There has recently been a surge in popularity of a type of rehabilitation service that some of us Physical Therapists are offering. The surge was a result of an article that was posted in “Yahoo! Shine” about how actress Kim Cattrall claimed “Fizzy Yoga” saved her life. She was referring to “PhysiYoga”, a term that her Physical Therapist uses to describe her brilliantly combined skills and services of Physical Therapy and Yoga Therapy. Since I also offer the same type of therapy services, which I label as “Physio Yoga Therapy”, the reporter contacted me and included a quote from our interview. This has led to an influx of inquiries that has been nearly impossible for me to keep up with the replies, so I thought I would answer the most common questions here in this month’s blog!
What is PhysiYoga?
PhysiYoga, Physio Yoga, Yoga Physio, YogaPhysical Therapy, Medical Therapeutic Yoga and Professional Yoga Therapy, are just a few of the titles you may come across when Physical Therapists try to define and label the art and science of combining their Physical Therapy skills as licensed health care professionals with their years of training as Yoga Therapists and ongoing self yoga practise. All of these titles can be interpreted as offering similar services; however, each Physical Therapist may slightly differ in their approach depending on the type of Yoga Therapy training they have received and experienced. So what IS Physio Yoga? As a collective group, we haven’t come up with a formal definition (or ever discussed or agreed upon what to even name it!) However, this is how I try to describe and define what we do:
Physio Yoga Therapy is a type of rehabilitation therapy that combines two professions: (1) Physiotherapy
(synonymous with ‘Physical Therapy’) and (2) Yoga Therapy. The combination of these two professions results in a more holistic approach to your rehabilitation experience. Physical Therapy is a well respected health care profession that uses evidence-based treatment methods to help clients restore and maintain optimal movement and function, as well as provide education on health maintenance and injury prevention.
Yoga is an ancient system of health that encourages you to address and nourish your body, mind, breath and spirit as ‘one’. A truly holistic approach that promotes a balanced lifestyle of health and well-being. Furthermore, Yoga Therapy applies yoga (including yoga philosophy, pranayama (breathing methods), asana (postures), meditation and more) to specific acute or chronic illnesses or states of disease or imbalance.
Physio Yoga Therapy differs from yoga or yoga therapy, because it is delivered by licensed health care professionals. As Physical Therapists, we have several years and thousands of hours of extensive training, knowledge, and clinical experience to have the competency to assess, diagnose and treat a variety of injuries, dysfunctions, disease symptoms, disabilities and imbalances. We use specialized manual skills in addition to a variety of other methods as part of treatment intervention.
Physio-Yoga Therapy differs from regular Physical Therapy intervention, because it uses yoga (as described above) to guide the treatment approach, which results in a more holistic approach to healing. The focus is placed more on self empowerment and self healing. One of the main reasons that Physio-Yoga Therapy has been effective for my clients, I believe, is because it empowers my client to take an active approach to create their own health, instead of the passive ‘fix it’ approach that our current health care system has a tendency to promote.
What are the benefits of Physio-Yoga Therapy?
Yes, there are a plethora of benefits that can be experienced and enjoyed with this type of approach. However, my hope is that we all can appreciate that there are many factors that influence whether or not any form of treatment intervention has certain benefits associated with it. Therapeutic results can vary from person to person and can depend on pre-existing and current conditions, mind-body awareness, dedication to one’s practise, mindset, personality, current lifestyle situation, personal choices, and of course, the type of guidance being received from the therapist. Remember this is a journey of self-discovery and wellness; not a one or two session ‘cookie cutter’ exercise program or asana (yoga pose) prescription for your specific condition!
Some of the benefits that physio-yoga therapy can offer are:
Physically, it can improve muscular strength, endurance, flexibility, postural alignment, body awareness, circulation, digestion, hormonal balance, respiration, immune function, strengthen bones, normalize blood pressure and reduce or normalize body weight. Mentally, it can improve your alertness, concentration, sleep patterns; reduce stress and anxiety and improve your ability to relax. This is just a small list of many more benefits that physio-yoga, physiyoga, medical therapeutic yoga or professional yoga therapy can offer. The key benefit is an overall state of health and wellbeing.
Some of the common conditions addressed are:
Back and neck pain, other musculoskeletal injuries (shoulders, hips, knees, etc), chronic pain, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, pelvic pain disorders, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, fibromyalgia, high blood pressure, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, migraines/headaches, pregnancy, anxiety, rheumatoid arthritis, scoliosis, urinary stress or urge incontinence. It is worthy to note the role that physio-yoga also plays in injury prevention and overall health and wellness! Dr. Timothy McCall, has recently published a list of 75 health conditions that yoga has benefitted that has been supported by RESEARCH! This is a noteworthy list. An entire organization and many dedicated individuals and groups have been working hard for several years, some for even decades, in efforts to bridge the gap between therapeutic yoga and our current healthcare system.
Where Can I Find a Physio-Yoga Therapist?
There is currently no public directory exclusively for Physio Yoga Therapists. The Medical Therapeutic Yoga program that I graduated from is called “Professional Yoga Therapy Studies” (PYTS) founded and directed by Physical Therapist and Professional Yoga Therapist, Ginger Garner. It is currently the only yoga therapy training program that is exclusively for licensed health care professionals. However, not all graduates of PYTS are Physical Therapists. Some are Physicians, Occupational Therapists, Psychologists, Dentists, Chiropractors, Massage Therapists, etc.
PYTS has a directory of Professional Yoga Therapists that have graduated from the program, so you can see who is offering services in or near your area.
The International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT) was founded in 1989 and has continued to evolve as an organization that “supports research and education in Yoga, and serves as a professional organization for Yoga teachers and Yoga therapists worldwide” (www.iayt.org). IAYT’s mission is to ‘establish Yoga as a recognized and respected therapy.’ IAYT has a directory of yoga therapists that you can search. However, not all members of IAYT are licensed health care professionals. And not all licensed health care professionals, or Physical Therapists, are members of IAYT. So, unfortunately it can get a bit confusing if you are solely looking for a licensed rehab professional that is using yoga as therapy.
I also belong to a group called “Bridgebuilders to Awareness in Healthcare.” We are a group that consists exclusively of licensed rehabilitation professionals worldwide that are passionate about “sharing ideas on how to deliver holistic healthcare and how to foster awareness of creating relationships with our patients and healing through yoga.” Physical Therapists/Yoga Therapists, Chrys Crawford Kub and Matthew Taylor, founded the group in 2011. It started with 4 licensed health care professionals, and has grown to 214 to date. We currently do not have a formal public member directory for this group. However, it is something that I think we potentially could address in the near future.
So for those of you interested in finding a ‘physio-yoga’ therapist in your area, I would recommend contacting one of us from our Bridgebuilders group (some contacts are included below), and we can help find one in your area. Or if you are looking for any type of licensed health care professional that includes yoga as a treatment approach (not necessarily exclusively a physical therapist, but other licensed health care professionals as well), I would recommend searching thePYTS directory.
Where can I find a physio-yoga class?
It is important to note that if you suffer from an injury, dysfunction or imbalance and have a desire to use yoga as your choice of intervention, that signing up for a series of yoga therapy classes without first having an assessment or private physio-yoga therapy treatments could lead to an increased risk of exacerbating your injury, or inviting a new injury to occur. Overall, in my clinical experience, I have seen a rise in injuries in people participating in yoga classes, and even specialty therapeutic yoga classes, that are not appropriate for them. This is why I believe it is so important to ensure you have an accurate assessment of your dysfunction performed by someone who has adequate training in the area of your dysfunction so that an appropriate, safe,
and effective treatment plan can be developed and implemented.
For example, if your dysfunction is a mental health disorder or imbalance, it would be optimally beneficial and safe for you to see a yoga therapist that is also a mental health practitioner that specializes in your dysfunction. If your issue is a physical imbalance, then a yoga therapist that is a Physical Therapist or other rehabilitation related licensed health care practitioner, would be an effective and safe choice. Of course, many times clients have a combination of issues. So finding a therapist that suits your needs may take some time to research. Once you’ve had proper guidance and individualized treatments, then transitioning to a class setting is perfectly safe and appropriate.
Physio-Yoga Therapists Near You:
As previously stated, we do not currently have a directory system in place that outlines locations of all Physical Therapists that are using yoga as therapy. However, I will include at least some of them that are from our Bridgebuilders group in all of the locations that people inquired about when they contacted me after the “Fizzy Yoga” article was published:
Palm Beach County, FL:
Emily Schaeffer Large
Emerald Isle, NC:
NYC, NY (midtown/Manhatten) & CT:
Red Deer/Sylvan Lake, AB:
If you don’t see a therapist in your area, it doesn’t mean that there isn’t one! Please contact me, or one of us above, if you are interested in finding one near your location. We will do our best to help you find one! We may also be able to recommend yoga instructors or yoga therapists in your area. So even if there isn’t a ‘physio-yoga’ therapist nearby, perhaps you can connect your local Physical Therapist with a local yoga instructor, and they can work together to deliver a more holistic approach to your care!