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Guest Post: Yoga Therapists as Interprofessional Communicators

Posted By Matthew J. Taylor, PT, PhD, C-IAYT, International Association of Yoga Therapists, Wednesday, August 22, 2018

When the Integrative Pain Care Policy Congress gathers in Boston this November, a “new kid” will be in attendance. I will be there to represent the yoga therapy profession on behalf of the International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT), a sponsor of the 2018 Policy Congress.

“A yoga what?” you might rightly ask. That’s right, yoga therapy is a profession. In this blog, I want to share some of the exciting processes IAYT has implemented related to interprofessional communication and interprofessional pain education, as well as offer a brief introduction to the profession of yoga therapy. It’s my hope that when we meet to congress (con = together; gress = walk) in November, I might learn how your organization is implementing similar processes.

What is Yoga Therapy?

Yoga therapy is both very old and quite new. In the past decade, the nascent profession of over 5,500 members from over 50 countries and with 3,600 credentialed therapists has:

Yoga therapists are distinct from yoga teachers by both breadth and depth of training (learn more). While this modern expression of yoga therapy is young, we are rooted in a long history of development. We can rightly lay claim to being the “early adapters” to the idea of integrative, which was referenced in the 6th century BCE in the Taittiriya-Upanishads.  The development of our profession hasn’t led to the ingrained siloes of disciplinary isolation that other professions have faced, as yoga inherently considers the multiple aspects of being human (physical, psycho-emotional, social, and spiritual). As such, I believe that yoga therapists can help lead in modeling the “sewing back together” (sutras) of interprofessional communication and education.

Interprofessional Sutras: Healthy Conversations as the Fabric that Unites

The past two years at IAYT’s international symposium ( we have invested time, training, and action inquiry into becoming effective interprofessional communicators. Given our advantage of being rooted in an integral worldview, we asked, “How is it we can be catalysts for healthy conversations to facilitate suturing/sutra-ing collaborative care together for those in pain?” As with every integrative process, we realized we had to work on ourselves first!

The Inquiry Processes

In 2017, IAYT brought together multiple senior professionals to demonstrate/practice interprofessional dialog of learning “with, from, and about” as foundational to interprofessional pain education (IPE)1. The afternoon session with the rehabilitation community professionals representing many different disciplines involved a lively interaction based on a complex chronic pain case report, with audience interaction and collecting “next action” proposals from the experience.

This year, when our community of diverse professionals next convened, those actions proposals were then introduced in an all-day session during which the 80+ participants “saw one, did one, and taught one” in groups of mixed rehab professionals that included yoga therapists, physicians, mental health professionals, dieticians, physical and occupational therapists, and more. We moved between multiple learning experiences, collecting feedback and insights to identify specific opportunities and barriers to practice. The day concluded with participants committing to return home and initiate similar IPE experiences in their local networks, drawing from our collected insights and guidelines.

What Did We Learn?

Fascinatingly, from the many skills and qualities that IAYT has identified over the past two years of our process, the outcomes can all be categorized as requiring practices in embodied and enacted domains as described by Roshi Joan Halifax, PhD for priming for compassion2. Equally gratifying was that these practices include the domains that describe a full yoga practice. Here’s a very short sample:

  • Attention: Sustaining and returning attention to deeply listening vs. preparing a rebuttal or contrary position is key.
  • Affective: Being able to sense affect in one’s self and the other minimizes reactionary responses and illuminates deeply held biases/assumptions.
  • Insight: Occurs via presence and ability to not react from habit out of aversion or attachment.
  • Intention: Regularly returning to the larger shared intention grounds the other skills and maintains focus.
  • Embodiment: None of the above are possible without sustaining attention to our lived body experience moment to moment, and that is enhanced by regular practice.
  • Enaction: Nothing beats “doing it”. Most learning comes from regular and frequent engagement with others with the above qualities and intention to learn “with, from, and about” others.

All of these domains reinforce the primacy of how each participant in IPE and communications ought to sustain their personal integrative practice in order to “show up” primed for effective and optimal engagement.

What are the Implications for the Policy Congress?

As we 100 attendees of this November’s Integrative Pain Care Policy Congress enter our busy autumn season, maintaining our integrative self-care practices is a critical component for our interprofessional success. Priming ourselves to be with so many others having many different agendas and priorities will be good “preventative medicine” to insure we can “walk together” (congress!) in fulfilling our shared intention of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra 2.16:


“The pain that is yet to come may be avoided.”

Each of us brings an important “thread” to sew together an integrative tapestry of integrative pain care policy that will require the best of each of us.

I look forward to meeting all of you in Boston!


1. Gordon, DB, Watt-Watson,J, Hogans, BB. (2018) Interprofessional pain education – with, from, and about competent, collaborative practice teams to transform pain care. Pain Reports: 3; e663.

2. Halifax, J. (2012) ‘A heuristic model of enactive compassion.’ Curr Opin Support Palliat Care 6 2: 228-235.

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