While I am not a yogi, as an OT, I was intrigued by the synergy between yoga and occupational therapy. After some research and conversations with the yoga enthusiasts in my life, I recognized some key ways yoga could support and enhance the work of occupational therapy. So read on and celebrate September: Yoga Awareness Month!
Endless modifications – Most yoga poses can be modified to suit a person’s limitations or strengths. A perfect example is seated yoga – where all poses are completed while seated in a chair. Yoga is also taught with props like blocks, straps, bolsters and blankets to support the body while moving into a yoga pose. Good yoga instructors will always teach ways to modify a pose.
Physical benefits – Like any regular physical activity, yoga can support a patient’s physical recovery of strength and motion. Standing poses build strength and balance. Stretches can increase range of motion. Studies have even shown yoga can improve reaction time. Building physical strength and mobility supports all activities of daily living. So mountain pose can help standing stamina, chair pose can help with sit and stand, and a forward fold can help when reaching for something on the ground.
Behavioral health supports – The tools of yoga, including mindfulness, mantras and breathing techniques can provide patients with strategies to cope with anxiety, stress or depression. The coordination of breath and movement can carry into a patient’s daily routine as a way to self-regulate or cope with chronic pain.
Person-Centered – Yoga, like OT, meets a person where they are, without judgement, to help a person reach their goals. Each yoga “practice” is an individual journey exploring what the body is capable of and to support growth. I love the philosophy that there is no wrong way to approach yoga as long as a person is safe in their practice.
So, if you haven’t explored yoga through the OT lens, take a class or ask your patients if yoga is one of the occupations they want to support. You might be surprised by the synergy between the two.