One of our goals when seeing a patient for physical therapy is to complete their course of treatment in a judicious number of visits. This has become more important over the past few years with increasing co-pays and higher deductibles.
Most patients are presented with home exercises to maintain the corrective treatments rendered by the therapist. In addition, I do my best to advocate for a healthy exercise alternative that will have long-lasting impact once they leave my care for their most recent diagnosis. My recommendation is they look to partake in yoga.
As we get older, research demonstrates that if we do not address, we lose strength and flexibility, which combined and over time can impact our ability to balance. Endeavors such as Pilates, the martial arts and other activities are options that can help to counteract these negative occurrences. I have yet to experience each one of these. However, I can give a firsthand account of yoga.
A year and a half ago, a friend who also happened to be a patient at the time, strongly suggested I come to a yoga class that she attended. I had yet to experience a yoga class on a consistent basis. After a few classes, I was able to identify in my own body asymmetries, areas of tightness, weakness and balance deficits that I possessed on one side of my body that were not present on the other. While I was vaguely aware of these issues before yoga participation, I became quite aware of them quickly after. And this is a goal that we strive to achieve with all our patients, a symmetrical body with range of motion, strength and balance that are the same on the right as on the left.
A year and a half in, I still have some deficits, but they are greatly reduced. If I spent more than once or twice a week at this practice, these deficiencies may be gone. My ability to run, bike, ski and play golf are greatly enhanced due to my improved range of motion, strength and balance. An added benefit to practicing yoga for me is that I do not have the post event soreness that used to be present. My morning steps are comfortable. Most importantly, as my years continue to progress, I feel that yoga can delay many common “aging factors.”
Before you start with excuses, let me tell you I have practiced next to people who have had both knees replaced, those who have had a hip replaced and those who have had back surgery, toe surgeries, and probably other medical issues that I am not privy to. There are many types of yoga, and while it is beyond my scope, almost everyone can be placed in a specific yoga class. The key is to talk with a yoga teacher, informing them of your specific condition, and ask if they have a class that they can recommend that would be best for you. While they offer many types of yoga classes, the studio I attend also offers chair yoga, a class for those with osteoporosis, as well as a class that emphasizes stretching within yoga positions.
Not long ago I listened to a radio show in which the commentator took me by surprise when he mentioned that the key to successful golden years is mobility. When one loses their mobility, social life and independence are reduced. While there may be other forms of bodywork that deserve time in future articles, yoga is a great option.
It is incumbent upon us all to recognize that health care practitioners can take us only so far, and there are options in our communities that we can participate in to create a better life for ourselves.