Yoga: Not Just For Young Flexible Females

Yoga Is For Everyone

Yoga: Has Something For Everyone

As a physiotherapist when I suggest to some of my patients that yoga would likely be of significant benefit to them, many look back at me with a horrified look on their face. Imagining themselves as a middle aged, unfit, inflexible male embarrassing the hell out of themselves attempting to touch their toes in a room otherwise full of bendy females in their 20’s. However, these days this is far from the case, yoga nowadays is a fairly mainstream form of exercise. With both males and females of all ages are singing its praises. And I am far from alone being a physiotherapist recommending their patients to consider it as part of their rehab or longer-term lifestyle management.

Some Of The Common Myths Surrounding Yoga

  • It’s only for hippies
  • It’s only for women
  • You have to be flexible already to do it
  • It’s a young mans game and not for the grey haired
  • All it is is stretching
  • You have to wear lycra, or similar body hugging attire to attend a class

As A Physiotherapist, What Patients Of Mine Do I Typically Recommend To Take Up Yoga?

Running a Sydney CBD physiotherapy practice, as you can imagine the majority of my clientele are office workers, your typical overworked desk jockeys. Meaning most people coming to see me for physiotherapy treatment and opinion are short on time. So, if they actually manage to find the time to escape their desk and do some exercise, they generally don’t include much time in that exercise session for stretching. Combine this with many of them spending way, way too long slumped over in a chair staring at their computer screen all day everyday makes my patient list pretty heavily swayed towards a population of stiff individuals, with weak postural stabilizing muscles and tendencies towards poor posture.

Furthermore, considering low back and neck pain are two of the most common reasons people seek out physiotherapy treatment, you can already imagine the answer to the question who I refer to Yoga is..? A lot of people, as yoga is for everyone!

The “All Bran Challenge”

Many moons ago there use to be an ad on TV regarding taking the “All Bran challenge” where viewers were encouraged to eat All Bran breakfast cereal every day for a month and subsequently see how much better they feel after doing so. Obviously there was a little * with some fine print running at the bottom of the advert including a statement indicating something along the lines of “when combined with a healthy well balanced diet and a physical exercise regimen…” Anyway, the fine print of the advert isn’t really the point, I have suggested to a number of my appropriate patients the idea of the 30 day “yoga challenge” however with this challenge there is no fine print. Simply introduce yoga into your life for a month and at the end of the month see how good you feel.

From a tissue adaption / modification point of view, any significant changes are typically going to be slower than this. With true change taking somewhere more along the lines of a few months, not just a few weeks… however, pain relief, freedom of movement and postural changes can all precede actual true changes within the tissues, meaning often as little as a month of consistent yoga practice for many can easily highlight just how much your body has been missing movement!

More Than Just Helpful With Managing Back Pain

Yoga can play a very important role in many of my Sydney physio patients rehabilitation programs due to the trunk strength, balance, flexibility, fitness and stress relief actions it has on the body.
Conditions you wouldn’t imagine can benefit greatly from yoga, include an individual chronically spraining their ankle benefiting from the balance component undertaken in the classes, just as a knee runner with knee pain can find the postural strength gains and improved mobility in their ankles, calf muscles, hamstrings, quads, glutes etcetera that yoga helps creates can have significant benefit. The stressed out high flying executive with regular and persistent headaches can often obtain some effective pain relief from the spinal mobility poses, the postural retraining as well as the relaxation side of a yoga class too.

Common Injuries Seen That Are The Result Of Practicing Yoga?

Typically providing that attending a class is an appropriate thing for the person to be doing I don’t typically see many injuries created in my Sydney CBD physiotherapy patients that I consider were specifically caused by the practice of yoga.

  • Overstretching: If I do see any injuries it is usually people getting too competitive and over stretching (most commonly their hamstrings) and straining muscles or irritating neural tissues by pushing themselves too hard. A proximal hamstring tendinopathy is probably in my experience the most frequent “injury” I see where yoga appears to be a substantial contributing factor in patients. Often if triggered patients have typically been pushing there practice to really increase mobility in their posterior chain tissues and attending classes on a more frequent basis. Often having ramped up their practice frequency and intensity in a short space of time.
  • Wrist Pain: A few individuals practicing yoga will complain of wrist pain when adopting certain poses, theses are typically poses which are loading up their wrists (adopting push-up type positions of the wrists). This is usually managed by altering their wrist angle via positional adjustments or the use of supports in any poses causing discomfort. A similar issue as is experienced by numerous weight lifters and certainly not a yoga specific complaint.
  • Back And Neck Pain: The most significant issue with regard to painful experiences that I very occasionally see in my Sydney physiotherapy practice that appears triggered by yoga would be back and neck pain. Spinal pain, or injury can be caused similar to the muscle strains mentioned above, where a singular or persistent bout of over stretching has played a role. Other potential triggers in a yoga class could be from an individual attempting positions that are to advanced (examples of such may include; head and shoulder stands). Probably the most common situation I see is where yoga is more accurately put as being the “aggravator” not cause of back pain. Situations where someone is already experiencing some discomfort in their back or neck, attends a class in an attempt to “stretch it out” and subsequently makes things worse. Clearly sometimes this will work in the opposite way and they will feel relief following the class and other times the session will involve movements that provoke the condition, making the pain worse as their back or neck wasn’t wanting something other than stretching at that point in time…

Despite a relatively small risk of causing or aggravating an injury or pain in a select few, I generally feel yoga is a very appropriate and beneficial activity for many. As a result I recommend it as such to numerous of my clients. I am sure most, if not all yoga instructors would consider some form of yoga has the potential to benefit many if not everyone, the specific approach would just need to be customized to the individuals needs. As always when starting any new exercise it is important to get professional advice regarding its suitability and yoga is no different in this respect, especially if you are coming back from injury, or currently suffering with some pain or movement limitations.

Disclaimer: Sydney Physio Clinic does not endorse any specific treatments, procedures, products mentioned. This information is provided as an educational service and is not intended to serve as medical advice. Anyone seeking specific advice or assistance on Yoga Is For Everyone should consult his or her general practitioner, physiotherapist, yoga instructor or otherwise appropriately skilled practitioner.