overworked professionals, the masses have adopted yoga as a supplement to other workouts because its benefits include greater strength, flexibility, peace of mind and stress control.

Under the larger umbrella of yoga practice is a specialized and growing field called yoga therapy. Yoga therapy practitioners are certified and trained beyond the traditional 200-hour courses, which is the minimum to become a registered yoga teacher. Yoga therapists need a minimum of 800 training hours to receive certification, and many yoga therapy programs go beyond this minimum, such as the master of science in yoga therapy from Maryland University of Integrative Health (MUIH), which is the country’s first master’s degree in yoga therapy.

Yoga therapists use an advanced mind-body approach in which they apply the teachings and practices of yoga to evaluate the individual needs of clients. By doing so, yoga therapy professionals design balanced and effective programs tailored to address individual health challenges such as injury prevention and recovery.

Yoga Therapy for Injury Prevention

Doing yoga as a warm-up before a training session or intense physical activity can help to prevent injury by increasing mindfulness during the workout and by helping to activate muscles and lubricate joints for safer and more effective movement. A yoga therapy warm-up plan may include deep breathing, visualizations, and a series of muscle group-specific dynamic physical movements that prepare the body for a workout better than static stretches do, as shown by such studies as those on the acute effect of passive static stretching by researchers at Stephen F. Austin State University.

Working with a yoga therapy professional for injury prevention can be especially beneficial to those who have been prone to injuries in the past, those who get distracted during workouts so they are not working with optimal strength or focus, or those looking to safely bring up the intensity of their activities.

Yoga Therapy for Injury Recovery

While it may be tempting to push past the pain and get back to being active, taking time to recover from an injury is extremely important. Yoga therapy, especially in tandem with physical therapy, can help not only with stretching, moving and aiding the injured body; it can also assist with the mental and emotional toll of injury recovery. Yoga therapy professionals, such as those who go through MUIH’s M.S. in yoga therapy program, are trained both in the biomedical systems of the human body and in diverse yogic perspectives on the structure, states, functions and conditions of the body, as well as yogic perspectives on the mind in balance (and out of balance).

A yoga therapist may assist individuals with their injury recovery by designing a physical routine to target and strengthen weak muscle groups, guiding clients through mindfulness exercises, and serving as a support system during what can be a frustrating time.

As the U.S. shifts to demand more holistic and complementary approaches to health care, yoga therapy practitioners are playing a primary role and are a vital addition to a professional wellness team. In keeping with its pioneering role in advancing health and wellness education, MUIH graduates go on to become leading influencers and practitioners in the field of yoga therapy.

To learn more about Maryland University of Integrative Health’s master of science in yoga therapy, visit muih.edu.