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INTRODUCING PHYOGA

Fitness has never been more popular than it is in today’s society, and Phyoga is a new phenomenon that has great health benefits.

What is Phyoga exactly? Well, it is a set of exercises combining yoga with programs that incorporate physiotherapy, such as Pilates. Phyoga is specifically used to treat various clinical impairments that come with aging, and this article will tell you all you need to do about the new method of exercising.

What Diseases can Phyoga Help?

Phyoga has shown success in so many different areas of health, and it is now used as part of the treatment process for many different diseases. Whilst it has been shown to be particularly great in older patients, it can be used for helping all age groups manage their rehabilitation goals.

Some of the conditions Phyoga helps include:

  • Osteoporosis
  • Respiratory problems
  • Lower back pain
  • Neck pain

What Happens as we Age?

As we get older, we go through several physiological changes, and our overall health and function alters. In society today there is an extreme ageing population, and so there is a huge need to develop a system to promote healthy ageing in order to reduce disability and promote good quality of life.

Healthy aging would be seen by an elderly individual having the capacity to participate in life and being able to do simple daily activities that aren’t hindered by poor health. When older adults are physically inactive and frail, it eventually has an influence on their mental health and behaviour, and it can lead to musculoskeletal disorders. Age related changes often result in an overall decreased quality of life. 

Benefits of Yoga for Older Adults

Yoga is a great activity that is particularly popular with adults, and you will find that when you try and book into a yoga class at your gym, you’ll struggle finding classes that have space! 

It is such a great physical activity because it provides huge benefits to your movement and general quality of life. 

Yoga is said to improve muscle strength, regulate blood pressure, maintain the functioning of your heart and it can also help you to better manage your sleep pattern and eradicate psychosocial nervousness. It can bring such positive impacts to your mental health, with yoga has been described by many to be like meditation. The exercises are very calming and aren’t too energetic, and so you can really relax and rest your mind whilst doing it.

Studies have shown that yoga is one of the best exercises you can do for improving mobility and preventing deformities in adult life. This is because the moves in yoga aim to maintain your sense of balance, and also help in improving your motor skills, and so it keeps your muscles and body moving to prevent it from deteriorating. 

What is Asana?

Asana is a practice related to yoga that many may not have heard of. Asana is different types of stretching exercises in yoga that don’t put any strain on your body or muscles and won’t make you feel fatigued. It is therefore something that can be performed comfortably, which makes it great for older adults and the elderly. 

Some of the benefits of asanas:

  • Improves flexibility
  • Improves strength
  • Improves balance
  • Reduces stress which helps to alleviate diseases such as asthma and diabetes.

There are many different types of yogic asanas which are great to incorporate into a daily routine. Some of these asanas are:

  • Tadasana
  • Trikonasana
  • Ardhachakrasana
  • Padhastasana
  • Vajrasana
  • Suk asana
  • Pranayama
  • Mudra

These all might sound a bit daunting and confusing, but the exercises involved for each of them are actually very simple.

Tadasana targets and strengthens your thighs, knees and ankles. It helps to correct your posture, reduce flat feet, and also works to relieve sciatica. People also love doing this form of yoga because it helps to firm up your abs and bum.

Trikonasana stretches out the hips, groins, hamstrings, calves, shoulders, chest and spine. Similar to Tadasana, it also strengthens the thighs, knees, and ankles. Trikonasana is great at relieving stress, and it helps to stimulate the abdominal organs in order to improve digestion and prevent constipation

Ardhachakrasana is a type of yoga that improves your lung capacity, stimulates the pancreas and controls high blood sugar. This one is therefore particularly great for the elderly and can aid in treatment of diseases such as respiratory issues. It also brings flexibility to your spine and relieves pain in the neck and shoulders. This makes Ardhachakrasana great for relieving all sorts of back pain. It can also help to tone up your arms, thighs, waist, and shoulders.

Padhastasana helps to alleviate gas, constipation and indigestion. It stimulates the spinal nerves which leads to an increased vitality and an improvement in metabolism and concentration.

Vajrasana is one of the easiest forms of yoga. It helps relieve constipation and specialises in strengthening the lower back and legs.

Suk asana is a form of yoga that is particularly good for helping with mental health. It eliminates stress and anxiety and helps to induce a state of calmness. It also improves blood circulation in the hips, legs, spine, back and pelvis area and helps digestive organs immensely.

Pranayama helps in normalizing the regulation of circulatory and respiratory responses. It helps in treating mental problems like anxiety and depression by relaxing the mind, alleviating your mood and creating a healthy attitude that overall results in emotional stability. 

Mudras are physic, emotional and devotional gestures. Brahma Mudra works with breath and sound vibration. It induces a sense of relaxation and rejuvenates the head and neck region which reduces stress in the older age group.

Physiotherapy for Older Adults

Physiotherapy is a practice in medicine that requires teamwork and cooperation between various specialists such as psychologists, sociologists, occupational therapists, and nurses. It is all to do with human function and movement. So, a physiotherapist will help people who have been affected by injury, illness or disability using exercise and manual therapy. They are especially good for when someone has a long-term condition that needs regular management. 

A prior assessment is done before planning a physiotherapy start-up for older adults in order to achieve the desired outcome for their movement.

Initial care is started with physiotherapy in a person’s own home or at a clinic. You can hire a private physiotherapist or have one who works with government services. 

Older adults must start with light physical activity every single day. For example, they might start by walking at a slow pace, cleaning and dusting, moving around the house or simply just making the bed.They are also told to avoid sitting for long periods to avoid postural changes. 

A 4-6 weeks exercise program can be started to improve an individual’s strength and flexibility with a short period of rest before repeating the activity. Slightly harder exercises will be started here, such as arm, back and leg stretching. Sitting exercises can also be used as this helps to improve mobility and prevent falls (which is extremely important for the elderly). 

Sometimes people can get involved with group physiotherapy, and here they will do exercises such as chest stretches, upper body twists, hip marching, arm raises and neck rotation.

Here is a list of some of the specific exercises that are done to help improve people’s balance:

  • Sideways walking
  • Simple grapevine
  • Heel-to-toe walk
  • One leg stand
  • Step-up and step-down (can be done near a wall or a chair to avoid losing balance)

With all these exercises, gradual increase in repetitions will help improve health and mobility.

Strengthening exercises that are often done during physiotherapy are:

  • Brisk Walking
  • Pushing and pulling activities
  • Dancing
  • Running 
  • Jogging
  • Walking
  • Cycling

All of these exercises can have their intensity modified to suit the individual and their abilities. They can all be started by using a chair to aid in the movements. 

Some specific chair based strengthening exercises are:

  • Mini squats
  • Sit to stand
  • Heel raises
  • Calf Raises
  • Sideways leg lifts
  • Wall push-ups
  • Bicep curls
  • Hip strengthening exercises

These can all also be practised with slow repetitions.            

Pilates For Older Adults

In recent times, Pilates has become extremely popular, with thousands signing up to classes to try and get into shape and stay healthy. It is most often used as a method of physiotherapy. Pilates is a way of exercising that involves low-impact flexibility, with muscular strength and endurance movements. It is great for promoting good posture, whilst strengthening your core and muscular balance. It has also been known for creating a strong mind that is able to control the body.

Pilates has been known to improve flexibility, mobility and aerobic performances for people of all ages and has been used in the rehabilitation of injuries of older adults. 

Types of Pilates Exercises

Pilates is divided into two broad categories: mat and apparatus exercises. 

In mat exercises, participants typically sit or lie supine or prone, and use gravity to help stabilize their core. Apparatus, on the other hand, uses equipment to train a variety of movement patterns and postures. 

One example of an apparatus exercise is the Reformer. This is made of a sliding horizontal platform within a box-like frame upon which a person sits, stands, kneels or reclines. You can add varying resistance to the movement via light springs attached to the moving platform in order to adjust the difficulty.

There are six basic principles of Pilates overall. These are:

  • Centering
  • Concentration
  • Control
  • Precision
  • Breath
  • Flow 

These principles are key in enabling mental health improvements and good control of the body.

Trunk stabilization, which is the control of the essential muscles that keep you standing upright, is essential for performance of basic motor activities such as walking, leaning over or catching and lifting objects. This is especially important in elderly individuals. Trunk stabilisation can be achieved through activating your transverse abdominals and pelvic floor. 

Spinal stabilisation can be done by creating a strong core and making movements through the legs. An example of an exercise that can be done for this is making circles through one leg. 

Pilates is great for elderly individuals, as it helps them to improve their balance and mobility, which is something that declines with age. It allows them to keep doing simple daily activities and improves their quality of life. 

When teaching older adults Pilates, it is generally done in a group session which can then also help in keeping their mind active and giving them more social interaction

Here are some examples of suitable exercises for older adults:

  • Kneeling with rear leg raise
  • Posturing like a mermaid
  • Side circles in clockwise and anticlockwise direction

Initially a chair is usually used to help reduce the risk of falls.

During these exercises, maintaining proper body posture is the main focus. All movements are performed in neutral positions to try and help correct physiological spine curvatures. 

Precautions to Take Whilst Performing Pilates

Like when doing all types of exercises, it is important to ensure you are being safe when practicing Pilates. There are some moves that certain people should avoid. For instance, if an individual suffers from a bulging disk, then moves involving rolling or that are too strenuous on your back, should be avoided.

Always start Pilates on the advice of your doctor or physiotherapist, as they should know about any conditions or injuries you have and so will be able to tell you if it is suitable, and where the right place to go is. 

If you have any of the following conditions, then you should avoid partaking in Pilates:

  • Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo
  • Cancer
  • Severe anxiety disorder
  • Inguinal hernia
  • Severe pain
  • Recent surgery
  • Neurological imbalance
  • Significant hypertension

Yoga with Physiotherapy – PHYOGA

As mentioned previously, Phyoga is the practice of bringing together yoga, physiotherapy and other methods of therapies as a way to improve an individual’s mobility and health. Combining physiotherapy and yoga offers a great approach to improve overall patient care. The exercises involved in Phyoga can be used in clinical and non-clinical settings. They can affect various body structures and systems such as musculoskeletal, nervous, visceral and endocrine functions. 

Phyoga works so well because yoga shares a number of basic underlying principles with the physiotherapeutic process.

The essence of yoga brought into physiotherapeutic practice would bring so many benefits including:

  • Muscle relaxation
  • Better breathing control
  • Better control of heart rate
  • Increased level of concentration

It would provide improvements to overall body functionality and life satisfaction using one simple method.

Pilates, being one of the physiotherapy-based exercise methods, connects mind and body using breathing patterns. This is a similar method used in yoga, which aims to reinforce the muscles of the whole body using conscious action. 

Pilates builds stamina both physically and mentally and helps build strength and tone up the body. The risk of strain or injury is lessened with good form and alignment, particularly with more challenging and dynamic exercises which can be compared to more complex yoga.

Doing breathing exercises whilst doing yoga (and, more specifically, pranayama) is useful for various groups of compromised patients, especially those with heart and lung issues. 

Yoga can influence the musculoskeletal and nervous system via mobilization of both joints and nerves respectively. For example, there is one specific medical procedure that helps to alleviate lower back and cervical pain, and a type of yoga called cobra asana is almost exactly equivalent to this.

When looking at the physiotherapeutic perspective, somatic dysfunction can be released, and flexibility can be improved. Yoga and Pilates are a set of “static [and] dynamic procedures” that, together, can enable the mobilization of the nervous system, joints and spine.

Overall, Phyoga exercises benefits the musculoskeletal system, can help prevent scoliosis and can generally improve an individual’s range of motion. It can also help improve the blood circulation of the vertebral arteries and prevent soft tissue damage in elderly patients. Therefore, it helps bring a better quality of life for the older age groups. Hence, Phyogais a promising and new concept which must be practised under the guidance of a physiotherapist or yoga practitioner. 

You should start Phyoga today because it is proven to work, and the results areevident. You can feel younger for longer and enjoy all aspects of life without feeling like you’re missing out. Your life matters…happy ageing!

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Written by Dr Khadija Pallavur M. A Dpth. Rangoonwala College of Physiotherapy and Research, India, July, 2020
Moderated by Eve Edmunds, Graduate student, Medical Physiology & Therapeutics, University of Nottingham, UK

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