Physiotherapy is an evidence-based and well respected health profession that helps clients restore and maintain optimal movement and function. Physiotherapists also aim to provide education to patients on health maintenance and injury prevention.
Yoga is an ancient system of health that encourages you to address and nourish your body and mind. Yoga promotes mental wellness as well as physical wellness. Physically, it improves mobility and strength, and mentally, it uses breathing and meditation methods to activate the parasympathetic nervous system to reduce stress and increases positive emotion.
Interestingly, in New Delhi, University Grants Commission has written to all universities that yoga teaching may be included in bachelors and masters’ programmes of physiotherapy.
But practising yoga regularly, for some people with pre-existing injuries, can be harmful.
For example, a person with a bulging disc in their spine should be careful with yoga poses that require the spine to flex, rotate or side-bend. All three motions, can be irritants on a bulging disc. Flexion of your spine, as in forward folds, can be particularly damaging. Sitting for prolonged periods causes aggravation of a bulging disc due to this rounding of the spine, so stepping into a yoga close, even those restorative types (yin), may do more harm than good. These people would be better off getting some one-to-one yoga classes, with a knowledgeable instructor (better yet, a physiotherapist yoga teacher).
There are many other physical ailments that could potentially be aggravated by a traditional yoga practise.
The real benefits of yoga come when a skilled physiotherapist applies their knowledge to the individual during yoga practise.
The marriage of physio and yoga yields a movement-based treatment method that can address many different physical ailments. It can improve muscular strength, endurance, flexibility, postural alignment, body awareness, circulation, digestion, hormonal balance, respiration, immune function, strengthen bones and normalise blood pressure. The mental benefits may be part of a treatment plan too, as improving sleep, stress, relaxation and concentration can lead to long term physiological benefits, such as reduced inflammation.
When I am a registered physiotherapist, I intend to use the practise of yoga to compliment my treatment plans and help my patients recover and go beyond their previous state of health.
‘The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence recommendations for the management of low back pain are movement instruction, muscle strengthening, postural control and stretching. Yoga meets all of these,’
– physiotherapist Sarah Shone (Bridgewater Community Healthcare NHS Trust)
“We passionately believe that if everyone had yoga in their lives, it would make the world a better place,”
– Simon Borg-Olivier, founder of Yogasynergy, and physiotherapist