Chiropractic and Yoga: Perfect Partners?
DCs who combine yoga with chiropractic care say it's the true embodiment
of complementary medicine
By Claire Sibonney
As more North Americans turn to yoga, both as a physical and spiritual
activity, they may discover chiropractic care has new-found benefits. On the
one hand, it may help many beginners who are more prone to injuries, such as
muscle strains resulting from yoga's sometimes difficult and strenuous
stretches. On the other, chiropractic and yoga can work in harmony to
increase proper posture, range of motion and flexibility: all crucial
elements to both practices.
Dr. Dharmanidhi Sarasvati is well-acquainted with this relationship.
Sarasvati was only in practice for three months in Sydney, Australia, when
he decided to get out of a suit and tie and get into sweats for the office.
The switch might not have been necessary if he was only performing
chiropractic adjustments, but Sarasvati was pioneering a new therapy called
chiro-yoga. All day, he'd literally be on the floor with his patients,
teaching them yoga postures and chiropractic exercises, while adjusting them
at the same time.
Sarasvati started developing the chiro-yoga technique in the late 1980s,
as a student at the Palmer College of Chiropractic. There, he conducted
research on people with scoliosis, which is an abnormal curvature of the
spine. The results showed people who received adjustments along with the
exercises had the greatest success in correcting their curvatures -- more so
than those who were only doing the exercises and substantially more so than
those who were only receiving chiropractic adjustments. Sarasvati says chiro-yoga
empowered patients to understand their own disfiguration, and allowed them
to have more control over the correction of their spine.
"That was the most important thing," he says. "It took
away their dependency on me. I was now a teacher instead of delivering
something they couldn't do themselves."
Today, Sarasvati teaches yoga exclusively, running two schools in San
Francisco. And while his chiro-yoga concept has never caught on, it's clear
that people still have much to gain by practicing them both, separately.
Connecting mind and body
Chiropractor Michael Cohen runs a mind-body clinic in Toronto. He has
been in practice for 10 years, and for last five he has integrated yoga into
his patients' care. For Cohen the reason is simple: "At the root of all
healing, you are re-linking mind and body. That's what it's all about."
As a practice, yoga is based on a philosophy of a wholeness and
connection with yourself, others around you, as well as nature and the
universe, and becoming aware of this union. Along with breathing and
meditation, physical yoga promotes balance, strength and flexibility --
ultimately making you stronger, more grounded and less prone to pain and
tension in your body.
"In yoga you're tuning your nervous system, you're tuning your
body's muscle system and you're tuning your body's skeletal system. In
chiropractic you're doing the same thing," says Cohen.
"In my office, because it's mind-body, we're also trying to tune a
person's awareness back into their body and educate them about why something
has gone wrong. Once a person understands the problem, they are much better
at healing it."
Cohen says a typical plan of care in his office involves adjusting
patients twice a week for the first three weeks, while recommending they
attend yoga classes twice a week as well. That way, he says, they'll require
50% less care than normal.
"Not only will they heal faster, they'll learn a skill of how to
keep themselves healthy and strong long after I'm out of the picture,"
he says. "You don't want to create someone who's reliant on you. You
want to create someone who leaves your office and is elevated in their
knowledge to take care of themselves."
While some people may chalk up yoga's growing popularity in North America
to a passing trend, Cohen disagrees. "I think it's much more than a
trend," he says. "It's a need being fulfilled, something which is
mirroring the lack of connectedness between mind and body that living in our
Cohen's patients often find themselves at The Yoga Studio, where Helen
Goldstein, the studio's director (a practitioner and teacher of yoga who
studied under the famed Deepak Chopra), can offer first-person testimony to
the benefits of chiropractic in yoga and vice versa.
Goldstein has received chiropractic care for nearly 20 years and has
practiced yoga for even longer. She says the relationship between the two
disciplines is symbiotic. "One of the things that happens with yoga is
you become much more aware of your body, and I think the chiropractic
adjustments work in a much deeper way," she says. "And after I've
had an adjustment, I can really feel the difference when I practice
While finding professionals who are committed to both practices like
Sarasvati and Cohen may be rare, Goldstein says more and more chiropractors
are trying to learn. At the rate yoga and chiropractic are growing in
popularity, more practitioners may soon be recognizing their potential to
From Mike: this can make good sense. There are good chiropractors
and not so good ones. Most are not schooled in optimal breathing
If YOU don't, no one else will.