Is yoga a good exercise? Should I be doing Yoga to stretch more? Can I do yoga?
These are some of the questions I get from patients that have heard about yoga and its benefits. And, just like in many other instances the answer might not be a clear yes or no, but an “it depends.”
Yoga has been shown to be beneficial for physical and mental health. It is well documented that Yoga can help individuals to gain more flexibility, strength, balance, as well as to lower blood pressure, and help with stress and insomnia. Many individuals seeking physical therapy could benefit from a yoga practice to complement their home exercise program, or to continue to be active after rehabilitation. However, it is not a one size fits all deal.
A good way to start is to ask the questions stated above to your health care provider, including your physical therapist, so they can guide you on your decision and options. Different conditions and injuries might determine if Yoga is beneficial, or if it can actually be harmful. Usually, depending on the style, some yoga poses (called Asanas) require students to move to full range of motion that might not be appropriate for everyone.
Another point to consider is to determine the different types of classes offered in your area. Most classes follow a Vinyasa style, moving from one pose to the other in a sequence, and can range from beginners to advance. Different styles can also be an option if looking for something more gentle such as a gentle chair yoga, or restorative yoga. Restorative yoga focuses on breathing and relaxing while maintaining a comfortable position to release tension and supported by props such as bolsters and blankets. These are gentle and safe options for beginners or for people seeking gentle exercises after episodes of pain or injury. On the contrary, Power Yoga or Hot Yoga are challenging options for people who want to focus on a more intense work out for strengthening and weight loss.
Once you have found a good option, talk to your instructor. A registered yoga instructor, one that has obtained a certification from a registered school program, should have suggestions to modify poses or Asanas depending on the concern or discomfort. In addition, they might have some knowledge on poses/ positions to avoid depending on the pain or injury area. Always let them know ahead of time of any concerns and past or previous injuries.
Lastly, if you are able to try Yoga, always listen to your body! As with any exercise routine, there might be some muscular soreness when starting something new, but it should never make a preexisting condition worse. It should never be painful and the pose or exercise should be stopped if they feel uncomfortable, especially if they have already been modified.
There are many different options and a yoga practice can be adapted to your needs and abilities. It is important to always consult with your health care provider or physical therapist and to communicate with the yoga instructor once you find one.
Do not get discouraged! It is good to be open to different options in order to stay active and healthy! It is about finding the right fit that would help you reach your goals and be consistent.
Marybell Padilla DPT, COMT, RYT 200