Fizziotherapy and Physiyoga: Everybody Needs a Tribe and a Little Yoga in their Lives

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Author: Jami Crook

Published Date: July 6, 2020

“When you find people who not only tolerate your quirks but celebrate them with glad cries of ‘Me too!’, be sure to cherish them.  Because those weirdos are your tribe.”  – A. J. Downey

Years ago, while on a road trip in the Okanagan Valley, I stopped at a winery called Therapy Vineyards which quickly became my Happy Place (as well as the origin of the idea for Wine and Yoga).  Most of their blends were named after psychology terms or people (think Superego,  Pink Freud, and Freudian Sip).  Having 2 degrees in psychology and being a self-proclaimed vinophile, I was instantly in love.  Then I turned around and heard angels singing.  There it was.  Just sitting on a shelf.  Therapy Vineyards’ version of sparkling wine.  Fizziotherapy.  

A bought a case.

The time I spent living in Kelowna, B.C. was short but pivotal.  I had graduated from physiotherapy school only a couple of years earlier and still had that starry-eyed new-grad hopefulness and optimism that I was going to be able to HEAL THE WORLD one broken person at a time.  I was fiercely (ok, probably more like pathologically) independent at the time.  I accepted a job offer over the phone, packed everything I owned into my car, and drove myself across this amazing country alone.  In April.  (Sidebar: I do NOT recommend that.)

What I didn’t realize until I had been out there for awhile was that I was the one who was broken.  I wasn’t on a mission to heal the world.  I was running – as fast and as far as I could get from everyone and everything I knew.  I had been in a toxic relationship, a toxic work environment, and a toxic little town.  I still say that everyone I met in the 2 years leading up to my exodus was either awfully fabulous or fabulously awful.  Unfortunately, the latter greatly outnumbered the former, which led to me running screaming from a 6-figure salary that I had managed to secure only months after graduation.

But in that mess I found 2 members of my Tribe.  And had I met even only one of those two women during that time, the crap and misery I endured for two years would have all been worth it.

Humans are social creatures by nature.  We need connections with others not only to thrive but to survive. I have talked about my difficulties with social situations in other posts, and those challenges alone make me so grateful to have my Tribe.

My Tribe is so much more than just a small group of really good friends.  They are my chosen family.  My sisters from other Misters.  Collectively, we have been friends for a total of 86 years.  I met the first member of my tribe when I was only 9 years old.  There were 2 houses on our street.  We were either going to be best friends or mortal enemies.  Thankfully, besties it was. 

My Tribe is made up of beautiful, strong, independent women, each of whom I would blindly trust with my life.  We have collectively been through marriages, break-ups, lost loved ones, illnesses, kids, financial crises, major triumphs, and so much more.  We have laughed together and cried together.  We are spread out geographically and often go months without speaking, but we are never far from one another in any way that counts.  In my small Tribe there are professionals, moms, athletes, advocates, survivors, entrepreneurs, and innovators.  And I can count the members on just one hand.  They are all warriors.  They are as fierce as the day is long, and each one is a force with which to be reckoned. 

My early career days in sports medicine left me with a fairly large group of (mostly male) friends.  In general, they are a good group of fun, entertaining, and caring guys.  A lot of them are former professional athletes with the imposing physiques you would expect from such a group.  But when I discovered I had a stalker earlier this year, all I wanted was to have my Tribe around me.  I would pick any one of them on any given day to have my back in ANY situation.  Best you believe it: If you are hurting someone they love, you are on the WRONG side.  And you will lose.  Each and every time.

During my self-imposed banishment to B.C., a visit from a member of my Tribe made me realize just how broken I actually was.  She had travelled halfway across the country for a week of food, wine, dancing, and sight-seeing, and it was just what the doctor had ordered.  At that time, we had only known each other for a couple of years and yet here she was, flying all this way to come check on me.  She said it was to see the orcas (which we totally did), but she helped me see what was right in front of my nose the entire time.  The grass wasn’t always greener on the other side.  I had to stop running.  I decided that week that I needed to go home – or at least somewhere closer to home.  But I took a small detour on the way. 

The month I spent in the jungle of Costa Rica completing my yoga teacher training changed my life in profound ways.  Ways in which I wouldn’t fully comprehend until years later.  I met a different tribe down there.  We were a group of 42 people from all over the world, diverse in so many ways, but united in our love of yoga – the meaning of which is literally “to unite”.

I learned that “being independent” didn’t mean I had to be alone.  It meant I needed to find the people whose ideas aligned with my own.  I knew I already had those people in my personal life.

I also discovered that the scientist in me could co-exist peacefully with the artist.  I didn’t have to choose one part of myself over the other.  I could simultaneously look for answers while being at peace with the unknown. 

By the time I went to Costa Rica, I had been going to local yoga studios for 4 years and while my personal passion for the practice was growing on a daily basis, I had no idea how much it was about to transform my professional practice.

As healthcare professionals, we are constantly tasked with finding new and innovative ways to help our clients achieve and maintain optimal levels of functionality and wellness.  There are many techniques and tools available for us 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, efficient, and empowering.  To do this, I needed a treatment system that would allow me to apply the foundations of our 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 manner 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 movement patterns our bodies 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.  This aligns with my personal core values and elicits the same starry-eyed I CAN HEAL THE WORLD optimism I had early in my career.  Unfortunately, it does NOT align with the business model of most physiotherapy clinics.

I have changed jobs no less than 13 times since obtaining my license to practice physiotherapy in 2010.  I keep interviewing at places who promise me independence in treatment of my patients and then fail to deliver on those promises.  That is not to say I haven’t enjoyed some of the jobs I’ve previously had.  I have met some very cool people through work (including, as I mentioned above, 2 members of my Tribe), and formed lasting relationships with several co-workers and employers.  But there were also a few jobs along the way that were just complete and utter Cluster You-Know-Whats. 

I believe we are responsible for our own happiness.  That leads us to 2 options in our professional lives: find (or create) a job you adore – a job that makes you want to jump out of bed and get the day started, OR make the best of what you have and look for the silver lining.  I have been very unhappy in several jobs over the course of my career, and consequently, I have jumped ship multiple times – often without a life jacket.  Sometimes the change has been for the better, other times it was out of the frying pan and into the fire. But every now and again the planets align, and the same stars that brought me my Tribe sent me a like-minded colleague who is also a good friend. 

I currently work out of a clinic owned by someone I respect immensely.  She was a mentor and a teacher in my formative years and continues to this day to be one of my greatest professional influences.  She allows me to do my thing with my patients because she shares my outlook on how we deliver our services.  She lets me set my own hours so I can pursue other passions and opportunities to HEAL THE WORLD, while continuing to offer guidance and support along the way.  She intuitively knows when life creeps into work and accepts me in all my dysfunctional glory when it does.  She lets me be independent without being alone.

I have worked very hard over the years to get both my personal and professional lives to align with my core values of compassion, acceptance, freedom, and mindfulness.  It is still a work in progress, but each step forward brings me closer to my goals.  For now, Physiyoga remains my therapeutic method of choice for my patients, and my Tribe remains the therapy I choose for myself. 

They are my Fizziotherapy. 

For an example of Physiyoga in action, please follow the link below and enjoy.

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