There’s hardly a town or city in the US that doesn’t offer one or more yoga classes these days.

But to get the most benefit from such a class, you need a well-qualified instructor—especially if you think that yoga isn’t an option for you because of a chronic medical condition, such as arthritis or osteoporosis.

Instructors with the right training can provide you with modifications to help you avoid injuries. That way,  you can get the full range of benefits from this ancient practice, which include improved strength, balance and flexibility…pain reduction…and relief of anxiety and depression.

Here’s what everyone should look for to ensure that his/her yoga instructor is well-qualified…

  • Experience. Finding an experienced yoga teacher is important for anyone taking a yoga class. But if you’re an older adult and/or have a chronic health condition, be sure that the instructor has experience teaching such individuals for at least two to three years and has personally practiced yoga for at least five years.
  • Credentials. Look for E-RYT and/or C-IAYT after the instructor’s name. The former stands for Experienced Registered Yoga Teacher, which is earned through the Yoga Alliance (YA) and indicates at least two years’ experience and 1,000 hours of teaching beyond a basic 200-hour teacher training. The latter, earned through the International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT), indicates 800 hours or more of specialized training beyond the 200-hour basic yoga teacher training. Someone who earns a C-IAYT will likely have taught for many years.

Good resources: Many hospital wellness centers and integrative medicine facilities offer yoga classes created specifically for people with arthritis, osteoporosis and other chronic medical conditions. The IAYT…Yoga Alliance…and Yoga for Seniors can help you locate an experienced local instructor. You can also click on “Find a Certified Yoga Therapist” on the IAYT site.

Source: Carol Krucoff, C-IAYT, E-RYT, a yoga therapist and codirector of the Integrative Yoga for Seniors Professional Training at Duke Integrative Medicine in Durham, North Carolina. She is coauthor of, most recently, Relax into Yoga for Seniors: A Six-Week Program for Strength, Balance, Flexibility and Pain Relief.