Clinical Yoga Therapy Explained

 In Exercise and Health


Yoga is an ancient practice/philosophical system that originates from India aimed at stilling the ‘perturbations’ of the mind so one can think and act more clearly. It traditionally involves a combination of asana (postures), pranayama (breath control/extension), and meditation aimed at cultivating physical and mental clarity and wellbeing (1). From its origins in early civilisation on the Indian subcontinent and its long path over the last four thousand years through India, East Asia and now in many studios and homes in the West, Yoga has seen many vast changes and yet maintained a central pragmatic intent of understanding and relieving disease/suffering in the human condition (1, 2, 3). Consequently, Yoga is perfectly placed as a holistic method of physical therapy that can address all aspects of a person (mental, emotional, physical etc) to best assist them in overcoming injury, stress and optimise performance and overall physical wellbeing.  Some of the many observed benefits of Yoga in the research evidence include:

  • Normalised/reduced blood pressure
  • Improved blood lipid and glucose levels
  • Reversal of coronary atherosclerosis and coronary lesions in patients with severe coronary artery disease
  • Increased muscular strength and endurance
  • Decreased breath rate and oxygen consumption
  • Reduced fatigue
  • Improvement in sensory-motor performance and enhanced processing ability of the central nervous system
  • Improved eye-hand coordination
  • Significant reduction in symptoms of anxiety and depression
  • Improved memory function
  • Enhanced mood, mental focus, and stress tolerance
  • Significant improvements in quality of life (QOL)
  • Significant improvements in perceived self-efficacy

Modern Physiotherapy has seen some significant philosophical shifts in recent years away from a more “operator” approach to care – where the client/patient is seen to be like a machine with problems that we as a ‘mechanic’ can help “fix”, to an ‘interactor’ model of care where the client is an autonomous and ideally self-efficacious person that works collaboratively with the physiotherapist as their consultant coach (4). We are now understanding people who seek help and care for their pain as greater than the sum of their parts (muscles, bones, organ systems). As this happens, Physiotherapist’s aim to understand a person’s lived experience of illness to provide care in a way that addresses all aspects of their life (physical, mental, social, environmental etc) holistically (4, 5, 7). Recent research affirms this wider view of therapy, illustrating that those people with greater confidence, self-efficacy (how well one can execute courses of action required to deal with prospective situations) and resilience are the most likely to overcome/successfully manage their health conditions, experiencing less ‘pain interference’ in their life (6). Whereas those with poor confidence/self-efficacy and coping skills tend to experience poorer outcomes and greater ‘pain interference’ in their daily life (6).  Renowned pain researchers John Sturgeon and Alex Zautra describe this well, as pictured in their model below:



Source: Sturgeon and Zautra, 2013 (6)

In light of this – I see Modern Physiotherapy and Yoga as two peas in a pod. With the shift in Physiotherapy to a more coaching/consultative based role and Yoga as a holistic practice that can, once learnt be practiced individually by those that undertake it, the two are a perfect cost-effective combination for the management of injury, stress and pain. The Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA) states on their website that “Physiotherapists help you get the most out of life. They help you recover from injury, reduce pain and stiffness, increase mobility and prevent further injury. They listen to your needs to tailor a treatment specific to your condition” (8). Yoga based Physiotherapy is not much different to regular Physio, in that its individualised, focused on reducing/resolving unwanted symptoms and improving overall functionality and quality of life. What can you expect from a Clinical Yoga Therapy session?

  • Thorough and comprehensive physical assessment and discussion regarding your injury/health history and personal goals
  • One on one personalised education and instruction to develop your own Yoga practice, including;
    • A physical posture practice to develop strength, mobility and mindfulness skills
    • Relevant breathing and mindfulness exercises to assist in regulating nervous system tension, stress and pain


For more info – contact us at POGO Physio for a Clinical Yoga session with our Physio Oliver Crossley.


Oliver Crossley (APAM)
POGO Physiotherapist

Book an appointment with Oliver here

Featured in the Top 50 Physical Therapy Blog  


  1. Jeter, Pamela E., Jeremiah Slutsky, Nilkamal Singh, and Sat Bir S. Khalsa. “Yoga as a therapeutic intervention: a bibliometric analysis of published research studies from 1967 to 2013.” The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine21, no. 10 (2015): 586-592.
  2. Iyengar BKS. Light on Yoga. New York: Schocken, 1995.
  3. Posadzki, Paul, and Sheetal Parekh. “Yoga and physiotherapy: a speculative review and conceptual synthesis.” Chinese journal of integrative medicine15, no. 1 (2009): 66-72
  4. Jacobs, Diane F., and Jason L. Silvernail. “Therapist as operator or interactor? Moving beyond the technique.” The Journal of manual & manipulative therapy19, no. 2 (2011): 120
  5. Stilwell, Peter, and Katherine Harman. “An enactive approach to pain: beyond the biopsychosocial model.” Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences(2019): 1-29
  6. Sturgeon, John A., and Alex J. Zautra. “Psychological resilience, pain catastrophizing, and positive emotions: perspectives on comprehensive modeling of individual pain adaptation.” Current pain and headache reports17, no. 3 (2013): 317
  7. Bruyère, Susanne M., Sara A. Van Looy, and David B. Peterson. “The international classification of functioning, disability and health: Contemporary literature overview.” Rehabilitation Psychology50, no. 2 (2005): 113.
  8. “What Is Physio?” Physiotherapists help improve quality of life | Choose physio. Accessed November 27, 2019.

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