“Should I start doing yoga to help me recovery from injury?” This is one of the most common questions I get as a physical therapist. Yoga has become very popular in the health and fitness industry and for good reason. There certainly are many benefits to doing yoga. However, many people think that yoga will solve all of their orthopedic problems and can cause no harm. As with any physical activity, it is possible to injure yourself doing yoga. I have had patients tell me they believed they were injured during yoga. Now before I dive deeper into using yoga for injury recovery, let me say that I am in no way anti-yoga. I myself enjoy the occasional yoga class and always leave feeling refreshed.
Yoga in Addition to Physical Therapy
Finding the Right Class and Instructor
The second thing to consider, when using yoga to recover from injury, is finding the right class and a knowledgeable instructor. There are so many types of yoga, from Yin Yoga, Hot Yoga, Bikram, Flow, Deep Stretching, Power Yoga, and many more. For someone looking to truly improve flexibility and mobility, the right class is going to be different from the person looking for a class to improve balance and core strength. If you aren’t sure which class is for you, it is a good idea to call the studio and talk to an instructor about what you are looking for. The instructors should be able to point you in the right direction.
It may take a few classes before you find the right one for you. The training and experience of the instructors is also an important variable to consider. As with any activity, form is of utmost importance. Going to a yoga class where you are performing the poses incorrectly may result in injury. A registered yoga teacher (RYT) will have completed at least 200 hours of training and is certified by the Yoga Alliance. You can find a RYT in your area on the Yoga Alliance website here. Along with this training, it is beneficial to find out if the instructor will individually correct form during the class. While it may be initially uncomfortable to have a stranger adjust you during a class, it is much better than performing the pose incorrectly over and over again.
Improvements Take Time
Lastly, patients need to understand that the improvement in flexibility from yoga is going to be very, very gradual. It takes time and effort to improve flexibility, just as it does with strength or endurance training. When I say gradual, I mean a minimum of 3 to 6 months of regular attendance before real flexibility gains are noticeable. I think many people have the misconception that a few yoga classes will clear up all their issues, and this is certainly not the case. With any type of recovery, especially from more chronic issues, having patience and willingness to put the time into recovery will pay off dividends in the long run.