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Chapter Objectives

At the conclusion of this chapter, the reader will be able to:

  • Define complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) therapy, therapeutic yoga, Patanjali's eightfold path to enlightenment; hatha yoga, pranayama, dhyana, pratyahara, dharana.

  • Recognize the expanding role of CAM therapy in traditional Eastern medicine.

  • Identify the major components of yoga.

  • Identify the importance of psychological and spiritual well-being on the healing process.

  • Recognize the potential impact of therapeutic yoga on the physiological, psychological, and spiritual aspects of well-being.

  • Identify situations in which therapeutic yoga may enhanc recovery when used as an adjunctive treatment to traditional physical therapy treatment.

  • Identify and describe some of the different postures and their influence on the body.

  • Identify and use various clinical assessment tools to evaluate and integrate yoga into clinical practice.

  • Apply the basic principles of yoga to various clinical orthopaedic cases.


Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), as defined by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), is a group of diverse medical and health care systems, practices, and products that are not presently considered to be part of conventional medicine. Techniques include, but are not limited to, meditation, prayer, guided imagery, acupuncture, mental healing, and therapies that use creative outlets such as art, music, or dance.1 Therapeutic yoga is one form of movement therapy that has gained increasing popularity over the past decade.2 A recent survey revealed that of those who used yoga specifically for therapeutic purposes, 21% did so because it was recommended by a conventional medical professional, 31% did so because conventional therapies were ineffective, and 59% thought it would be an interesting therapy to explore.3

Yoga is a form of CAM therapy that combines theory with practice and is designed to promote both physical, as well as emotional, health and well-being.1,4 Conceptually, yoga is complex, even to define. The word yoga has several translations and comes from the root yug (to join), or yoke (to bind together). Essentially, yoga describes a method of discipline or a means of uniting the body and mind.

For centuries, the virtues of yoga as a therapeutic modality have been extolled in traditional Indian medicine.5 More recently, yoga has gained popularity in Western culture and is now the most common mind-body therapy in Western complementary medicine.6 Its unique ability to facilitate both physical and psychological benefits, makes yoga appealing as a cost-effective alternative to conventional interventions.7,8 Therapeutic yoga is an emerging field that demands a closer look; however, before it can be fully adopted and integrated into standard practice; additional evidence is required.9

Despite its long history, only recently have investigators begun to subject yogic concepts to empirical scrutiny. The effects of yoga have been explored in a number of patient populations, including individuals with asthma,10,11...

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