When clients seek out a yoga therapist or a therapeutic group, they are usually not coming to learn yoga, but to get help with or relief from some symptom or health condition that is troubling them. In most cases, the instruction focuses on their condition and how the yoga techniques can help them feel better or improve their function, rather than on the techniques or methods of yoga practice.
Rather than focusing on yoga methods and practices, yoga therapists fundamentally focus on their clients’ needs. Their job is to understand why their clients have come to see them and determine what they can do to support them. To help them in their work, therapists are trained to assess clients through listening, questioning, observing, and appropriately touching. Therapists look for ways to help their clients reduce or manage their symptoms, improve their function, and help them with their attitude in relation to their health conditions. After assessing clients, therapists establish appropriate goals, develop a practice intervention, and then teach clients to practice that intervention. In this sense, therapists choose yoga techniques in relation to how they will specifically benefit individual clients.
The intention changes in yoga therapy sessions for individuals or groups with specific conditions. After an appropriate intake and assessment, therapists will often focus on the specific symptoms that trouble their clients and identify methods to help them manage those symptoms. Examples include helping clients with pain management, fatigue, or sleeplessness. In addition, the therapist's role is to empower clients to take a more active role in their self-care. The therapist’s job is less about teaching yogic techniques and more about helping clients to overcome their challenges and gain independence. Hence, the job of the therapist represents a different focus, a different type of education, and a different skill set.