Attracted to the way it combines purposeful movements with meditative breathing and relaxation, an estimated one in seven adults practice yoga each year the U.S., according to the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).
And, while regular yoga practitioners no doubt enjoy the general wellness aspect of the 5,000-year-old Eastern discipline, Monterey physical therapist Dr. Byanca Madrigal, PT says that when combined with physical therapy, yoga can become a powerfully modern vehicle for healing and pain relief.
That’s why Madrigal, who is also a certified yoga instructor, regularly practices concepts of therapeutic yoga when treating patients at Balance Physical Therapy and Human Performance Center in Monterey and Salinas.
What is Therapeutic Yoga?
Through yoga, combined with her years of schooling and experience in anatomy and body mechanics, Madrigal helps patients of all types improve their body’s mobility and range of motion, which can lead to better flexibility, strength and balance while reducing pain and promoting healing.
“In most physical therapy clinics, people will come in and their therapist will take a look at body mechanics, what needs to be addressed, how you are going to get there, and so on,” Madrigal said. “This doesn’t always provide patients with moments of personal understanding of how their body’s working.”
Making therapeutic yoga a part of one’s treatment, she said, helps patients better “lean into” the experience of recovery, whether that’s following injury, surgery, chronic pain, pregnancy, and even anxiety or depression.
“Yoga allows you to slow things down, helping you focus on what your body’s doing, what it’s feeling, where it’s holding tension, and so on,” Madrigal said. “It helps with your internal understanding of how your body’s responding to treatments through breathing, strengthening and/or balance techniques.”
Benefits of Therapeutic Yoga
One of the most immediate benefits of using yoga as part of a patient’s physical therapy treatment, Madrigal says, is the exercise’s natural tendency to “downregulate,” or ease, one’s nervous system.
This reduction in stress – stress from work, home, school, the state of the world, or from an injury or ailment – can lead to a decrease in pain and an improved focus as the patient goes through the course of treatment.
Such treatment may be for relieving pain and improving mobility for someone with lower-back pain; improving pelvic floor mobility for someone who’s pregnant; and even improving strength and balance in someone who’s grown more sedentary due to age, pain or injury.
When applied correctly, yoga can also help athletes improve range of motion in the muscles and joints, which can lead to both enhanced performance and injury prevention.
The use of yoga in physical therapy, however, is never a one-size-fits-all effort. According to Madrigal, both the condition and the goals of the patient will help determine how yoga may be utilized therapeutically, in combination with other treatments or modalities.
“When a patient comes to me, I’m most likely to give them some sort of modification to a yoga or yoga-like pose that I feel will be helpful during treatment,” Madrigal said. “It’s not going to be the only thing I do, but I’ll incorporate it because there’s a great benefit to improving mobility and decreasing the stressors of the day.”
RSVP for a FREE Yoga Class
If you’ve never tried yoga before and wish to learn more about how Madrigal incorporates therapeutic yoga into her treatments, the Balance Physical Therapy and Human Performance Center team would like to give you this opportunity.
On Thursday, Sept. 24, at 5 p.m., Madrigal will be hosting a FREE one-hour yoga class via Facebook Live titled “Therapeutic Yoga.”