Yoga and the Fountain of Youth

As a Physical Therapist and dedicated Yogi, I have come to equate practicing yoga with finding the fountain of youth. As a Physical Therapist, I see a lot of young 80-year olds and a lot of old 50 year-olds, and in my observation mobility makes all the difference. The ability to get down and up from the floor or get out of a car with ease translates to feeling young and spry and is a key to independence. Practicing yoga not only keeps me mobile, it keeps me strong and in balance so I can keep running without injury and keep up with two small kids.

What is yoga? The word yoga means “to yoke”, or to unite; to join the mind with the body and breath in the present moment. Yoga is a welcoming practice for all bodies; there are programs suitable for all levels. Yoga is commonly associated with stretching, but yoga is so SO much more than a stretching class. On a physical level, yoga cultivates a lot of strength, increases flexibility, teaches us alignment and can be a highly cardiovascular activity. But yoga also teaches us to focus on the flow of the breath and steadiness of the mind, and through this practice we improve our concentration and find stress-relieving and blood-pressure-lowering benefits.

Can you do yoga if you’ve had or are currently rehabbing from an injury? YES!! Yoga is a mindful practice, which is especially helpful for my clients who are learning to understand and correct dysfunction in their body. A “mind-body” class means you are cued to pay attention to how your body is reacting to a posture in each moment, and then encouraged to back off when you need to. In addition, yoga postures have many modifications to accommodate injuries and perceived shortcomings, such as tight hamstrings, so that all ages and abilities can participate. Of course it is important that you understand your injury, get your therapists blessing along with rules on absolute contraindications and take the appropriate level class. Always introduce yourself to the teacher and inform them of your injury, they will help you find modifications, use props and invite you into resting poses whenever you need.

Yoga can also help us heal. On a basic level, as physical therapists we are trying to help the body come back to its optimal resting state, homeostasis. When there is injury, something is off, there is imbalance in the body. When we restore balance we provide the best possible environment for the body to heal itself. Our bodies are amazing vehicles that are equipped with all the necessary elements to bring forth healing. It is only when we can properly align our shoulders that we can take excess pressure off our rotator cuff and find freedom of motion. If we can restore flexibility and mobility at our ankle joint we can help the body better attenuate ground reaction forces with each step we take, and therefore not only heal, but prevent future injury. Don’t get me wrong, physical therapy is still beneficial and necessary, as are our orthopedic surgeon friends! A physical therapist skilled in manual therapy can be a vital player in helping free tissues from chronic holding patterns, and through their knowledge of anatomy and biomechanics they teach you the right exercises to stay strong and injury free. Our orthopedists are there to help put us back together when dysfunction has persisted beyond the point of internal repair, or for those instances when outside forces outmatch our internal resistance. But yoga also shares our goal of bringing the body back into homeostasis, so why not take the best of the east and the west as you embark on your rehabilitation journey.

So whether you are considering jumping into Yoga as a form of cross training or as an adjunct to healing, I invite and strongly encourage you to give it a try. I also encourage you to be open to the experience, to try different styles and teachers until you find what resonates with you. Yoga can be an amazing, ever-evolving journey towards wellness of body, mind and spirit. So give it a try. See if you think it is the fountain of youth!

If you are new to yoga or looking for a refresher course, INVIVO is offering a Yoga 101 workshop with Zack Ferguson on Saturday, January 30th from 1:00-2:30pm. In this workshop you will learn the basics of yoga postures, proper alignment, and begin to develop body and breath awareness. This class will break down the Sun Salutations and other primary postures while incorporating the link of breath and movement. Learn why yoga is so great for deepening your connection to your body. While this workshop is intended for beginners, all levels are welcome. Click here for more information and to sign up online.

Patricia Fasciotti is a Physical Therapist and Wellness Director at INVIVO. Patricia has spent over 10 years in the field of outpatient orthopedics. Most recently, Patricia completed her 200-hour certification to become a registered Yoga teacher (RYT). Patricia lives in Brookfield with her husband and two children. She enjoys running, yoga, pilates, and exploring all that Milwaukee has to offer!