Will Yoga or Physical Therapy Help You or Kill You?

yoga

I started doing Yoga in 1972.  I am still doing Yoga three times per week and for over 45 years now.  My first Yoga instructor was a gentleman from India who did not look anything like Arnold Schwarzenegger.  He was short and a little on the pudgy side.  I credit him for giving me a wonderful grounding in both the physical and spiritual characteristics of Yoga.  I have since had many Yoga instructors but my first one still stands out in my mind as head and shoulders above the rest.

Over the years, many people have taken up teaching and doing Yoga.  Many of these “so-called” Yoga instructors are really Jazzercise or aerobics instructors in disguise.  Taking Yoga from some of them is a little like taking music lessons from someone who can only play an “air guitar.”  You will not get the true flavor of Yoga from someone who does Yoga to a four count hip hop beat and keeps shouting “work your buns.”  I feel privileged that I know the difference between real Yoga and “fake” Yoga.  Real Yoga has been a vital aspect of my weekly exercise routine.

When I started this blog (Which will be the 8th in my series on exercise and health care) my spouse wanted to know “Whether was I was going to say something negative about Yoga?”  I reassured her that it was not my intention to disparage Yoga or to say anything off putting about the practice.  Indeed, I think everyone would be happier and healthier if they did Yoga at least three times per week for ½ hour per session.  However, I did note in an earlier blog that Yoga and physical therapy could make your health worse.  As with anything in life, there is always a possible downside or negative impact which can occur with any activity.  If you lay in your bed all day long, your house could be hit by a tornado, earthquake, hurricane, flood or falling airliner.  Everything in life has a risk.

ManDoingYoga_0

The greater risk in life (IMHO) is doing nothing.  It is always easier to do nothing.  Whether your doctor has given you a regimen to practice physical therapy or whether you have a schedule for Yoga, there are many nights when you will just feel like doing nothing or perhaps simply eating.  It often goes like this in our house:

5 PM

John:  Let’s do Yoga today at 6:30 PM.

Karen:  OK

6:15 PM

John:  I sort of got behind on some things I was doing.  Could we make it at 7 PM and eat dinner after?

Karen:  OK

8 PM

John:  Dam that took longer than I thought it would.  Shit, it is now 8 PM.  I am hungry and tired.  Would you mind if we skipped Yoga tonight?  We could do it tomorrow instead.

Karen:   OK

One problem with Yoga (as noted in the above discussion) is to skip doing it.

yoga cat

Another problem can be overdoing it.  Yoga must be practiced carefully.  The formula “no pain, no gain” is a prescription for disaster when it comes to doing Yoga.  That is the issue I have with Jazzercise instructors who think that they can teach Yoga with the same philosophy they use in their Jazzercise classes.  Yoga should be slow and gentle.  Yoga should not be frenetic and schizophrenic.  Some people might feel that there is little benefit to doing something that does not result in pain or sore muscles.  However, with the wrong philosophy, you can do real damage to your muscles or joints while attempting to do some Yoga exercises.

worrier poseBeing overly competitive might be a good formula in exercise programs where you attempt to outdo other participants, but this can be another recipe for disaster when it comes to Yoga.  Each participant in Yoga needs to pay attention only to their own body; not to the other participants or even the instructor.  If the instructor has his/her legs at a 180 degree angle to their torso and you can only make 30 degrees, you are best advised not try to imitate your instructor or other participants.  A good instructor will repeatedly advise you to only go as far as you can with any Yoga posture.  Pushing the envelope may lead to torn muscles or dislocated joints.

I have lumped physical therapy in with Yoga exercise.  I have done this recognizing that though they are two very different practices they actually share several things in common.

  1. They are both healthy alternatives to pills and surgery
  2. They both require discipline and a regular routine
  3. They cost a great deal less than surgery or pills
  4. They have less side effects than pills or surgery
  5. You can do them in the privacy of your home and you do not need a prescription
  6. You can target particular areas of the body where you have some type of soreness or imbalance
  7. You can do them regardless of the physical shape you are in since the level you do each at can be adjusted to your present condition
  8. You can do them forever and they will help prevent future problems
  9. They are both proven in terms of health and therapeutic value

Many of the yoga practices that have now become routine in physical therapy are derived from Yoga exercises that go back thousands of years.

“A co-worker of mine recently had knee surgery and said he is in physical therapy. I am always curious as a Yoga teacher what the medical community does to treat ailments via physical movement.  He graciously copied his sheet of exercises his physical therapist prescribed to him.

I saw immediately that the actions being taught in physical therapy mimic many of those in asana, with asana being a bit more extreme in range of motion.” — From Home Yoga Practice

For a more in-depth analysis of the similarities and differences between Yoga and physical therapy see the following article:  Yoga and physical exercise – a review and comparison by Ramajayam GovindarajSneha KarmaniShivarama Varambally & B.N. Gangadhar

Conclusions:

Yoga can be an excellent addition to your weekly health routine.  The exercises (called asanas) will help to keep you flexible and limber.  Yoga will also help with your balance and posture.  Flexibility and balance are two of the six key pillars for a healthy lifestyle.  I would argue that for good health, you need to address each of the following six pillars on a weekly basis:

  1. Flexibility routine
  2. Strength routine
  3. Balance routine
  4. Stress routine
  5. Good nutrition
  6. Aerobic routine

If you supplement your weekly Yoga with an aerobic exercise program, strength program and good nutrition, you will have done the most that anyone can do to insure a long and healthy life.  The rest will be up to your genes and lifestyle.

Yoga set394Start doing Yoga once or twice a week.  You can get a Yoga mat, strap, blocks and some used Yoga DVD’s for less than $30 dollars.  With some Yoga tapes and a DVD player, you will be able to do Yoga in the privacy of your home and as often as you want. I have found Rodney Yee, Patricia Walden and Susan Deason to be great instructors.  Gaiam Yoga tapes can often be found in Goodwill or other thrift stores for a few dollars each.  On frigid days, it is a real pleasure not to have to get dressed and go to a gym.  It is also great to have an instructor on DVD that I do not have to keep paying weekly fees to.

Time for Questions:

Do you do Yoga?  Why or why not?  If not, what would it take for you to get started?

Life is just beginning.

“Yoga is not a religion. It is a science, science of well-being, science of youthfulness, science of integrating body, mind and soul.” — Amit Ray

 

 

 

 

6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Jeanine
    May 11, 2017 @ 06:16:00

    In answer to your last question, after reading your blog I have started seriously thinking about incorporating into my day again. I will say that after six months of doing Yoga in the morning before work, I had noticed a change in my demeanor. I felt more calm inside. Lately the anxiety levels are at an all time high. We have Simply Yoga down the road, but I am waiting to see how long they last before another store closes in that plaza. Good blog. Got me thinking!!! As to why I don’t do Yoga, I cannot think of a reason other than I have to slow down long enough to devote the time, which is not a long time in retrospect. It truly set the tone for my day when I worked, but retirement can be stressful too. 🙂

    Reply

  2. johnpersico
    May 12, 2017 @ 06:24:54

    Slow down Jeanine, You will be glad you did.

    Reply

  3. Jeanine
    May 13, 2017 @ 08:08:11

    Thank you. I sure will!!

    Reply

  4. goldenptblog
    Jul 14, 2017 @ 14:27:16

    Great post!

    Reply

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