The striking similarities between physical therapy applications and asanas

A co-worker of mine recently had knee surgery and said he is in physical therapy. I am always curious as a Yoga teacher what what the medical community does to treat ailments via physical movement. He graciously copied his sheet of exercises his physical therapist prescribed to him.

I saw immediately that the actions being taught in physical therapy mimic many of those is asana, with asana being a bit more extreme in range of motion. Here are a few interesting examples:

Screen Shot 2015-10-15 at 4.47.32 PM

dandasana iyengar

“Hip and knee strengthening quadriceps sets” and Dandasana (Staff Pose)

Screen Shot 2015-10-15 at 4.52.27 PM

urdvha prasarita padasana

“Straight leg raise phase 1” and Urdvha Prasarita Padasana (Upward Expanded Leg Pose)

Screen Shot 2015-10-15 at 4.51.16 PM

ardha bhekasana

“Prone knee flexion stretch” and Ardha Bhekasana (Half Frog Pose)

Screen Shot 2015-10-15 at 4.49.14 PM

Chatuse padasana 9

“Bridging” and Chatuse Padasana (Four Footed Pose)

The above illustrations are not a sequence, but just a visual of the similarities. I am a yoga teacher and not a doctor or a physical therapist, but in this art I can’t help to recognize the correlation between movements and the therapeutic effect of the asanas. My mentoring teacher often comments on how asanas are therapeutic in and of themeselves if people practice them ardently.

A major difference between physical therapy and Yoga is that physical therapy ends when the injury is healed, whereas in Yoga the practitioner goes on to the next level of asana and then beyond to the breath, mind, consciousness, and soul.

Many blessings to you all!






7 thoughts on “The striking similarities between physical therapy applications and asanas

  1. So...

    I was at my daughter’s school today and the kids put on a drill display with different standing and seated exercises. It reminded me of many of the asanas!
    On a separate note, I had many of the physio therapy exercises you mentioned in your post and they helped quite a bit. But until they were accompanied by a change in my food habits and living patterns, the pains came back. Lately though I find that most of the aches and stiffness has been taken care of in most of the standing asanas itself as that is what I am mostly working on.
    Thank you for your posts. It helps me to understand better.


  2. mishedup

    One of my favorite yoga teachers is “breezing” ( a relative term!) through her studies to become a physical therapist. She has been doing yoga for over 20 years and, like you, sees so much similarity. It’s interesting to hear her talk about it…thanks for this


  3. k8macdo

    Interesting! I think though that the similarity between bhekasana and the exercise depicted is superficial. The exercise looks like a hamstring strengthener whereas ardha bhekasana is more of a quad stretch.


    1. yogibattle Post author

      I see your point. Curiously enough ardha bhekasana with a spacer like a rolled up bandage behind the knee is used therapeutically to address knee problems for which this PT sheet was indicated. And the same position as the PT sheet is first needed to attain the full ardha bhekasana. Thanks for your feedback.


    2. babycrow

      From my limited experience (my lovely hamstring!) I was given an exercise that superficially looked like bridge but the instructions were very much about working glutes, although in asana practice my teacher gives the opposite advice!


  4. Luna

    Right ON, I so believe asana is working/preventing and with superior results, bc penetrating the mind to the body is unqestionably & definitively going deeper with rewards and results.


  5. Mind Body Soul Stylist

    Interesting post. I was recently in physical therapy (for my knee ) and was assigned those exercise as well. I never really made the connection to asana though because doing those exercises felt nothing like yoga to me…it was just this repetitive movement with a one dimensional focus –> to strengthen the area. What I did notice was that while my physical therapist acknowledged my yoga practice (mostly regarding my flexibility), she never acknowledged the healing properties of yoga, and how it could help my recovery. Yoga — to her- was very much a separate entity, non related to physical therapy. It seems to me, that if she (and other physical therapists) could recognize the healing benefits of yoga, it could really complement their work as physical therapists. I guess it’s still odd to me that yoga is just an alternative when it could be used for so much more.



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