Yoga therapist Veronica Zador provides an on-site session.
Yoga therapist Veronica Zador provides an on-site session.

Veronica Zador founded the International Institute of Yoga Therapy (IIYT), one of the first accredited yoga therapy programs in Michigan.

The original intent of yoga, derived from ancient spiritual practices in India, was training the body and mind to self-observe through a series of physical poses and breathing exercises. By this means, the body would be rejuvenated.

Yoga therapy, however, expands the concept, bringing “the tools of yoga into the healthcare setting to give people accessible methods to improve their health and well-being,” said certified yoga therapist Veronica Zador of West Bloomfield, a worldwide leader in her profession.

As opposed to “regular” yoga held in a studio, the yoga therapist generally meets in a clinical setting with individuals, referred to as patients, on a one-to-one or small group/symptom-specific basis.

Veronica Zador
Veronica Zador

Hospitals, clinics and schools are among the clients that bring yoga therapists to “help offset moral injury or compassion fatigue” among their staff. Both terms denote the experience of essential worker “burnout.”

“People can learn effective ways to reverse pain and discomfort, and self-activate their own sense of comfort, restfulness, strength and composure through breathing, meditation and, if appropriate, adaptive movement,” Zador said.

Zador, who earned her bachelor of science degree at Cleveland State University, founded the International Institute of Yoga Therapy (IIYT), one of the first accredited yoga therapy programs in Michigan.

IIYT was also among the first yoga therapy certification programs in the U.S. held under the auspices of a hospital (it was formerly based at Beaumont Healthcare System in Royal Oak). With the COVID pandemic keeping people apart, IIYT opened its “virtual” doors on Jan. 17, and nearly 100 people joined in a Zoom celebration.

Zador’s interest in yoga therapy began 30 years ago, teaching at her own studio, Namaste Yoga, in Royal Oak. Realizing a deeper aspect to the field of yoga, Zador made sure each person received the maximum benefit with techniques tailored to his or her needs, even within a group class.

Zador’s credentials include two terms as president of the International Association of Yoga Therapists, a group she helped revive by organizing three well-attended conferences in Los Angeles. She also served two terms as vice president of Yoga Alliance (YA), the representational organization for yoga teachers. She was chair of yoga standards for YA, including Prenatal Yoga and Yoga for Children Standards.

Specialists Teach

Zador’s accredited school includes certified yoga therapists as faculty, with M.Ds. and Ph.Ds. as adjunct faculty giving lectures on their medical specialties, and staff faculty to provide instruction in clinical applications of yoga therapy.

Specialists are brought to lecture, Zador said, “because breast cancer, for example, is not our area of expertise, but we need to understand the disease and work on clinical adaptations for yoga therapy. We can help patients self-manage symptoms of their disease, before and after surgery.”

Members of her family are involved with IIYT. The business manager is her husband, Dr. Ivan Zador, a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering and retired from DMC Hutzel Women’s Hospital in Detroit. Formerly from Cleveland, they belong to the Birmingham Temple in Farmington Hills.

Yoga therapist Donna Raphael
Yoga therapist Donna Raphael

Their daughter Lara Zador, M.D., senior anesthesiologist and director of Henry Ford Health System’s Multidisciplinary Pain Clinic, is an adjunct faculty member. Three grandchildren from their teacher daughter, Liza Wade, assist in the school’s Yoga for Children program, for ages 7-13.

Certified yoga therapist Donna Raphael of Bloomfield Township, also a yoga teacher, learned of Zador’s school in 2014. Completing the externship program in January 2018, Raphael said, has “totally transformed my teaching and my own yoga practice.”

Zador, Raphael’s mentor, “brings the ancient yoga teaching into the practical application of helping people as they are — whether they are dealing with chronic pain or side effects of disease, or if they want to improve their own health.”

Raphael added, “Yoga therapy helps us find our inner strength as we live in a stressful world.

“It becomes more and more important as we grow older.”

Learn Yoga Therapy:

International Institute of Yoga Therapy, a 2½-year program, currently has 56 upper-level students enrolled. Registration is underway for all levels of yoga therapist training starting in September. Previous yoga teacher training is a prerequisite. IIYT is also offering four free 60-minute one-on-one yoga therapy sessions on Zoom, supervised and monitored by IIYT clinical extern coordinators. For information, contact iiyogatherapy.com,