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YOGA FOR YOU
Before I became a physiotherapist I had a strong desire to do yoga. As a young adult it was a way to take a break from the chatter in my own head; allowing me to escape from the business of the world around me. The more I practiced, the more I realized that there was more to yoga than just a form of escape. I also started to piece together how beneficial yoga was for the individual, along with how it can be used as an adjunct to holistic medical practices such as physiotherapy. The following blog will touch on different aspects of yoga and how it can be beneficial within the physiotherapy practice.
What is yoga?
To the western world yoga is sometimes portrayed as primarily a physical practice. However, it is much more than that! The word yoga itself stems from the ancient Sanskrit text and through a simple translation means to “unite”. It can be thought as the union of the individual’s mind, body and soul -ultimately guiding individuals towards a unified state of harmony with one’s self and the world. Yoga as an individual practice can look differently for everyone, but usually withholds the common values of self-awareness and growth. Ultimately aiding us in discovering the sacredness of life, which is something that can be easily forgotten in the busy western world.
Since a major attribute of yoga is the physical practice it is important to treat yoga the same way you would a new exercise program – gradually and slow. The best thing about yoga is that there is a style and level for everyone; you just have to seek out what is appropriate for you. The easiest way to do this is to ask questions! Yoga studios and teachers operate in a judgment free zone; they’re there with open arms to help guide you towards a class/through a practice that is appropriate for your body. Once you have found a class/type you wish to try, remember not to push yourself. In yoga, we call it finding your edge. “The edge” is when you push yourself to a place of challenge, but not into higher levels where sensations such as discomfort or pain can be felt. On a scale from 0-10, with 0 meaning no challenge and 10 being the maximum challenge (pain is experienced at this level) start with a 5/10 level of difficulty for your warm up. Then as the class progresses allow yourself to push into a 7/10 during the more intense parts of the class. It seems to be a common mistake to push yourself to look like the teacher or others in the room. Remember yoga is a judgment free zone that has no place for the ego, so put yours aside and take the 30-60minues to connect with yourself and free your mind from the chatter in your head and the outside world.
Yoga and Physiotherapy
With yoga providing a platform for individuals to learn about the mental and physical body, it can ultimately be a source of dynamic education for people recovering from a spectrum of injuries from an ankle fracture to neurological events such as a stroke. It can also be a powerful tool in the management of persistent/chronic pain, which seems to more prevalent in our society now more than ever. The mindfulness aspect combined with breath and movement can help activate the parasympathetic nervous system which allows the body and its function to slow and calm down -an essential aspect of chronic pain management! (Read our blog "Just Breath")
I hope I was able to provide you with some introductory information on the definition of yoga, finding a class that is right for you, along with touching on the benefits of incorporating yoga into medical practices. Just like any physical activity, if you are unsure if it is safe for you due to any pre-existing condition(s), discuss with your doctor or other health care professional. Remember that there is a yoga style out there for everyone and certified yoga teachers have the knowledge to adapt the class to fit you and your needs.
|Author- Brittany is a physiotherapist who graduated from Dalhousie University in 2016 with a Master’s of Science in Physiotherapy. Her main clinical interest is neuro science and restoring functional movement patterns. She is a firm believer in the mind-body connection and enjoys incorporating this throughout her treatment sessions. Her treatment philosophy is to help people become more aware of their bodies, their physical stressors and abilities in order to help them get back to their work, family and activity.|
Keirstead, J. Teacher Training Manual. Halifax, NX: Breathing Space Yoga Studio
Wren, A. A., Wright, M. A., Carson, J. W., & Keefe, F. J. (2011). Yoga for persistent pain: new findings and directions for an ancient practice. Pain, 152(3), 477.