Many yoga students come into the practice thinking that yoga is the perfect holistic system for addressing their aches and pains. Practice makes perfect, in other words—a Western notion that, in combination with an Eastern discipline, can yield some very unrealistic expectations for a pain-free, well-balanced, highly functioning body.
"We are very fond of perpetuating the myth that yoga is a complete system. We like to say that it's all you need, but that's simply not true," says yoga therapist Leslie Kaminoff, who is the author of Yoga Anatomy and founder of The Breathing Project, a yoga studio that's based in Manhattan. "It needs to be supplemented to maintain balance."
One way to do this, Kaminoff believes, is with bodywork. "A bodyworker can reach areas of your body on a mechanical level that you yourself don't have leverage on," he says. "You will only ever have so much space between yourself and the floor. Generally, massage or myofascial work takes place on a table, which means the bodyworker can drop [your] limbs below the supporting surface." And that makes a really big difference, he says, in range of motion.