Yoga & Flexibility

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Yoga & Body

Yoga has also been shown to improve joint range of motion in people with osteoarthritis. A randomized controlled trial of 250 people with osteoarthritis of the knees compared 40 minutes of daily Hatha yoga exercises to therapeutic exercises over 3 months and found that yoga significantly improved range of knee flexion more than non-yoga therapeutic exercises at both the Day 15 and Day 90.

So don’t let your fear of being “inflexible” stop you from trying a safe, supervised yoga practice. Yoga is not a competition or a quest to find the “perfect” pose, but the union of the body and mind to find a centering practice that is safe and healthy for your unique and individual body and mind. There is no one-size-fits-all yoga pose sequence. Many poses and sequences can be modified safely with the support of blocks, blankets, or alternative positions. The key is talk openly to your yoga teacher about concerning areas of tightness or injury ahead of class and not to push yourself past your own limit.

If you have injuries or medical conditions, please check with your physician first to ensure a safe yoga practice. Pregnant women should practice sequences modified for prenatal yoga and should consult with their physician.

People often say, “I can’t do yoga because I’m not flexible enough.” This is like saying “I don’t lift weights because I’m not strong enough.” A safe practice of yoga can actually increase flexibility.

A February 2015 study in Journal of Physical Therapy Science found that 90 minutes of Hatha Yoga per week for 20 weeks increased spinal flexibility in women over 50 years old. The study found that yoga practice increased spinal mobility, hamstring flexibility, and joint range of motion in all age groups. Previous studies have similarly shown an increase in muscular strength, endurance, and joint range of motion even from 8 weeks of twice a week yoga practice of 10 minutes of pranayamas (breath-control exercises), 15 minutes of dynamic warm-up exercises, 50 minutes of asanas (yoga postures), and 10 minutes of supine relaxation in savasana (corpse pose).

Note: People with a history of medical conditions such as osteopenia or osteoporosis (low bone mineral density), bone or cartilage disorders, should speak to their physicians first as well as yoga teachers to find out guidelines for a safe practice to prevent any injuries from excessive force or pressures on the body during practice. Depending on the individual, certain poses should be modified or avoided.

References

Grabara M, Szopa J. Effects of hatha yoga exercises on spine flexibility in women over 50 years old. J Phys Ther Sci. 2015 Feb;27(2):361-5. doi: 10.1589/jpts.27.361. Epub 2015 Feb 17.
Tran MD, Holly RG, Lashbrook J, Amsterdam EA. Effects of Hatha Yoga Practice on the Health-Related Aspects of Physical Fitness. Prev Cardiol. 2001 Autumn;4(4):165-170.
Ebnezar J, Nagarathna R, Yogitha B, Nagendra HR. Effects of an integrated approach of hatha yoga therapy on functional disability, pain, and flexibility in osteoarthritis of the knee joint: a randomized controlled study. J Altern Complement Med. 2012 May;18(5):463-72. doi: 10.1089/acm.2010.0320. Epub 2012 Apr 26.