Why Practice Yoga: The Benefits & Overlaps with Physiatry

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  • Improve flexibility: Tight and inflexible muscles or connective tissue can lead to poor posture. By improving flexibility, one can prevent muscle strains or tears.
  • Decrease stress and anxiety: By regulating self-referential thoughts through mediation, it has been proven that anxiety and stress levels can be attenuated. Yoga also strengthens the parasympathetic nervous system allowing our body to restore balance and release tension.
  • Weight loss: One of the primary responses to stress on our body is cortisol. Although its activation is initially helpful, it can cause detrimental effects when overstimulated, such as increasing the production of adipose tissue. By decreasing stress, yoga can further help prevent unwanted weight gain.
  • Build muscle strength: Not only does this help define the “summer body” we all pray for, but building muscle strength is a protective factor for many conditions such as arthritis and back pain.
  • Cardiopulmonary function: Depending on the asana, yoga position, you can improve your cardiac function. For instance, positions that require twisting of the body can increase blood and oxygen circulation, essential decreasing stroke risk.
  • Holistic: Humans are multidimensional beings, and we must keep that in mind when it comes to treating patients. Rather than focusing on each organ system, physiatrists look at a patient as a whole and work with many other interdisciplinary teams to meet the patient’s needs. By connecting the brain and body, yoga works in the same way!
  • Personalized: One thing I love about yoga is that you can truly make it your own. There are so many different styles of yoga, depending on what you are trying to achieve. When working with a patient, I believe physiatrists undergo this same process when personalizing a treatment plan for a patient.
  • Active engagement: Yoga requires you to notice every simple movement you make from breathing to the flexion in your toes as a way to bring back self-awareness. The same thing goes when creating rehabilitation management plans for patients.
  • Long-term effects: I will admit, some of the changes you see in yoga will be very meniscal but rewarding. Just like yoga, sometimes it takes time before seeing significant results when working with patients in rehab.

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Resident Fellow Council, AAP

Resident Fellow Council, AAP

Resident and Fellow Council of the Association of Academic Physiatry (@AssocAcademicPhysiatry)