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Using Yoga to complement Occupational Therapy

Updated: May 14

Using Yoga to complement Occupational Therapy - The Occupational Therapy Hub

 N.B. A Hub collaborative partnership: Some marketing elements; no paid sponsorship

If you are an occupational therapy (OT) practitioner or student, you will be familiar with the multifaceted challenges your patients and clients face. The intricate interplay between physical and mental health - intertwined with lifestyle and social factors - requires a holistic approach. OT assessment and intervention considers and seeks to address the whole person; sometimes there is a need for additional self-care practices, to help transform lives.

Enter yoga - a versatile tool, offering a complement to OT intervention, with evidence that supports its physical and mental health benefits. A 2018 research paper (1) found that:

'Occupational therapists reported that yoga increased self-awareness, including the development of self-efficacy, self-regulation and self-care. Participants noted that the practice of yoga was motivating and elicited a sense of empowerment, that resulted in positive perceptions of health-related quality of life and overall well-being.'


Yoga's versatility for Occupational Therapists

Yoga provides occupational therapists with a set of invaluable skills applicable to a broad spectrum of individuals - both to patients and to fellow clinicians. Beyond the well-recognised physical benefits, yoga contributes significantly (2) to mental health and well-being. In a systematic review (3), discussing yoga therapy as a modality in occupational therapy practice for adults experiencing mood disorders, researchers concluded:

'Yoga therapy may be a promising method to integrate into care plans, to reduce the impact of mood disorders such as depressive symptomatology.'

Using Yoga to complement Occupational Therapy - The Occupational Therapy Hub

Yoga and yoga therapy is also cost-effective, compared with some other methods. As a healing modality, it can be adapted in most client-care settings, with approaches and techniques that are simple and easily translated to multiple populations, for both short and long-term management of chronic conditions.


How can yoga practices be shared by Occupational Therapists in a real life setting? 

With suitable grading and positioning guidance, basic and fundamental yoga practices can be incorporated into daily routines. They can include breathing and relaxation techniques. With sufficient activity analysis, they can also be applied to specific conditions that Occupational Therapists handle on a regular basis. 

Using Yoga to complement Occupational Therapy - The Occupational Therapy Hub

Two such conditions are irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and fibromyalgia. One recent, interesting, state-of-the-art 2023 narrative review article (4) looked specifically at the benefits of mind-body techniques for these coexisting conditions. These conditions share common pathophysiological mechanisms; sensitisation of peripheral and central pain pathways and autonomic dysfunction. The review found that:

'On an individual basis, mind-body interventions have been reported to benefit both the conditions and influence central pain syndromes and autonomic dysregulation.'

Such health conditions are also seen by Yoga Therapists, who undergo two years of training. You can read about the concept of yoga therapy here: What is Yoga Therapy? (7).

Using Yoga to complement Occupational Therapy - The Occupational Therapy Hub


Rising yoga practices - for both Occupational Therapists and patients

As a busy clinician (with a non-work life to prioritise too), the likelihood is that you have no additional time on your hands to study yoga in-depth for two years. However, simple key postures - including standing poses, forward and back bends, twists, sun salutations and simple inversions - support healing and recovery on both physical and psychological levels. It is essential to apply specific techniques safely of course, emphasising the importance of postural alignment alongside breath awareness and mindfulness. These techniques can be learnt in a relatively short time frame.

Specifically, there is a growing trend in the practice of chair yoga (8), which is a safe and accessible way to integrate yoga into a patient-Occupational Therapist relationship. Supporting patients with chair yoga gives an accessible practice, which can also be continued outside of traditional OT/clinical settings.

A 2023 study (5) supported this rise, finding that:

'Chair yoga therapy can enable older adults with knee osteoarthritis to adopt and practice the therapy at home as part of their daily life, lessening the risk of their disease progressing to disability.'

Chair yoga is designed to make yoga accessible to everyone, regardless of ability. The practice is one that many occupational therapists already use as a treatment adjunct with their patients. It is worth acknowledging the growing acceptance of chair yoga in healthcare settings, offering a practical solution for patients with varying physical capabilities.

Using Yoga to complement Occupational Therapy - The Occupational Therapy Hub

Accessibility of yoga instruction for Occupational Therapists?

A recent study (6) found healthcare professionals are motivated to recommend yoga to patients, but face barriers, due to lack of information about how patients can access appropriate and affordable yoga instruction...


In light of this, Liz Oppedijk - Yoga Therapy Educator at The Minded Institute and Founder/CEO of Accessible Chair Yoga - is offering a one-day online course:

Basic Yoga Techniques for Health Professionals leaves participants with the ability to weave foundational yoga skills into their work immediately.

As a valued Member of The Occupational Therapy Hub, you are entitled to a 10% discount on the full price of this course. Simply click the link above, add the course to your basket and enter the discount code OTHUB10 at checkout.

Please contact with any questions or queries. 


Empower yourself, empower your patients.

Why not elevate your practice with yoga?

Using Yoga to complement Occupational Therapy - The Occupational Therapy Hub


References and further reading

  1. Graham, J. and Plummer, T. (2018) Perceptions of Occupational Therapists and Yoga Practitioners of the Effects of Yoga on Health and Wellness. Annals of International Occupational Therapy. 1 (3): 127-138. Available from:

  2. Bös, C., Gaiswinkler, L., Fuchshuber, J., Schwerdtfeger, A. and Unterrainer, H.F. (2023) Effect of Yoga involvement on mental health in times of crisis: A cross-sectional study. Frontiers in Psychology. 2023; 14. Available from:

  3. Crooks, C., Toolsiedas, H., McDougall, A. and Nowrouzi-Kia, B. (2024) Systematic review protocol of yoga therapy as a modality in occupational therapy practice for adults experiencing mood disorders. British Medical Journal (Open). 14 (1). Available from:

  4. Majumdar, V. and Manjunath, N.K. (2023) Editorial: New insights into yoga and mental health. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience. 2023 (17). Available from:

  5. Yao, C.T., Lee, B.O., Hong, H. and Su, Y.C. (2023) Effect of Chair Yoga Therapy on Functional Fitness and Daily Life Activities among Older Female Adults with Knee Osteoarthritis in Taiwan: A Quasi-Experimental Study. Healthcare (Basel). 2023; 11 (7): 1024. Available from:

  6. Smit, C. and Cartwright, T. (2023) Recommending yoga for health: A survey of perceptions among healthcare practitioners in the UK. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice. 2023 (52): 101765. Available from:

  7. The Minded Institute (2024) What is Yoga Therapy? The Minded Institute (online). Available from:

  8. The Minded Institute (2023) Chair Yoga, Accessible to Everyone, from Simple to Profound. The Minded Institute (online). Available from:

Using Yoga to complement Occupational Therapy - The Occupational Therapy Hub

1 Comment

Yoga as a adjunct to Occupational Therapy is a part of University syllabus of Occupational Therapy in India since more than 20 years in India. We use some Aasana from yoga to treat various motor problems, as well as Pranayam ( Breathing technique in Yoga) for the cardio- pulmonary as well as mental relaxation techniques in clients since many years. It is a known practice as adjunct to OT in India.

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