YOGA – IS IT SAFE AND HOW CAN WE FEEL CONFIDENT REFERRING OUR CLIENTS?

I am often asked by my physiotherapy clients here in Vernon if they would benefit from participating in yoga.  I found this article written on this very subject by a colleague of mine living and working in Vancouver.  I’ve included it in this blog below.  Enjoy!

 

Yoga is everywhere! As physiotherapists, many of us are being asked by clients “Would yoga be good for me?” As a physiotherapist whom also practices and teaches yoga, I am now often asked by

physiotherapy colleagues “Is yoga safe?”

The entrance of yoga into mainstream culture in the west has come through the physical doorway. What we see now is a plethora of styles as more teachers have introduced their teachings to the west and, more recently, newly-opened teacher training colleges have begun churning out teachers, some with little more than a flexible body and a year or two of yoga practice to serve as their foundation from which to build their teaching career. Due to the short duration of these teacher trainings and lack of anatomy background of many of the instructors, new teachers often leave without even a basic understanding of anatomy or injuries. Considering this, it is with good reason that as physiotherapists we should be concerned with what is happening in the yoga world and what our clients are actually heading for when they enter into a new or revisited yoga practice.

Research is showing many health benefits to incorporating both yoga into daily living, including:
-stimulation of the parasympathetic nervous system through slowing and lengthening the breath, thereby rebalancing the over-activation of the sympathetic nervous system from the hectic pace of our modern lives
– increased body awareness as well as facilitation of acceptance and respect for limitations following recovery from illness and injury
-teaching people how to move with freedom and begin to work back into ranges of movement that may have been previously harmful but now need to be regained in order to return to their lives without constant fear of re-injury

These benefits translate into a more healthy individual who is better able to respond to everyday stress; able to heal from injury and illness more efficiently; and less likely to suffer from illness in the future due to increased awareness of their healthy zone of stimulation and activity. Combined, these benefits act to make people less dependent on us as health-care professionals to “fix” them and more capable of helping themselves. They are able to return for treatment because they can sense when they really need the help and guidance, not because they depend on it to function.

For most people, it is best to begin their yoga practice with a gentle hatha yoga class with an educated teacher who is able to speak with them about their injury and offer appropriate variations. It is important for physiotherapists to be aware of studios which place the focus on the quality of the teachers and classes offered rather than the quantity. For example, in Vancouver the Studio at Treloar Physiotherapy focuses on small classes with teachers who have a background in kinesiology. As a therapist, I recommend trying a variety of classes and teachers yourself so that you have experience with the practice. Developing a relationship with a physiotherapist or other health care professional who practices and/or teaches yoga is also beneficial in order to ask them for input on appropriate referrals . I believe yoga has a real place for complimenting our work in assisting our clients to return to healthy, balanced, unrestricted lives following injury.

Katrina Sovio is a Vancouver-based physiotherapist and yoga teacher. She practices at both Main Street Physiotherapy and the Studio at Treloar Physiotherapy. Should you have any yoga-related questions, feel free to email her at ksovio@gmail.com.

 

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