As physiotherapists, we are tasked with finding new and innovative ways to help our clients achieve and maintain optimal levels of functional mobility. There are many techniques and tools available for physiotherapists to choose from to accomplish this. However, not all treatment options are created equal.
As a physiotherapist, I personally wanted to find a method of treating clients that would be effective enough to return them to their pre-injury level of mobility and efficient enough not to use up all their allotted insurance money, in case they had another injury before their annual coverage renewal.
To do this, I needed a treatment system that would allow me to apply the foundations of the physiotherapy profession, education and exercise, in a manner that would safely allow clients to decrease their overall dependence on their therapist.
Enter yoga. While taking my yoga teacher training, I began to see how the various elements of the practice could be applied in a physiotherapy setting. Yoga postures incorporate the whole body, making them incredibly effective at treating conditions involving multiple structures. I’ve learned over the course of my physiotherapy career that this is most often the case. For example, if someone presents with back pain, they often have changed their posture and the way they sit, stand, and walk to find some level of comfort. Even with a contained injury, the body operates as a whole, as when recovering from a separated shoulder. It is important to regain functional range of motion and strength in a way that closely mimics the way our actual world works. We very rarely move a limb in an isolated plane. Both versatile and adaptable, yoga postures combine functional strengthening and stretching of several body parts at once, and more closely resemble to movement patterns our bodies are likely to go through over the course of our daily lives.
Yoga is also an effective weapon to do battle with pain. While the postures help prevent the body from stiffening up, breathing exercises help interrupt the pain cycle, and relaxation techniques help to relieve muscle tension.
The best part of using yoga as treatment technique is that the primary role of the therapist becomes the teacher. The client is assessed, goals of both therapist and client are discussed, then exercises (both postures and breathwork) are provided, demonstrated, reviewed, and corrected. The client goes home to practice the exercises for a few weeks, having access to the therapist for questions and concerns, either by phone or email, and then a follow-up appointment is scheduled, during which the exercise program is reviewed and edited as needed. The client does not become dependent on machines or hands-on techniques and is thus empowered to take control of his or her own health and well-being under the guidance of a registered health care professional.
Treating clients with education and exercise, as is the case in Physiyoga, allows for a comprehensive therapy plan with fewer visits and lower overall cost to the client.