Don’t Get Bent Out of Shape: How Physical Therapy Can Improve Your Yoga Form

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Many people turn to physical therapy (PT) for injury rehabilitation, but PT can do more than help you bounce back from injury. PT is about getting you to move better, and that includes during your workouts.

For me, yoga is a great low-impact workout and stress-reliever, but maintaining proper form requires a lot of stability and flexibility. Some days, my form is off, and when that happens, I feel the effects all day: a twinge in my back, a tweak in my right knee, a pop in my left hip. However, improper yoga form can lead to more serious issues than just twinges and tweaks. To ensure that your workout helps—rather than hurts—your health, you might want to consider seeking PT. It might sound strange, especially if you’re not currently experiencing any aches and pains, but a physical therapist can help you better understand how your body moves—and how it shouldn’t—to improve your form and prevent injury.

Ensure Proper Form

Maintaining proper alignment is crucial in yoga (if you’ve ever tried the King Pigeon Pose, you know what I’m talking about), but it’s easy to get it wrong, and classes are often so large that instructors can’t take the time to correct each individual’s form. Physical therapists understand how improper form increases your risk for spine, hip, and lower back injuries, and they can work with you one-on-one to enhance your body awareness and stability.

Improve Flexibility

Poor flexibility is particularly dangerous, as it restricts movement in your pelvis and spine, which can compress your lumbar spine—even during backbends. In a class environment, it’s tempting to compare yourself to others and push to keep up with those who are more advanced, but keep in mind that your practice is just that: yours. Physical therapy can help you make flexibility gains at a safe, healthy rate so you can touch your toes without compromising form.

Protect Soft Tissues

Conversely, there is such a thing as too much flexibility. I actually took up yoga after a particularly engaging experience watching a Cirque du Soleil documentary, and I was determined to forward-fold myself in half. It didn’t happen (though I was able to bend over and put my hands flat on the ground)—and maybe that’s a good thing. Because when it comes to yoga, the more flexible you are, the more prone your ligaments are to injury. In fact, according to one physical therapist, excessive flexibility removes the body’s soft tissue restraints, leading to compromised joint stability. A physical therapist can help you determine a safe degree of flexibility for your body––which is good, because you don’t want to become Elastigirl.

Much like yoga, physical therapy enhances stability, flexibility, alignment, and body awareness (in fact, some physical therapists are introducing yoga as part of their therapy programs). Even celebrities like Kim Cattrall know the benefits physical therapy has on yoga practice; in an interview last year, the actress stated she isn’t worried about injuring herself during yoga because physical therapists are well-versed in the human body.

A physical therapist can assess your current fitness level and identify barriers to exercise; then, he or she can come up with a plan to help you reach your individual goals—like being able to perform inversion poses or the eight-angle pose—safely. After all, they’re experts in preventing injury, so you can always trust that they’ll have your back (and the rest of your body) when it comes to helping you perfect your yoga practice. To find a therapist in your area, specifically one that specializes in yoga, use the PT finder now.

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