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Improving Flexibility: Yoga From A Physio’s Perspective

Posted on 28th November 2016 by

Physiotherapist & Pilates Instructor, Gemma, recently attended a specialist yoga course for Physiotherapists. On this blog she gives a great overview of yoga and also highlights how it compares to Pilates.

Yoga combines movement, meditation and awareness of breathing through a sequence of exercises. This has many positive effects on the body from improving flexibility and strength, to aiding relaxation, body awareness and self-discipline.

Although originating in India, some 5000 years ago and linked with Hinduism and Buddism, Yoga is a non-religious practice and has been adapted into an exercise class format by Western cultures.

Is it different from Pilates?

Yoga and Pilates share many similarities and some of the exercises are indeed identical. However the philosophy and focus are different. Pilates works on training the core muscles, developing stability and improving normal posture. Whereas yoga focusses more on improving flexibility and mind-body awareness; tending to be a more flowing sequence of movements.

Which is better for me?

Generally if you are very bendy (hypermobile), Pilates will be better for you to help gain stability and strength through your joints, and if you’re stiff yoga is great to improve flexibility. However both types of class can be adapted to suit you so a lot of it comes down to personal preference.

What are the health benefits of yoga? 

Yoga can help improve:

  • Strength
  • Flexibility
  • Balance
  • Prevent falls
  • Help with arthritis
  • Reduce lower back pain
  • Reduce depression, anxiety and stress levels

Do I have to do headstands?!

No! Headstands are just one exercise from a branch of traditional yoga poses known as ‘inversions’ but other inversions can include simply laying on your back with your feet up against a wall which is much more achievable for most of us!

How hard is it?

Yoga can be as hard as you want it to be… from pure meditation and breathing to an aerobic sweat-inducing power yoga class and everything in-between!

Yoga can be done by people of all ages; from adolescents to octogenarians it can have significant health benefits. It doesn’t matter how flexible you are or how good (or bad) your balance is as all the exercises can be tailored, there are even chair based classes for those less able.

What are the different types of yoga?

There are many different forms, the most common are:

  • Hatha yoga – a simple, slow class of postures
  • Vinyasa – a faster flowing sequence of poses
  • Ashtanga – an intense and athletic ‘pure’ form of yoga postures
  • Hot yoga/Bikram yoga – done in a heated room up to 32degrees C
  • Sivananda – slow, gentle and spiritual, focusing on 12 main poses, breathing, meditation, proper diet and mindfulness

Is it better to do a class rather than use a DVD/Youtube video?

Whilst the internet has a wealth of classes online and DVDs can be a good way of keeping up practice at home, the only way to make sure you’re doing the exercises safely and correctly is to come to a class with a trained yoga instructor. They will also be able to guide you through exercises of the right level, help you develop correct breathing techniques and teach you modifications where necessary to prevent injury.

Gemma is incorporating yoga into her rehabilitation programmes where her patients will benefit. You can read one of her success stories here.

Yoga Pilates


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