Yoga has uses far beyond just the development and commitment to a healthy exercise routine and the flexibility that is gained by patients who follow through on their routine for an extended period of time. It is also a practice that can holistically affect the entire person, both mind and body, and assist with achieving overall health and wellness goals and their benefits. Yoga is actually a series of disciplines that incorporates spiritual, mental, and physical aspects and needs. It is a part of the Hindu philosophy. Yoga also has roots that could be found in Buddhism, Sikhism, and Jainism. The most common form of this ancient practice, since the Middle Ages, is “Hatha yoga”, which “concentrates on health and purity of the body”. It was not until the 19th century that Hindu monks first began to introduce yoga to the Western part of civilization. Today, it can even be used as a complementary therapy to other treatments, both traditional and alternative, for asthma, cancer, schizophrenia, and heart disease patients. Yoga has even been utilized to assist people with back pain, which in turn helps reduce a dependence that the patient might otherwise develop to medications. Medications have potentially harmful side effects that could negate any positive effects that they might provide the patient with. Research has confirmed the health benefits of yoga. As with any form of stretching or exercise, people should consult with professionals before engaging in the activities. Patients with some physical conditions may need treatment before practicing yoga. The typical sports injuries that can be associated with yoga include “torn muscles, knee injuries, and headaches”, although there can be a risk of more serious injuries. The positions most likely to cause injury are forward and backward bends, headstand and shoulder stands, handstands, and lotus/ half lotus positions. This is also why trained yoga practitioners advocate that some exercises should not be performed by pregnant or menstruating women, or nursing mothers. Breathing exercises and meditation, however, are welcomed. The most likely time for injuries to occur is if the instructors are newly certified or the clients overestimate their ability to perform poses. As with any physical activity or sport, most patients should start simply and slowly before pushing themselves to try more difficult positions and moves.1
Types of Yoga
There are several different types of yoga available. Anusara is an “accepting” form of yoga where clients “express themselves” through poses, instead of the standard positions. It is ideal for newcomers and for those seeking mood enhancement. Ashtanga is a rapid-posing form of yoga. It is meant to be used for weight loss and cardio fitness, and it involves “six established and strenuous pose sequences”. Bikram is the yoga performed in a hot and humid room. It is also useful for weight loss. Hatha is the main form of yoga performed. It is used for calming stress-reduction, and it incorporates nearly all of the other yoga types, where people work at their own pace. Iyengar uses props (harnesses, blocks, straps, incline boards, etc.) to help people achieve the necessary positions. Its nickname is “furniture yoga”. This is helpful for those learning the poses, and for those who are seeking “muscle definition”. Jivamukti is a traditionalist yoga, which is very physical, and it incorporates spiritual practices (i.e., social, political, and animal rights, non-violence, devotion to God, and meditation). Kripalu is about body acceptance and knowledge, as well as “breathwork”, “empowerment”, and “self-discovery”. Kundalini involves “invigorating poses” and constant movement. It is designed to make clients feel energetic and focused. Power yoga is an athletic form of the exercise, and poses are not done in the same sequence. It is made for calorie burning. Prenatal yoga is intended for pregnancy, with safe poses that keep the “core strong”. Restorative yoga is for relaxation, stress/injury rehabilitation, and “psychic cleansing”. Teachers should be consulted so that they are aware of clients’ injuries and which poses to avoid. Sivananda is 12 basic poses that are meant for spiritual boosting. Viniyoga is for “personalized practice” so that clients adapt poses to their needs. It is designed to reduce the risk of injuries; it is ideal for those with back pain and sciatica. Finally, Yin (“taoist yoga”) is for quiet meditation, with passive, relaxing poses. Any style of yoga might be performed alone, at home, or at a class with an instructor and classmates or friends.2
Yoga and Chiropractic Care
Many patients seek yoga as a way to treat mental and physical conditions, and the exercise may do just that. However, it is more common to see yoga as a complementary treatment option to chiropractic care. The chiropractor could even suggest yoga positions for the patient to try at home or refer the patient to a yoga instructor. Chiropractors, especially those who practice the straight style, are big advocates of spinal health. Yoga improves flexibility and spinal health, which some chiropractors believe to be the root source of many physical and mental issues. A spine that is out of alignment affects the functionality of the central nervous system, which in turn affects the body as a whole. Yoga and chiropractic care work together because the effectiveness of the treatment is increased while the body is strengthened, which then makes the body better able to respond to said treatment.3
See info on CAM/Alternative treatments.