Have You Signed up to a McYoga Class?
Yoga classes are everywhere now and as this article from the Guardian January 14th 2012 gives another perspective as to what is good and bad about the rise in the popularity of yoga. ('Yoga can damage your body' article throws exponents off-balance. A $5bn industry is outraged over a New York Times article saying that the keep fit regime is bad for your body).
Running a clinic in Islington I know that within 10 minutes I can walk to four Starbucks, obviously if I want decent coffee Starbucks isn’t my first choice but it gives you an idea as to what the area is like. Before Borders closed I could have walked to five Starbucks!
How many yoga classes can I walk to? Off the top of my head I can think of eight places that hold yoga classes within a ten-minute walk. There are too many classes to be able to recommend a class and a few years ago there was just yoga. Now there are at least five different types of yoga taught within the ten minutes walk from my clinic.
When I talk to patients about the rehabilitation phase of treatment it is interesting to hear their ideas on what they feel will be good for them. This is especially interesting when we have discussed why they have their problem and what factors contributed to its onset.
Patients tend to fall into one of two camps when it comes to views on rehabilitation. Either they want to go to the gym and get more muscular, thinking that that weight training will create a better functioning and more resilient back or they fall into the yoga camp where they think that flexibility and control will create the prefect back.
What is interesting from my perspective is that there is a lot more emotion and a more holistic view to health with those that feel yoga is the way ahead for their recovery and this emotion or enthusiasm is terrific if only it could be channelled the right way. The yoga fans I get to see are predominantly female and they are passionate about getting back to their weekly classes once their acute condition has improved. As well as the enthusiasm for returning to regular yoga classes they often have a good view about diet and wellbeing.
The downside to all this is that yoga causes a lot of problems. Patients come in with yoga related injuries, or back problems that have been exacerbated by yoga. I even had a patient present at the clinic with a fractured femur from having her leg forced into a position by her yoga teacher. I haven’t seen her for a few years but last time I saw her she was suing him!
There is always a balance to be achieved and very few things are entirely good or entirely bad so I am not going to condemn yoga completely. But yoga can put the body or in particular the spine into the extremes of its normal range of movement therefore creating incredible stresses for the back and especially the intervertebral discs to deal with. It is these discs that are accountable for a tremendous number of chronic and acute back problems, whether in the lumbar spine where they can cause sciatica or in the cervical spine or neck where they can cause neck and arm pain.
These patterns of movement and behaviour are the ones we aim to remove, correct or minimise from the daily lives of patients through specific rehabilitation exercises. The last thing I want is for patients to adopt the extreme of any of these movements as you do in yoga.
If you are going to go to yoga classes what should you look for? Make sure that you go to a class that is small, one on one or up to three or four people so the instructor can keep an eye on you. Don’t stay at a class when the instructor doesn’t take time to talk to you before hand to see what you can or can’t do or if you have had any problems with your back or neck.
If you are receiving treatment or have had treatment from a physiotherapist, osteopath or chiropractor contact them and they will be more than happy to give you advice as to what you should or shouldn’t do. It goes without saying, if you get any twinges during a class stop and don’t go back to the class until you know exactly what has gone wrong.
Finally, there is a lot of money involved in yoga, have a read of the Guardian article if you want to know all the facts, so find an instructor that loves doing what they do and not one that wants to get as many as possible into a class and make as much money as possible for as little work as possible.
Remember, yoga should be bespoke and personal, it shouldn’t be like buying a burger at McDonalds!