Thursday, January 12, 2012

Yoga as a Health Profession: Some Thoughts

I'm sure I've mentioned before, but I'm not just a yoga practicing, tree-hugging gal... most of my life is actually centered around something I don't blog about that much: Speech-Language Pathology. Human communication. That is my schtick really. All things about how we communicate fascinates me and if you add multiple languages and you've got me hooked. I love me a fantabulous accent, grammatical differences, allophones of the same phoneme stuff.

(ahem, boring stuff for most!)

Unfortunately, this amazing profession of helping children connect, communicate and achieve love through language has also embedded itself into my every waking thought. I analyze sounds, notice dialectical aberrations (sadly "I seen" just isn't correct, even if I might say it myself sometimes-BAD SLP) and geek out over interesting multiple language interactions. The yoga instructor has an accent? I spend most of the class puzzling together what sort of vowel changes she's doing.

I've simply accepted it as work place hazard.

All this to introduce how the past five years of my life have taught me quite a bit about the helping professions- what can help and what can hinder.

Traditional health professionals can be pretty darn snobby about alternative therapies... but as Yoga increases in popularity and supporting medical research continues to support Yoga as a valuable member in the wholistic interprofessional team, we need to make a decision. Often I read doubt, cynism or complete distrust to embrace a change toward yoga fitting in the rubric of "health profession". I understand where this is coming from. I do.

That said, what disappoints me are those who refuse to see how Yoga could find it's own unique place.

A few of the benefits of a health professional:

  • Having a national organization (CASLPA) that supports and advocates for SLPs (and Audiologists) helps me have a valid say in how my profession changes and grows. 
  • Requiring certification (5 hour exam) that is the same across the country assures that those SLPs who are also certified meet a certain standard. 
  • This standard then feeds back to the master's programs nationally. The exam reflects what should be taught in master's programs assuring that there are no programs that pump out substandard SLPs, which in turn results decreased percentage of "poor caliber" SLPs to tarnish the profession.
  • National certification also assures that SLPs maintain continued education of a certain standard. This encourages evidence based knowledge sharing and giving.
  • Although Nova Scotia is one of the last provinces to do this, our legislative body (crossing fingers will happen soon!) assures that you can't practice in Nova Scotia, call yourself a "Speech-Language Pathologist" without meeting certain standards (i.e. CASLPA certification).
  • This protects other SLPs, the integrity of our profession as well as the client. If you're seeking out an SLP in the province you can be assured of a certain standard.
  • Client satisfaction and safety can actually become an issue in Speech Pathology. SLPs work with individuals with swallowing problems (lung infection, choking, quality of life), laryngectomies, head and neck cancer, strokes along with Autism, Down Syndrome, Seizure disorders to name just a few populations. Having a poorly trained SLP could truly impact the client for the rest of their lives.
  • Interprofessional work is easier- other professionals can expect a certain level of knowledge, skill and credibility. This is essential when working as a team- trust.
I hope you can see the connection between these benefits and the recent issues and concerns being raised with the growing Yoga Instructor Profession. Bemoaning the lack of training, the lack of rigidity, the inconsistencies between training programs while in the same breath railing against any attempt at certification or standardisation seems counterintuitive. I get that change is scary, difficult and challenging with so many disparate paths to becoming an Instructor. I also understand that some may be nervous about losing their ability to teach. Physiotherapy wasn't always a master's degree... what happened to those who didn't have a master's degree? They were "grand-mothered" in.

I most certainly do not have the answers. This is a complex question. As someone who (gasp!) works within the western medicine cube, I just see so much potential for Yoga to influence and shape health professions around the world. I do believe there is space within the confines of what constitutes a health professional for a Yoga Instructor. I also believe that should this work be undertaken BOTH Yoga Instructors and students will benefit greatly from this new path.

article copyright of EcoYogini at

1 comment:

  1. Well said! And I had no idea you were an SLP. I'm about to embark on Masters journey beginning today, so I'd love to hear more word nerding :)


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