Clinical Yoga

We would like to introduce you to Catherine, an experienced Musculoskeletal Physiotherapist and Clinical Yoga Instructor.

Catherine, can you tell us a little about your Physiotherapy career to date and what got you interested in Yoga?

I qualified as a physiotherapist in 1985 and became interested in treating patients with neurological conditions. The study of normal movement and the body and brain as an integrated whole system immediately made sense. Fortunately all of physiotherapy is now based on that knowledge. I always had an interest in nutrition, fitness and preventative health, I was involved in cardiac rehab and fitness programmes for hospital staff back in the 1990s. In 2005 I received an MSC in the Science of Exercise and Nutrition. I reluctantly attended my first yoga class in 2003 for my mental health rather than physical. At the time I was looking for something to help strengthen my ever worsening  posture. I was fell running, swimming and playing tennis but my posture was getting worse and I was beginning to suffer from shoulder and neck pain. The yoga class proved to be the hardest physical work out I had ever tried but it addressed all of my maladaptations and postural weaknesses. It also had a positive affect on my mental state, I was committed for life.

How does Clinical Yoga differ from a traditional Yoga class and how can it benefit Physiotherapy clients?

I practiced and studied yoga as a scientist and physiotherapist for 10 years and then began using the postures with patients developing Clinical Yoga as a different way to practice yoga. Clinical Yoga prioritises the individual and addresses the common maladaptations we see every day caused by modern life. Sedentary jobs, sitting  and a mechanised world. Clinical Yoga focusses on the many common problems we see in a physiotherapy clinic, low back pain, rotator cuff issues etc. I identified that many of the traditional postures practiced by often ‘hypermobilie’ yoga teachers are at best inappropriate and at worst harmful to the average person. The Clinical yoga practice delivers, strong postural correction, balance postures and a meditative practice with breathing control beneficial to the heart and brain. I have incorporated into Clinical Yoga all of the relevant Nice guidelines to deliver the maximum benefits from an exercise session.

So it really does sound like everybody could benefit from Clinical Yoga, is that correct?

Yes, every age including nonagenarians and children. If you already practice yoga it can teach you how to gain more from your practice in terms of strength particularly. I hear people say that they do yoga and lift weights, unless you want to build muscle bulk that shouldn’t be necessary.  Something aerobic like running, walking, swim, cycle where you become breathless is advised to complement your Clinical Yoga.

If you had any advice for those who have never done Yoga before, what would it be?

SAFETY. Make sure your instructor has experience (10 years of personal practice) , excellent training (British Wheel of Yoga is good) and observes the class, (small classes are essential) and watches everyone. If you are attending a very large class where you are left to your own devices, make sure you know what you are doing by having some private sessions with a good instructor, if you have any pathology then you should discuss this with your physiotherapist first, they can advise you on any postures which may not be advisable or need adjusting.

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