Physical therapy and yoga both are movement-based disciplines.
Yoga is a mind-body form of exercise based on a system of physical postures (asanas) linked to breath (pranayama). Physical therapists have a comprehensive knowledge base of the differential diagnoses of pain, biomechanics and anatomy application. They are able to complete manual therapy techniques, working on the soft tissue, fascia, tendons and ligaments, as well as joint mobility (manipulations and mobilizations) to improve the quality of movement. They are trained to refer patients to other health care providers if red flags indicate something might not be a musculoskeletal issue. Both yoga and physical therapy take into account the way the body works as a unit. It’s been known for centuries that exercise has a wide range of therapeutic benefits. The practices instilled by yoga through breath, meditation, flexibility and strength often are encouraged as part of a long term stress management program for chronic pain patients. This helps patients enhance their overall well-being and quality of life.
Any time there is pain it is the body’s response to tissue overload. This is the perfect opportunity to seek out a physical therapist to find the root cause rather than just treating the symptoms. The physical therapist can examine how muscles all play into each other across multiple joints, which can help fine-tune one’s practice and provide focal points that may need work. Additionally, a physical therapist will recognize medical contraindications and other systemic conditions that manifest as orthopedic. This is why it is strongly advised not to pursue yoga as a self-prescribed substitute for medically necessary medications or conventional therapies.
For any health maintenance program to be successful it needs to be consistent and enjoyable. Yoga, incorporated with physical therapy, can be an excellent crossover between the two practices. The heightened body awareness through yoga poses can bring more complete, focused attention to treatment modalities. A physical therapist’s medical knowledge can examine individual yoga poses or a sequence of poses that could be contraindicated and cause injury for people with certain ailments. As always, it’s important to discuss with a medical professional before adding a yoga practice as part or whole of an exercise regimen.