Yoga versus Physical Therapy: What’s the Difference? 

Physical therapy (PT) and yoga are two practices designed to improve physical health and well-being. While most people have heard of both yoga and physical therapy (PT), you may not know the key differences between the two. This article provides a general overview of both PT and yoga.

Physical therapy is a rehabilitative science consisting of various types of assessments and therapeutic interventions which are designed to address specific impairments and medical conditions.  Physical therapists are movement experts.  Physical therapy is indicated when someone is experiencing a condition that affects their functional ability, including day-to-day activities and recreational activities.  Physical therapy can be beneficial for most conditions, either as a primary treatment or as an adjunct to additional medical care.

Yoga is a holistic practice designed to unify the body, mind, and spirit.  Yoga looks first at the inner self, then looks outward to the physical body.  While physical therapy also considers these “whole body” elements, it’s primary focus is the physical body and its current limitation.  Because of the holistic nature of yoga, this practice is constantly evolving to restore balance in the body and is not structured to have an end-date.  Yoga is designed to be performed consistently for a long period of time, from years to decades.   Some people practice daily, others weekly, and so on.

Physical therapy, on the other hand, has an end to every episode of care.  Clients are then prescribed a home exercise program and are educated how to self-manage their condition.  The expectation is that they use their tools to maintain the gains made in therapy.

Yoga can be practiced by anyone, regardless of age or ability.  Finding the right yoga program for you consists of discovering your preference toward asana (yoga’s physical postures), pranayama (yoga’s breathing techniques), and meditation components, as well as what style and pace you prefer.  Some styles of yoga are performed more slowly and gently, while others are performed quickly and require a lot of energy.

Physical therapy is also for anyone, regardless of age or ability.  It is indicated for any individual who is currently experiencing a decline in their baseline functional abilities. A licensed physical therapist performs a thorough evaluation and provides evidence-based treatment for a set number of visits.

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