Yoga Rehabilitation: Can It Help With Injury Recovery and Prevention?

Yoga offers many health benefits. It’s no wonder a staggering 36 million Americans practice this discipline. Using yoga as a form of rehabilitation could be beneficial for injury recovery and the prevention of further injury. Keep reading to discover if yoga could support your recovery.

Key takeaways:

Yoga as a preventative measure for injuries

While yoga is not a magic cure, it may be beneficial for injury prevention. Yoga can help keep your body flexible and joints healthy. Lack of flexibility can make you more susceptible to muscle tears. This is because your muscles may not be able to meet your physical demands.

Having a degree of hip flexor flexibility can help with movement. For example, explosive kicks in football require the hip flexor to go into a sudden extension. If the muscles do not have the flexibility to reach that point, you risk a pull or tear.

Following a consistent yoga program can help you build up these levels of flexibility over time. Exposing the body to stretches that lengthen the muscles in a safe and effective way can help you improve performance, while meeting the demands of daily physical activity.

In a 10-week study published in 2016 in the International Journal of Yoga found collegiate athletes who consistently practiced yoga as an addition to the usual training practices demonstrated noticeable improvements in flexibility and balance.

Is yoga effective for rehabilitation?

Yoga can be used as a safe and effective type of exercise following injury, because it helps with the following:

  • Ensures optimal physical health while preventing recurrence of injuries.
  • Yoga can be a great way to improve strength, flexibility, balance, coordination, and posture; these are all important motor abilities which affect movement performance.
  • Optimal movement performance means moving with better technique; this is key for the use of yoga to prevent further injuries.
  • Yoga can be beneficial for your well-being, reducing stress levels; stress raises cortisol levels, which can lead to widespread body inflammation.
  • Maintaining stress levels helps prevent a decreased energy level; this is key since energy is needed for recovery.

Is it safe to do yoga when injured?

It depends on the severity of the injury. You need to go slowly. If the yoga is causing pain during and afterward, then stop. Even right after a mild muscular strain, yoga could be helpful. Other times, it's best to wait 24 hours.

Doing yoga with muscle strains

While you want to keep the muscles moving, it’s best to avoid overstretching, as your body needs time to heal. Tears can range from mild to severe. The severity of the tear should determine your training needs. When we experience a tear, mild to severe muscle separation can occur. If you overstretch, you risk greater muscle separation, increasing recovery time.

The muscle needs time to heal, especially if scar tissue has emerged. If scar tissue develops over time, it can limit your range of motion as well as cause you pain. You can do gentle yoga, but do not go too deeply into the poses and if you experience any pain, get out of the yoga posture and rest.

Yoga exercises with stress fractures

Performing very gentle yoga exercises which do not put further strain on the fractured area may be safe for you to do. Avoid balancing exercises that increase the load on the affected bones. Search for classes listed as 'gentle' or 'yoga for stress fractures' in your area and see if there is a suitable fit for you. Make sure you consult a physical therapist before proceeding with exercise after a stress fracture.

While yoga can be a great form of rehabilitation to support your body, it's not a quick fix. It is important to honor the body's natural healing process and give yourself time to recover. Implementing yoga gradually into your routine as a way to improve overall strength, flexibility, and posture can help prevent further injuries. Remember, your exercise routine should reflect the stage of your recovery. Over-exercising too early on may set you back several weeks.

Practice yoga with a qualified teacher and make them aware of your injuries, so they can offer modifications if needed. Remember to consult a healthcare professional before exercising after an injury to ensure you are following the necessary steps to support your recovery.

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