There is an increasing number of studies and claims being made by medical experts stating that practicing yoga regularly, even as little as one class per week, can be a safe and effective way to improve mobility, increase function, and reduce pain. Interest levels are rising, and so are the questions.
So, what is Yoga?
Yoga, derived from the Sanskrit root “yuj” which means “to join”, is a practice of connecting the body and mind through movement, breathing exercises, and meditation.
Yoga is a low impact physical activity that can help to improve flexibility, strength, and balance for improved function and movement quality. The incorporation of breathwork and mindfulness brings an added benefit in helping to improve heart, digestive, and nervous system function for decreasing pain, reducing stress, managing weight, and improving sleep quality.
The benefits of yoga in combination with Physical Therapy and other forms of exercise offer a combination of movement with mental focus, in which individuals are taught good posture, self-awareness, and self-care along with relaxation. This is very empowering for individuals in managing chronic health conditions.
Is Yoga safe for me?
Contrary to popular belief, yoga is not about stretching your body into extreme pretzel-like positions, and is not an activity limited to the young and flexible population. This is a misconstrued, dangerous, and limiting idea. Rather, yoga is a practice that is available and accessible to every body, regardless of age, medical history, and experience.
But just like any activity, if practiced incorrectly, it can be risky. So it is important to first be aware of and understand what it is safe and not safe for your body.
How do I get started?
- Ask your Physical Therapist. Working with a Physical Therapist can help you to understand what movements are safe and healthy for your body based on your age, activity level, medical conditions, and goals. They are a great resource in determining if yoga, and which type, is helpful or harmful for you to practice based on your health conditions and injuries.
- Seek out a qualified Yoga Therapist or Teacher. Many Yoga Teachers are not licensed healthcare professionals, and their degree of expertise and knowledge can vary greatly based on their level of training, years of practicing, and background. Finding a teacher who understands and respects your needs and goals can take time. Do your research, ask medical professionals and peers that you trust, and meet and check out local teachers and studios.
- Understand your specific goals and the different types of yoga. In general, a beginner’s level class that provides slower instruction and modifications with props is a great way to get started and become familiar with the basic and foundational postures and exercises.
When paired, the combination of Physical Therapy and a regular yoga practice can be helpful in improving movement and managing pain and stress associated with many health conditions.
If you are interested in more information about how to incorporate yoga into your physical therapy program, Sylvie Le, DPT and Level 1 Certified Yoga Therapist, is always accepting new patients out of her work office in Warwick. She also offers community Medical Therapeutic Yoga and Alignment Flow classes in Warwick and Woonsocket. Please contact and inquire further if you are interested in learning more or signing up.