ONLY $25 FOR YOUR FIRST MONTH OF MEDICATION. start here

The Benefits of Yoga Therapy

Mary Lucas, RN

Medically reviewed by Mary Lucas, RN

Written by Our Editorial Team

Last updated 1/21/2022

You’ve probably heard that exercise has benefits that go beyond your physical health. In fact, it’s been shown to reduce depression and anxiety.

Well, it turns out that yoga specifically has some benefits worth considering. So much so that “yoga therapy” has become a thing. 

Interested in downward dogging your way into a better state of mind? Well, let’s have a look.

What Is Yoga Therapy? 

According to The International Association for Yoga Therapists, yoga therapy involves the adaptation of yoga principles and practices to help people with their physical and emotional health. Beyond the physical practice of yoga, breathing techniques and meditation may be incorporated into yoga therapy. 

Yoga therapy may be used on its own or as a part of more traditional talk therapy. The thinking here is that yoga unites the mind and body, allowing you to better connect with your internal feelings.

As for who yoga therapy may help, it’s believed that it may be a useful tool for:

  • People who tend to dissociate

  • Those who deal with anxiety

  • Individuals who have experienced trauma

  • Men and women who lack self-esteem

This is because yoga therapy can encourage people to stay present in their body, quiets the mind and encourages a sense of empowerment through one’s body. 

Wondering what a yoga therapy session may look like? There are a variety of things that may occur. 

For example, a yoga therapist may lead you through alternate nostril breathing. With this, you’ll be instructed to use your finger to close up one side of your nose (by pushing your nostril down) and breathing through the unclosed nostril. 

Then, to exhale, you’ll switch — closing the nostril that had been open and breathing out through the one you had just closed. 

The thinking is that this breathing technique can help you regulate your emotions.

Some yoga moves sometimes used in yoga therapy include cat-cow (where you get on all fours and round your back and then arch your back) and a seated twist (where you twist your torso one way and then another while in a seated position). 

It’s believed that these motions are physical manifestations of opening yourself up and being vulnerable, which may help some do that emotionally, too. 

What are the Positive Effects of Yoga Therapy? 

Yoga therapy has been shown to have a number of potential benefits — including some that are psychological. 

Literature currently suggests that working with a yoga therapist can increase alertness and positive feelings, while decreasing negative feelings of aggressiveness, depression and anxiety.

A 2021 systematic review suggested that yoga can help treat mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and more. 

Another metaanalysis of the literature, done in 2011, found that yoga can be a good complementary form of therapy in the treatment of mental health illnesses.

It’s important to note that more research is needed to draw any conclusive opinions about the benefits of yoga therapy. 

psych meds online

psychiatrist-backed care, all from your couch

Trying Yoga as Therapy

In general, exercise is thought to have some really positive effects on mental health. Studies have even found that it can reduce anxiety and depression. 

Similarly, yoga therapy is a tool that can help some people both physically and emotionally. By engaging in the practice of yoga — the physical moves, breathing exercises and the mindfulness that’s a part of it — it’s believed that people can create a bigger mind-body connection. 

This can help people who have a tendency to dissociate as the result of things like trauma or stress because it encourages them to stay present in their body. 

Beyond that, there’s some evidence to suggest that yoga therapy can help people dealing with anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder and more.

It can be used on its own, but more often, yoga practice may be used as an adjunct therapy in conjunction with other forms of treatment. 

If you’re interested in trying yoga therapy, it’s best to speak with a mental health professional. They will be able to discuss it more in depth and could potentially provide you with the resources to find a therapist trained in therapeutic yoga.

6 Sources

Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references.

  1. Sharma, A., Madaan, V., Petty, F., (2006). Exercise for Mental Health. The Primary Care Companion. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1470658/
  2. Contemporary Definitions of Yoga Therapy. The International Association of Yoga Therapists. Retrieved from https://www.iayt.org/page/ContemporaryDefiniti
  3. 5 Ways to Implement Yoga into Psychotherapy. Society for the Advancement of Psychotherapy. Retrieved from https://societyforpsychotherapy.org/5-ways-implement-yoga/
  4. Stephens, I., (2017). Medical yoga therapy. Children. Retreived from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5332914/
  5. Brinsley, J., Schuch, F., Lederman, O., et al., (2019). Effects of yoga on depressive symptoms in people with mental disorders: a systematic review and meta-analysis. British Journal of Sports Medicine. Retrieved from https://bjsm.bmj.com/content/55/17/992
  6. Cabral, P., Meyer, H., Ames, D., (2011). Effectiveness of yoga therapy as a complementary treatment for major psychiatric disorders: a meta-analysis. Prime Care Companion CNS Discord. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22132353/
What’s next?

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.