7 Reasons to incorporate therapeutic yoga into your rehabilitation programme

September 12, 2016 | By More

Yoga Lotus

7 Reasons to incorporate therapeutic yoga into your rehabilitation program

By Pauline Robinson

Occupational Therapist & Certified yoga instructor

  1. Benefits of yoga have been shown in research

There is a growing body of evidence to support the use of yoga for a wide range of medical conditions; helping people to attain emotional balance, to heal after illness and for symptom relief with chronic disease. Multiple studies have found that asana (yoga postures or poses) combined with breathing practices reduces pain in many pain-related conditions such as arthritis, low back pain and cancer. Yoga has also been found to increase circulation of lymph (helping fight infection), lower blood pressure, reduce cholesterol levels, improve bowel function and aid weight loss.

Clinical studies support the use of yoga with the following health conditions:

Anxiety, addictions, arthritis, cancer, chronic pain, depression, diabetes, high blood pressure, insomnia, irritable bowel syndrome, headaches, multiple sclerosis, scoliosis (curvature of the spine). This is not an exhaustive list, but gives an insight into how yoga is now being used more frequently in a therapeutic manner.

Evidence from clinical trials shows that yoga can help to achieve desired outcomes in a variety of health conditions; suggesting that it is an activity to consider for your recovery, rehabilitation and overall health.

  1. Improved function of the musculoskeletal system

From a physical standpoint, therapeutic yoga can help increase muscle length and flexibility, strengthen muscles, increase bone density and improve balance. This is achieved through the use of basic stretching, strengthening and relaxation poses, which are adapted to suit your ability level.

Joint health is supported and muscular imbalance is minimised through regular practice of the yoga poses or ‘asana’. This is greatly beneficial to all individuals for injury prevention, improved body awareness, increased ease of movement and overall physical health; and is particularly useful as a therapeutic resource as one increases movement after a period of inactivity or injury.

  1. Introduction of a mindfulness practice

Yoga has a calming and grounding effect on the mind. It trains one to focus on the subtle sensations of the body and the movement of the breath as we inhale and exhale. When we direct our attention in this manner, its helps to reduce the internal dialogue or ‘chatter’ that can sometimes fill our mind and thoughts. These thoughts are beneficial in our daily lives as we plan our activities, problem solve through a situation, complete work tasks etc.; but equally these thoughts can be harmful when we get caught up in excessive worry.

Focusing our attention on our breath and body sensations, provides a sense of grounding and mental balance. Essentially this is a form of mindfulness; which has widely-reported beneficial effects for our mental health. It allows us a period of time, even if for a short while, to gain some peace from bothersome thoughts. With ongoing practice it can help one to feel calmer, overcome stress, increase concentration and improve sleep.

  1. Relaxes the nervous system

How do simple breathing techniques help reduce stress and balance emotions?

Certain breathing practices or breathing exercises activate the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS). The PNS is dominant when we are relaxed i.e. when there is no perceived emergency or threat. It governs what is known as our ‘rest and digest’ state. The PNS lowers our breathing and heart rate, decreases blood pressure and directs blood flow to internal organs, including intestines and reproductive organs. All of these actions contribute to one’s feeling of being relaxed.

When there is a perceived threat or emergency, the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) takes over, resulting in what is termed the ‘fight or flight’ response. This primitive response prepares our body to ‘flee’ (flight) or ‘fight’ from harm or perceived threat. Physiological changes occur in our body when the SNS is activated including adrenaline and cortisol chemical release into the bloodstream, increased heart rate, dilated pupils, and intensified awareness; in essence, our body is preparing for ‘fight’ or ‘flight’. At different times throughout the day there are benefits to having the SNS system firing to allow us to adequately respond to unavoidable daily stressors. Ultimately having an overall balance between the two nervous systems is desirable for our long-term health.

One of the ways we can intentionally tap into the PNS for relaxation and stress reduction is by becoming aware of our breath, lengthening it and deepening it. Breathing exercises and combining movement with breath is at the core of yoga practice, which allows it to be an ideal activity for stress relief and activation of our parasympathetic nervous system. It is somewhat surprising to think that something our body completes involuntarily and constantly every-day is a powerful tool for healing and general wellness.

  1. Gentle and nurturing approach

Injuries are often stressful periods in our lives. Illness can make it difficult to do some of the daily activities we value and enjoy. This is extremely frustrating! Incorporating therapeutic yoga into your recovery plan can help lower stress levels and provide a sense of peace during a challenging period in your life. A gentle and restorative approach is used in a therapeutic yoga class to ensure that it is a useful component of a rehabilitation plan – be that for injury recovery, persistent pain or those who have been inactive due to illness. Movement is gentle and slow, additional time is given to transition between poses, props such as blocks and bolsters are sometimes used to support the body to relax. An empathetic understanding of your unique needs and stage of recovery is applied to ensure you are comfortable and supported.

  1. Expertise of instructor

Therapeutic yoga is taught by a healthcare professional such as an occupational therapist or a physiotherapist. The therapist is educated and knowledgeable in the use of yoga in a therapeutic manner. A therapeutic yoga class is designed to aid healing for individuals with a range of health concerns, including orthopaedic injuries, concussion, chronic pain and mental health conditions. Each yoga posture is adapted, as needed, to ensure you are safe and comfortable throughout the yoga session ; while at the same time targeting recovery, physical conditioning and relaxation.

One of the goals of this type of session  is to provide an accessible yoga practice for those who are unable to participate in a general yoga class in the community.

  1. Personalised practice

Attending a therapeutic yoga series allows you to build the knowledge and skills to begin to develop your own home-based yoga practice. The instructor can help identify key yoga sequences or poses which are specific to your individual needs or rehabilitation goals. This means that yoga is accessible to you at any time, at home or when travelling, as a tool to support your ongoing health and well-being.

Therapeutic yoga at Evidence-Based Therapy Centre

Therapeutic yoga sessions  are available with specialist Occupational Therapist and yoga instructor – Pauline Robinson. You can find out more details here or call the clinic on 091 727777 to book an assessment.

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