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At St. Jude Wellness Center, we are proud to offer yoga therapy services led by a certified yoga therapist. However, we often find that our clients are curious about what makes yoga therapy any different than a typical yoga flow and why workshops offered by our yoga therapist are often focused solely on breathing. In this blog post, let’s demystify the concept of yoga therapy, explain the significance of breath work in prevention, restoration, and condition management, and shed light on how working with a yoga therapist can optimize your breathing and overall health.

Understanding Yoga Therapy

Yoga therapy is specialized form mind-body instruction that utilizes various tools of yoga practice, including postures, breath work, meditation, and mindfulness, to improve physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Unlike more familiar types of yoga classes, yoga therapy is tailored to meet individual needs and often has a focus on managing specific conditions or concerns alongside standard medical interventions. In addition to the minimum 200 hours of yoga instructor coursework, yoga therapists are required to complete an additional 800 hours through an accredited yoga therapist program and minimum 100 hours of therapeutic practice work before becoming certified. Yoga therapists therefore have a deeper knowledge of anatomy, physiology and clinical applications of yoga theory.

The Power of Breath

Breathing is an automatic process that sustains life, but it can also serve as a powerful therapeutic tool when used consciously and intentionally. Here’s how specific, targeted breath work can play a vital role in both condition management and overall well-being:

  1. Reducing Stress and Anxiety: Research suggests that conscious deep breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system, triggering the relaxation response and reducing stress hormones such as cortisol. By incorporating breath work into your routine, you can alleviate anxiety and promote a calm state of mind.
  2. Enhancing Lung Capacity: Focusing on breath control and expanding lung capacity through yoga therapy exercises can improve respiratory health. Studies show that regular practice of diaphragmatic breathing exercises can enhance lung function, improve oxygenation, and alleviate symptoms related to respiratory conditions, including COPD and COVID-19.
  3. Cultivating Mind-Body Connection: Breath work serves as a bridge between the mind and body, enhancing body awareness and promoting a sense of mindfulness. By consciously directing your breath, you can become more attuned to the sensations and needs of your body, facilitating self-care and self-healing. The impacts of a strong mind-body connection are expansive, but two of the most direct impacts are on better awareness of hunger and satiety cues for weight management and IBS control, as well as improved understanding of physical limits with conditions such as concussion or chronic pain that can be triggered by pushing one’s body too far.
  4. Balancing the Nervous System: The breath has a direct impact on the autonomic nervous system, which controls essential bodily functions. Research indicates that slow, deep breaths can stimulate the vagus nerve, which helps regulate heart rate, blood pressure, digestion, and overall nervous system balance. In fact, an inflamed or dysfunctional vagal nerve has been shown in research to be an underlying component of ongoing symptoms of long COVID and other immune conditions, with stimulation of the vagus nerve being an effective therapy for managing these symptoms. Consistent practice of yoga therapy is one very effective (as well as affordable and accessible) way of stimulating the vagus nerve.

Conditions Managed with Breath

Targeted breath work can work alongside medical interventions to create symptom relief for the following conditions:

  • Chronic pain
  • Neurological conditions such as multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, stroke and epilepsy
  • Arthritic pain
  • Headache
  • Depression, mood, anxiety & tension
  • Lung conditions such as COPD and long-COVID
  • Balance & fall risks
  • Sleep concerns
  • Metabolic dysfunctions
  • Menopause


Working with a certified yoga therapist can significantly enhance your breath work practice, which can improve many health indicators including overall quality of life and sense of well-being.  Whether it is in the form of a private consult or a small group session, breath work is a central part of the yoga therapy experience. However, like any skill or outcome, consistency is key. Just like you would not expect to be a power lifter after just one personal training session, one session of yoga therapy may provide an immediate sense of calm but will not create lasting effects. The brain and the body thrive on repetition and practice. The more you practice targeted breath work and your body feels its positive impacts, the more you will intuitively and automatically trigger breath work when faced with stressful situations either internally or externally. By consciously harnessing the power of breath, you can reduce stress, improve lung and immune function, cultivate mind-body connection, and balance your nervous system. Working with a certified yoga therapist amplifies the benefits of breath work, providing personalized guidance and a holistic approach to enhance your health. We hope we have encouraged you to start your journey towards optimal well-being by exploring the potential of the one and only tool you have ready to go in your pocket at all times: your breath.