All right, so let’s talk about yoga. We’re going to talk about who yoga can benefit, the scientific benefits of yoga, how it can help injury recovery and prevention, and how it might complement physical therapy. Let’s get into it!
Why Yoga Is Important For Athletes And Non-Athletes Alike
Yoga can benefit literally anyone. Including anyone looking for more mobility, for better power, or better motion during their sports. If you’re locked up and dealing with a limited range of motion, then you’re not able to access the full capability of your strength or power. And because of that, you’re going to be left with impaired performance. Whether it’s just things around the house, everyday activities and hobbies like hiking or gardening, or sports like football, hockey, basketball, or golf, yoga can keep you injury free and enjoying those activities for a long time.
Yoga has several benefits for all kinds of movers, from walkers and shoe tie-ers to competitive athletes. There aren’t many people who wouldn’t benefit from having more mobility and more motor control. Athletes can benefit from yoga because practicing going into ranges that you’re uncomfortable in tells your brain that those ranges are still necessary. This keeps you from losing mobility as quickly over time. In short, yoga will give you more mobility when you’re playing any sort of sport, or even just going into your day to day life, let you and prevent you from losing your mobility as quickly…
Yoga For Mobility
Mobility is a use it or lose it situation. Most of us live in a forwards and backwards world. Typical workout routines and hobbies like running, or hiking, are comprised of forward and backwards movements. Very little of the workout is actually going to the sides or twisting into rotation. So gradually over time, our bodies lose the ability to intelligently move through those ranges. And so those areas start to stiffen up. Which means that if we do an event where we actually need those ranges, we’re at higher risk for injury because our body is venturing into unknown (and very stiff) territory.
So it’s important to use all three planes of motion in your training programs. For example, weightlifters should also do something to supplement the other two planes of motion to prevent getting stiff in those planes. Often that results in better performance in the weight room, too.
Yoga for Injury Prevention
When it comes to injury prevention, we already touched on how having that mobility enables us to perform without using unfamiliar ranges, so we don’t get hurt. But it also helps recovery by promoting blood flow. When you practice breathing correctly, it can also accelerate oxygen delivery to the tissues.
Yoga also improves mental health. Breathing correctly during yoga routines brings down your blood pressure, calms your mind, and helps get you into a meditative state. This reduce physical and emotional stressors in your life. Stress is one of the number one things that prevents people that are in pain from getting better. In fact, a lot of times stress can be the thing that actually causes the pain.
Yoga can help you incorporate a multifaceted exercise program into your routine where you’re using all three planes of motion, using mobility that you don’t typically use in your other sports. You can’t go wrong with yoga
How Yogi’s Can Get the Most Out of Their Practice
Yogis should consider working with a physical therapist to get the most benefits out of their practice. A lot of our clients are diehard yogis. One of two situations typically occurs. One situation is that a diehard yogi found yoga because they were in pain. They have to continue doing yoga on a daily basis to stay out of pain. Unfortunately, that’s usually a warning sign that something’s not working correctly, and so you’re constantly having to stretch out of that discomfort or pain.
Yoga has a lot of great benefits, however, it shouldn’t be used on its own to fix chronic pain. It can help get you out of pain, but you still need to be able to go on vacation and not worry about having to miss out on yoga for a couple of weeks. You shouldn’t be living in fear that your body is going to fall apart without that one thing.
Will Yoga Help Back Pain?
The other thing that we tend to find is that sometimes people have a tendency to over stretch. A lot of people get very competitive, whether it’s with themselves or with others. They see people stretching farther than they are and so they push themselves to get to that same point. But not everybody’s built the same way. So in order to achieve some of those greater ranges of motion, a lot of people disengage their core or other important muscles. When that happens, you end up bypassing the muscular stretch. Yes, your stride will get longer, or you’ll be able to bend more in this way or that. But you’re putting a lot of pressure on your ligaments and other parts of your body that aren’t supposed to stretch. For example, it’s easy to “over lunge.” When this happens, you’re disengaging your core. This causes a significant arch in your back, which can increase compression of the joints in your back and lead to joint pain.
So those are a couple of key reasons why I would recommend that anybody who practices yoga and is looking to take advantage of all of the major benefits it has to offer should find a good physical therapist who is able to analyze these types of things and coach people into better postures.
Yoga can be amazing for pain, but it’s vital that the movements are performed correctly.
It works hand in hand. When someone goes through a yoga flow correctly, when they go into the positions correctly, yoga becomes something that they can do for a much, much, much longer period of time. So it will benefit the yogi’s practice.
How To Enhance and Accelerate Your Physical Therapy Treatment
Most people perceive yoga as a stretching exercise. However, it’s also an engagement exercise. Yoga improves the stability of your core and the deep muscles that hold your hip and shoulders in their sockets.
When done correctly, yoga can enhance and accelerate the benefits of physical therapy. When you keep your body appropriately engaged, you’re able to move into your limitations in a safe manner using only bodyweight. This can really help complement physical therapy’s effort to relax specific muscles that are being overworked and that are causing unnecessary stress on the body.
If you engage properly, you begin to strengthen the stabilizing muscles (the ones that have a tendency to get weak and cause the major imbalances and injuries in your body). By strengthening these smaller muscles that yoga is so good at reaching, your bigger muscles are able to relax and release.
In physical therapy, we work to help you activate all the right muscles for each movement. This will prevent the overuse of muscles that can cause injuries down the road and improve mobility. So the more frequently someone practices correct movements, which can be done in a yoga class, then the better your body will be. You’ll recover faster, whether it’s back pain, hip pain, knee pain, foot pain, ankle pain, shoulder pain, literally most pains. They’re going to heal faster. They’re going to see their yoga practice improve at a quicker rate. You’ll be able to harness a holistic, healthy life with better movement and more pain-free days.