Yoga & Osteopathy


A Perfect Match!
The many benefits of yoga are to most without question. As are the benefits of Osteopathy to the vast majority who have experienced it. The following is an article I wrote detailing my thoughts on the combining the two. I feel this is a powerfully helpful way of doing things.

The first time the benefits of yoga became vividly apparent to me was when I was working as a masseur at the Porchester Spa Turkish baths during my Osteopathic training. This would have been in 1992 or ’93.

A chap of about thirty got up on the marble plinth that I used to work on. I’d cast my eye over his physique and come to some conclusions as to what to expect. He was in very good shape. Good, symmetrical and efficient looking posture. Clear skin with a nice healthy glow. Good muscle development, and plenty of them too. If I was to guess what he had been doing over the years I would have perhaps said he was a 400 metre runner. For the uninitiated in the subtleties of how sports affect bodies, think of this. Marathon runners are famously skinny creatures. 100 metre sprinters, particularly the men, are built like the proverbial brick whatsits: think Linford Christie. As you go up the distances from sprint to long distance the bodies change accordingly. The typical shape of a 400 metre man is about the Greek god type ideal. Leonardo Da Vinci’s chap in a circle would be an example. Still muscles aplenty but not so bulky as those that the sprinters require.

I expected quite a firm, resistant texture to his tissues. Plus the knotty bits almost everyone carries especially in the shoulders. I was very surprised at what was revealed when I got to work. It all felt – in a good way – a bit like custard. There was little resistance to my fingers: I could slide through the muscles without discomfort right down to the bone almost everywhere. There were no knotty bits. However despite the deep relaxation it all felt very alive. As soon as he moved slightly on the couch everything would momentarily pop back into action, then go quiet again immediately. Intrigued, at the end of the session I quizzed him. Surprise, surprise, he had been a keen yoga student for some years.

One of the central tenets of Osteopathic thinking is the idea that there is free flow of vital fluids within the body. Our founder, Dr Still, called it “the rule of the artery is supreme.” This means appropriately unimpeded dynamic equilibria such as within blood, lymph, synovial fluid in the joints, and interstitial fluid between the cells. Also most importantly the cerebrospinal fluid that bathes the brain and spinal cord. One you’ve mostly got this happening in the body, it’s an uphill struggle to feel anything other than ridiculously full of beans. I know this for a fact. This chap’s tissues in their relaxed but toned state were like a superconductor with electric charge: no resistance was offered to all the body’s processes going about their business of keeping him fit, well, comfortable and happy. It was a real eye-opener for me.

Since then I have done my fair share of work in various yoga studios, most recently especially with the Bikram crowd which seems to particularly suit me and many others. This is yoga following the excellent and well thought out philosophy of Mr Bikram Chowdray, famously practised in a room heated to 104 degrees. I’ve had the pleasure of treating many advanced yoga students. I’ve also had the pleasure of helping to sort out some of the postural/structural/emotional messes some of them come along with! Therein lies the rub: you can do an awful lot with a good strong yoga practice but YOU CAN’T SORT IT ALL OUT. Sometimes people end up in a holding pattern with their good strong flexible muscles having to use up a good dollop of their vitality negotiating around blockages and strain patterns from injuries, illnesses or emotional stresses. Almost all of which can be helped, some spectacularly so, with appropriate Osteopathic treatment. Many experience a leap forward in their flexibility and strength after a course of treatment.

So there you there you have it. The combination of a regular yoga practice and appropriate treatment by an experienced Osteopath will not necessarily get you to Nirvana, but its a good start.

So give it a go!