How Yoga Works, A Physiotherapist’s Perspective

Orla CrosseYoga is a lot more than an exercise trend for the flexible of wallet and time, as physiotherapist and yoga teacher Orla Crosse explains. As a form of exercise, she believes in it and explains exactly how it works.

Maybe you’ve attended your first few yoga classes this year. Maybe you’ve been in on the secrets for months or years. Perhaps you’re interested in your health and are intrigued to learn more from a Chartered Physiotherapist.

At this stage, everybody has heard about yoga. We are told it is the type of exercise that’s going to help loosen us out. We may even think that it’s only suitable for flexible people. Looking around my class on a typical midweek evening I see a carpenter, office worker, busy mum or dad, engineer, college student, doctor, bike shop owner. There is no longer a typical person sitting on the mat ready to be guided through a strength and mobility yoga session. Health is a buzzword at the moment. We are all becoming more tuned in to our health and want the best for ourselves.

How Yoga Works

To explain how I think yoga works, here’s a short story which might seem familiar to you. I’m in my clinic, treating a patient for a shoulder blade problem that has been bothering them for quite some time. I explain to the patient that this pain is in part due to the position of their shoulder for 80% of their day. The patient will do a prescribed home exercise program to rebalance the strength in their shoulder and make small ergonomic changes throughout their day, reducing the problem significantly. BUT, three months later, the exercise stops, workloads have increased and eventually are back in clinic. Once this issue has been diagnosed, treated and strengthened appropriately, the ’new’ position and strength of this shoulder has to be maintained to prevent recurrence of pain. We all need to take accountability for maintaining our own mobility and strength.

Maintenance Exercise

Yoga is a form of maintenance exercise. Although walking, running, cycling, playing a match or round of golf are excellent ways to keep fit and de-stress, they may not move every area of your body through a full range of movement.

Orla Crosse 2

During a Yoga class, you will be guided into moving every joint from top to toe. This means working with your own available range of motion and strength around each joint. Easy breathing exercises to activate the core muscles are integral to each movement. I have never had a one size fits all approach and everyone in class moves to the best of their ability. No two people look the same in yoga.


The headspace side of yoga is an additional benefit. We are a busy, multitasking, often stressed generation. We are all more and more aware of the negative effects stress can have on our own lives and on those around us. We don’t and often can’t offer ourselves 10 minutes to switch off from technology, life demands, food preparation, housework etc. I like the idea of linking exercise to relaxing time. Personally, I find you can switch off in a good yoga class from everything in your life outside of the yoga studio. There is usually a 10 minutes relaxation at the end of a yoga class where you are guided through an easy relaxation. It’s the perfect way to finish. Bliss.

Compliment Your Lifestyle

Doing a weekly yoga session to compliment your lifestyle makes sense to me. Think of yoga as your maintenance session in the week which will build resilience into your body and mind.

You don’t have to replace your normal exercises which you love with yoga, rather add it into your week to make the most out of all your other activities! Figuring this out for yourself will be your lightbulb moment.

Join Orla and Susan Church for their Advanced Yoga for Lower Limbs and Pelvis module which is part of our 300 Hour Advanced Teacher Training where they’ll explore the functional workings of the feet to the pelvis in many important asanas.

*This article was originally published on*

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