How I Incorporate My Yoga Practice into Treatment 

By Kate Cysewski 

Growing up, I played volleyball very seriously and then took up boxing as my main form of exercise through college.  To compliment these activities, cardio and weight lifting predominated my workout regime and I was in shape, strong, and powerful.  Prior to going off to PT graduate school, my mother convinced me to take a yoga class with her.  She began practicing yoga in her 50’s, first as a way to help unwind after a long day at the office, but it soon became something more to her.  She told me that the 60 minutes on her mat challenged her in ways she had never experienced and wanted me to see first hand how life changing practicing yoga could be.  I took my first yoga class in June of 2010 and return to my mat every week to challenge myself in ways that running and lifting never did.

I love treating yogis, no matter their level of practice, because they typically demonstrate a few traits that I believe all of my patients can benefit from learning.  In fact, I incorporate many aspects of yoga into treatment, including:

Breath 

We think of breathing as such an automatic action, and it is, but to breathe with purpose is just as important for our survival and well being.  Patients come to physical therapy typically due to pain can cause your body and brain to become disconnected in a way.  This is especially the case when pain has become chronic and it is key to break the pain cycle in these patients.  I have found that instructing patients to breathe into areas of tension or discomfort helps in two different ways.  1) When a patient can feel that he/she has difficulty getting breath into certain areas, it shows them that they have not been as connected with areas of pain as they are with the rest of their body.  2) Once patients can breathe into ares of tension or discomfort, then those tissues are more accepting of physical therapy treatment and will begin to release.

Body Awareness 

Similar to the above concept of the body-brain disconnect, pain alters the way we perceive our body and the way it moves.  The primary purpose of physical therapy is to facilitate pain-free functional movement and one of the biggest hurdle to jump over is helping patients to feel the difference between their dysfunctional and efficient states.  This is why using a pre-test and post-test during a treatment session is imperative because it allows the patient to feel how much stronger and less restricted he/she can be when his/her body is in an efficient alignment.  Patients then, after practice, have the confidence to sense the difference in their body outside of the clinic.

Self Reflection 

Physical therapy is a service provided to consumers, or patients.  I tell my patients that they can look at their time in physical therapy as black and white as that, or they can choose to use the 45 minutes they spend with me as a time to learn more about their body.  From my experience, patients who approach their sessions as the latter are more successful in the long-term.  Additionally, I inform my patients that if I only see you for 45 minutes, 2-3 times per week, then there are roughly 165-166 hours that they are on their own.  During this time it is important for them to reflect on how they feel about the change that is occurring during the healing process.  What is easier and/or more difficult?  What questions do they still need answered?  Is there any other aspect of their life that they believe may be impacting their progress?  Uncovering the answers to these types of questions helps patients begin to take ownership of their success with physical therapy and become active participants in their care.

 

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