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Should You Do Yoga?

By December 14, 2018March 4th, 2020No Comments

“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. 
When my patients ask me if they should try yoga to help them recovery from injury, my first question for them is  “Do you want to do yoga?” If they answer no, then by all means, don’t do yoga. If trying to make it to a yoga class a few times a week will be more of a stressor than a stress relief, then it isn’t the activity for you. 

Yoga in Addition to Physical Therapy

On the other hand, if my patient does have an interest in yoga I have a different answer. I have no problem with my patients trying yoga but I always emphasize that they need to be performing the home exercises and stretches that I prescribe for them as well. I will also review any precautions with them that they may need to be aware of during their yoga class. I am not the type of physical therapist to say any one thing is dangerous and should always be avoided, but there are times that modifications are necessary. These precautions should always be discussed with the yoga teacher before the class starts. A good yoga  instructor should not have an issue with this and should also have the knowledge base to provide modifications when necessary. Another important thing to remember when trying yoga is that if something causes pain, don’t do it. Any position where you feel you are doing more harm than good should be avoided or modified. 

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.

Look for this symbol on a studio’s website to know their instructors are certified by the Yoga Alliance

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. 

So, Is Yoga Right For You? 

So, should you do yoga to recover from and prevent injury? Remember, actually wanting to do yoga or not plays into this decision. If you don’t truly enjoy it, then it isn’t going to benefit you. If you are interested in trying yoga, take the time to find the right class and instructor for you. Asking friends, reading reviews online and even calling the studio to ask some of these questions is a good place to start. Many studios will let you try your first class free so that is another great way to test out different studios and instructors. Lastly, also remember that there is no “magic pill” when it comes to injury recovery and prevention. Yoga may be the best thing for one person, but not the other. Give it a try if you’re interested, and if it doesn’t make you feel better, there is likely a different activity out there for you that will work for you.