Is Yoga Therapy Fake News?


As yoga therapists, we're breaking grounds and making the field--a challenging and exciting time to live!

If you're like everybody else, you don't know what yoga therapy is. Here are four questions to help you see clear.

I get the question almost daily, “What’s yoga therapy? Isn’t yoga supposed to be therapeutic, in the first place?” And it’s true, yoga is a 5,000-year old mind-body practice that early seekers came up with to feel happier. So, yes, yoga is therapeutic by definition. That was years ago, though. Since then, yoga has turned into a physical practice mostly for those who are “fit”!

In the ocean of yoga styles, yoga therapy is a new yoga, a yoga for the “misfits”, which really means a yoga for each one of us since we all shift from being “fit” to “misfit”, and vice versa, during the course of our lives. Here are four questions to help you understand this practice that hardly no one knows yet, and what to expect from it.

Is yoga therapy actually a thing?
Yes and no.

Yes, in the way that the International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT), a non-profit founded in the late 80’s in the Western U.S. by a handful of yogis and doctors, has released training standards for yoga studios that want to offer a yoga therapy training program, and for yoga teachers who want to teach yoga therapy. There are 27 IAYT-accredited yoga therapy training programs, and 2,500 IAYT-certified yoga therapists, in the world. Each certified yoga therapist has received a training that answers the IAYT’s requirements, and is committed to obey to a code of ethics.

No, in the sense that yoga therapy is unregulated. Unlike acupuncture, chiropractic or counselling, there is no license given to those who are trained as yoga therapists. The IAYT is working on establishing yoga as a respected and recognized therapy. In the meantime, we’re the first generation, and breaking grounds.

That being said, there are yoga teachers out there who have had no formal training in yoga therapy and, still, who do a job just as good, if not better, than certified yoga therapists. It all depends on the teacher’s quality of presence and knowledge.

Who can yoga therapy help?

Anyone interested in deepening their healing journey. The practice is accessible to everyone, regardless of their fitness level, body type and mobility. I’ve had clients come to me for physical issues--lower back and hip issues, weight management, post-surgery recovery, post-cancer treatment recovery, Parkinson’s disease, and more—as well as for emotional breakthroughs--post-partum depression, grief after loss of a loved one, anxiety, to name a few. Yoga therapy can also help when we simply need to check in, feel and know what is truly going on with ourselves emotionally and physically, so that we can take the necessary action whenever we’re ready.

How does yoga therapy work?

It depends on the yoga therapist. Each one of us works with who we are as a human. Some yoga therapists have a background in physical therapy, others in psychology, others in the arts and more. We all do share one thing in common—we use yoga techniques to help a person create, develop and nurture their physical, emotional, mental and spiritual well being.

I personally love helping a person dive into their body, and feel the emotions that have been stored. My classes start with a specific hatha yoga (yoga of the poses) practice that’s geared to help participants connect deeply with their body. The practice is usually followed by a time where I invite them, thanks to a “toolkit”, to become aware of how they truly feel and then share it with their own words. Body connection, awareness and spoken word. These, to me, are the keys to wellbeing, if not health.

What does a yoga therapy session typically look like?

Yoga therapy works well in one-on-one private sessions or in small group classes or workshops. Other than that, each yoga therapist works their own way. Whatever the setting, you should expect a high quality of presence from a yoga therapist.

In a nutshell, the keys to achieving the benefits of yoga therapy is finding a teacher that you connect with, the believe in the body-mind connection and the willingness to step into that space.

My Yoga Teacher And I


During her 40-year career as a yoga teacher, Aline has trained dozens of yoga teachers including her daughter Sandra Drai. Some, like me, teach outside of France.

Aline Frati has taught me everything in yoga. Her yoga practice, where "listening" and self-awareness are prime, is truly unique.

I’ve come across many yoga teachers since I’ve started practicing yoga. Some have helped me dissolve the tensions that were in the deepest tissues of my body. Some have guided me in the philosophy of yoga. Others have shown me how breathing exercises can expand my awareness. Others have made me feel like I’m dancing. Still, out of all of the teachers who have crossed my path, there is only one whom I consider my true teacher in yoga. Aline Frati has been teaching yoga for 40 of her 79 years--both in classes that she hosts in her classic Parisian-style Haussmannian apartment and also at retreats in France, India and Israel.

A friend dragged me to her class, in 2004. I had never done yoga before. I had been diagnosed with breast cancer shortly before, and was ready to do anything to break from the depression and the fear that came along with the diagnosis.

Aline taught a semi private to my friend and I. The experience with her style of yoga was like love at first sight. I had been pushing myself for decades. I worked in corporate jobs--sometimes in brutally competitive environments--I had no passion for, and I was coming out of a toxic relationship of ten years. I had managed to survive all of this thanks to my inextinguishable joy and the support of my tribe. And here I was, in Aline’s apartment, connecting for the very first time with a part of myself that I had ignored most of my life—my body.

Although Aline says “this yoga approach is for everyone”, the yoga she teaches is the most therapeutic form of yoga I have ever come across. Far from the “yoga-robics” that is widely practiced in the West, her yoga is about developing our capacity to “listen” to our body without judgment. It’s also about dissolving the repetitive patterns of fear and anxiety that we have experienced since childhood, that get fixed in the body in the form of pain or restriction. “The goal is to help a person become aware of this fixed energy so that it can be freed, and find its way back through the body’s global energy,” she explains.

Since 2005, I’ve attended over half a dozen one-week long yoga retreats with Aline. Most of them in an 11th century abbey in the ancient village of Saint Antoine L’Abbaye hidden in the French pre-Alps. The abbey served as a hospital in medieval times, and is now a personal development center run by a Christian community. Every single corner of this place heals.

During Aline’s retreats, I’ve seen her eat almost nothing for a week so that her perception was as clear as it could be for her students. “It’s the teacher’s quality of presence, not the yoga technique, that helps a person harmonize,” she says.

Bringing a person to deep relaxation is pivotal in her yoga teaching. “We can’t modify anything without the body being deeply relaxed first,” she says.

As a little Jewish girl, Aline survived World War II in occupied France. Later, she left an unhappy marriage taking her two kids with her. She met her spiritual teacher, Jean Klein, who passed away in 1998 at the age of 86, when her marriage started falling apart. “Every time I was around him, I felt a sense of unity between us, a thread of love and affection.”

Everytime I've needed deep renewal, I've been lucky to end up at Saint Antoine L'Abbaye (French Alps) during one of Aline's one-week yoga retreats that she's taught in the healing center, almost every year since 2005.

Despite Aline offering me many of Jean Klein’s books, I’ve never understood his writings and philosophy. That’s okay. I don’t need to understand. The most important is that I now feel in my body what is going on with me, and I pass this approach to others through my yoga therapy practice. “Merci”, Aline, for showing me the way to my body and soul.