Why Medical Yoga?

Good question. It’s a well-known fact that exercise is good for you. Non-negotiable. But as an occupational therapist I’ve seen many individuals over the years who struggle to exercise on a regular basis due to chronic pain, fatigue, joint problems, poor sensation in their limbs…the list goes on and on. And that’s just speaking physically. Environmentally, people will tell you all sorts of excuses for their lack of exercise-gyms are too expensive, it’s too cold/windy/hot outside, or just having a busy lifestyle that doesn’t make exercise a priority.

Photography by: Noelle Johnson Photography

We can talk about overcoming environmental obstacles another time (or during a one-on-one session), but today let’s focus on the physical shortcomings and how medical yoga can help you. 

The unique aspect of medical yoga is that you’re able to exercise within YOUR limits, whatever they may be. Yoga is low-impact and can be used for flexibility, strength, balance, and breathing techniques (along with non-physical aspects psychological limitations). A systematic review in the International Journal of Yoga linked yoga to lower blood pressure (systolic and diastolic), weight loss, and improved sleep (quality and quantity)3. Progress in each of these areas is only going to help you in terms of lowering your risk for (or symptoms of) hypertension, cardiovascular disease, joint pain, and risk for stroke (just to name a few). Hypertension in general is on the rise around the world and is linked to increased risk for stroke, cardiac problems, kidney disease and weight gain. Engaging in medical yoga is one step to take in promoting your overall health and  wellbeing. 

A study out of Kaiser Permanente showed that participants with congestive heart failure (CHF) demonstrated weight loss and improved depressive symptoms by attending a yoga class just two times a week for eight weeks1. Another study found individuals who participated in yoga postures, breathing/relaxation practices, and low salt/calorie diets for only one week demonstrated decreased blood pressure2. The studies I’ve listed in this post are just a couple examples of many research studies that have been completed. Now I’m not saying to ignore your physician’s advice and stop taking medications (please don’t!). But I am saying that the benefits of yoga for medical conditions have been proven over and over again across the spectrum of medical diagnoses. 

Unlike the typical yoga class, medical yoga is customized to you. Medical yoga is research driven, evidenced based, and requires a healthcare license (in my case, an occupational therapy license). This is a very different set of requirements compared to a “yoga teacher”. 

Do you have pain? No problem. Less-than-ideal flexibility? No problem. Poor balance? No problem. Something I didn’t list? No problem. Let’s find some alternative postures or use props to help. If you need some guidance, please reach out to me and schedule an evaluation. Let’s customize your yoga practice to you and get rid of those obstacles, whatever they may be. 

References:

  1. Kubo, A., Hung, Y., & Ritterman, J. (2011). Yoga for heart failure patients: A feasibility pilot study with a multiethnic population. International Journal of Yoga Therapy, 21(1), 77-83.
  2. Metri, K., Pradhan, B., Singh, A., & Nagendra, HR. (2018). Effect of 1-week yoga-based residential program on cardiovascular variables of hypertensive patients: A comparative study. International Journal of Yoga, 11(2), 170-174. doi; 10.4103/ijoy_77_16
  3. Pullen, P., Seffens, W., & Thompson, W. (2018). Yoga for heart failure: A review and future research. International Journal of Yoga, 11(2), 91-98. doi: 10.4103/ijoy.IJOY_24_17

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