I’m not flexible. Can I do yoga therapy even if I can’t touch my toes?
This is a common question with a simple answer! One reason to do yoga is to become more flexible (as well as stronger and more balanced physically and mentally). The physical postures are a small part of a complete yoga practice, and modifications for them can help you build flexibility. These changes take time, so remind yourself to stick with it to see the greatest benefits!
What if I have an injury?
Yoga therapists certified by IAYT have specific training that enables them to modify poses and exercises safely for injuries, physical limitations, and other conditions. Simply tell your yoga therapist about your concerns, and continue to communicate with your medical professionals.
Is yoga a religion?
Yoga is not a religion, although it is a spiritual practice for many. Others use their yoga practice alongside their religious practices without conflict. Read more here.
What if I am not able to get on the floor? Or out of bed?
Therapeutic yoga is not always done on the floor. You could do a class or session completely in a chair or using a chair for support. Yoga therapy can be really helpful when you cannot get out of bed—like during a disease flare or hospital recovery. You can do breathing practices, meditations, or simple movements while in bed, with your doctor’s permission.
Yoga poses are sometimes described using their Sanskrit names, although many yoga therapists simply use translations like “downward-facing dog.” Sanskrit is the ancient Indian language in which yoga texts were commonly written. It may be intimidating to hear the Sanskrit terms, these novel sounds and their particular vibrations could be beneficial for your brain health.
I’m not sick or injured, could yoga therapy still help me?
Yes! Yoga therapy includes a variety of tools that can help healthy, happy people live even more vibrant and fulfilling lives. For example, evidence supports the use of meditation, which is a component of yoga, for improved relationships, sleep, memory, and concentration. The poses can improve your posture and help you feel more flexible, strong, and balanced.
I tried yoga and I don’t like it!
Yoga varies significantly from style to style and teacher to teacher. Give yoga another try with a yoga therapist whose approach resonates with you!
I’ve never done yoga at all…
Yoga therapy is great for beginners because it is usually done individually or in small groups. This can be less intimidating and means you can get more attention from the teacher. You don’t need to be able to do fancy poses—or any poses at all!—to benefit from yoga therapy.
What should I wear?
You can wear anything that is comfortable and allows you to move! There’s no reason you have to wear a special outfit, leggings, or tight clothing if you don’t want. (Traditionally, yogis actually wore loose, breathable clothing.) Yoga is often done barefoot, so do be prepared to take your shoes and socks off. But even this practice can be adapted to suit your individual needs and preferences, for example, if you need the support of a brace or orthotic device or a certain kind of socks.
Am I supposed to practice yoga therapy on an empty stomach?
It is recommended to practice yoga on an empty stomach (for many that means avoiding food 2–3 hours before class). However, everybody is different; if you tend to have low blood sugar, low blood pressure, or some other concern, you may need to eat something small within that time frame. If you’re unsure, check with your physician or healthcare provider.
Do I have to be a vegetarian?
Traditional yogis were vegetarians, and many are still today. However, the practice of yoga therapy welcomes all people.
What can I expect in a one-to-one yoga therapy session?
Ask your yoga therapist specifically, since everyone practices a little differently. Most will do a longer intake for the first session, which may include questions about your health, observing your posture and the way you move, assessing your breathing patterns or balance, and developing goals for your work together. Follow-up sessions may include discussing your progress, personally chosen yoga poses, breathwork, and meditation.
Will my insurance pay for yoga therapy?
Some hospital-based programs and individual yoga therapists accept payment through arrangements with health insurance plans, workers’ compensation, or via your flexible spending/health savings account. However, most yoga therapy today is paid for out of pocket. Because the practices require time to offer the greatest benefits, many yoga therapists offer discounted packages or payment plans.
What’s the difference between yoga therapy and physical therapy?
Although the techniques used by yoga therapists and physical therapists may look similar in their use of movement, the professions differ significantly in their underlying philosophies, scope of practice, and the “tools” in their toolbox.
Physical therapy focuses on restoring function and may use techniques like exercise (which can include postures similar to yoga), manual therapies, electrical stimulation, ultrasound, and dry needling. Yoga therapy, on the other hand, uses its practices to foster regulation, resilience, and well-being. In addition to poses, or asanas, tools of yoga therapy include breathing exercises (pranayama), meditation, self-inquiry, and lifestyle change.
(Note that this is a simplified explanation. Many PTs also use the holistic biopsychosocial model to help their patients; some PTs also practice yoga therapy. Read more on our blog.)
What’s the difference between yoga therapy and psychotherapy?
Yoga therapists do not diagnose mental health conditions or problems. The assessment tools used in yoga therapy emphasize wellness and overall health and are based in yoga philosophy rather than on the psychological sciences used by psychologists, social workers, and mental health counselors. Yoga therapy care is usually broader and includes asana, pranayama, meditation, and other lifestyle modalities.
Your yoga therapist would not, for example, talk with you extensively about the nature of negative thinking or a challenging past; this aspect of mental health work requires skills that are not taught or appropriate to most yoga therapy training programs. Likewise, those offering psychological therapy may not be trained in specific controlled breathing or movement practices that a yoga therapist might use to help alleviate the suffering associated with a mental health concern.
(As above, this is a simplified explanation. Also as with physical therapy, occupational therapy, and integrative medicine, in general these aligned professions are wonderful complements to one another; many patients can benefit from having both a yoga therapist and a psychological therapist.)
We want to help you make educated healthcare decisions. While this post may have links to lead generation forms, this won’t influence our writing. We adhere to strict editorial standards to provide the most accurate and unbiased information.
Practicing yoga can really improve your overall fitness and health. But class costs can add up to hundreds a month if you attend several times a week.1
If you’re worried about the cost, check to see whether your health insurance covers yoga. Unfortunately, the answer is probably not. Most insurance plans exclude yoga as a covered service.
However, there are some exceptions to this rule. And, there may be other ways to save money on yoga classes through your insurance company. Here’s what you need to know.
Different Types of Insurance And Yoga Coverage
Let’s look at the different types of health insurance and their general approach to covering yoga.
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Insurance through your employer
If you get insurance through an employer, it likely doesn’t include coverage for yoga classes. A handful of plans will cover alternative therapies like acupuncture and yoga, but they may be prohibitively expensive.2
Insurance through the Affordable Care Act (ACA)
Plans through a state or federal health insurance marketplace don’t cover yoga classes or gym membership fees. The ACA requires insurance companies to provide coverage for lab services and mental health services. It does not require insurers to cover alternative or complementary medicine, which is how yoga is usually classified.3
If you enrolled in Original Medicare, your plan doesn’t cover gym memberships or fitness programs.4
However, you may be able to get coverage for yoga classes if you have Medicare Advantage. Medicare Advantage plans may offer services, such as vision, dental and wellness programs, that Original Medicare does not. Check out.5 In some cases, you can get free access to fitness equipment and group exercise classes, which may include yoga classes.6
Medicaid doesn’t typically cover yoga classes. Medicaid’s mandatory benefits include inpatient and outpatient hospital services, physician services, and laboratory and x-ray services. States administer their own Medicaid programs, so some could include additional benefits like physical therapy and occupational therapy. There is one exception – you may be able to get coverage if your prescribed physical or occupational therapy includes yoga.7
How can an HSA, FSA, or HRA Help?
If you have a savings account for medical expenses or get reimbursed for insurance expenses from your employer, you can use those funds to reimburse yourself for eligible healthcare expenses. These funds include:
- Health Savings Account (HSA): If you have a high-deductible health plan, you may have an health savings account (HSA). An HSA is an account you fund before taxes to pay for eligible healthcare expenses.
- Health Reimbursement Account (HRA): Your employer owns your HRA account and contributes money to it.
- Flexible Spending Account (FSA): An FSA can be created with an employer-sponsored plan or an individual plan. You can use the FSA to cover medical expenses that your health plan doesn’t cover.
If a licensed healthcare provider diagnoses you with a medical condition and recommends that you attend yoga classes as part of your treatment, the cost for these classes is often reimbursable from your HRA, FSA, or HSA.8
How Do I Find Out if My Insurance Covers Yoga?
When reviewing your health plan documents, it may not be immediately obvious if your plan covers yoga or not. To find out, check your plan’s list of excluded services. This list details what services your plan will not cover under any circumstances. It may state that alternative therapies like massage, yoga, and acupuncture are not covered.
If it’s not clear, contact your insurance company’s customer service department. Explain your health condition and stress that your doctor recommended yoga as a treatment. Then, ask if there is any way to get coverage for some or all of your yoga classes. The representative will give you a definitive answer.
Make sure to keep notes. Write down whom you spoke with and when you called. Having that information is essential if your insurance company later denies your yoga coverage.
What Are Other Ways to Get Coverage?
There are ways you can make yoga more affordable even if your insurance doesn’t cover yoga classes.
Check if your insurer offers a discount program
Several insurers offer discount programs for exercise and alternative therapies such as yoga. It’s not insurance coverage. Instead, they partner with companies to offer savings on equipment and gym memberships.
- Aetna: With the Aetna Fitness discount program, you can save money on gym memberships, yoga mats, and other fitness equipment.9
- Blue Cross Blue Shield: As a Blue Cross Blue Shield (BSBC) member, you may have access to the Blue 365 program. This program offers discounts on a wide range of apparel and services, including LiveKick, a yoga video class.10
- Keep in mind that each Blue Cross Blue Shield company is independent and locally operated so the Blue 365 program may not be available to every BCBS member.
- Cigna: Through Cigna’s Health Rewards program, you can get discounts on Yoga DVDs, mats, and accessories.11
Ask if yoga is covered under fitness or weight-loss reimbursement benefits
If your plan doesn’t cover yoga, you may have another way to get some help with class costs. Some insurers offer partial reimbursement for fitness or weight-loss programs. Some insurance programs, for example a BCBS plan in Massachusetts will reimburse you for yoga classes that you take at eligible fitness studios.12
Another plan, United Healthcare’s Sweat Equity Program, gives eligible members up to $200 for attending fitness classes. To qualify for the $200 reimbursement, you must complete at least 50 classes within a six-month period. Qualifying classes include yoga, aerobics, and more.13
While most insurance plans don’t cover yoga classes, you may still be able to find ways to receive discounts or reimbursement for some expenses. If you’re not sure what kind of savings your insurance plan offers, contact your insurer directly. You may be surprised to find out how much you can save.