Medical Yoga Therapy blends best of Eastern philosophy, Western medicine

As a  licensed physical therapist since 1999, I was first exposed to yoga about 10 years ago when a friend started her own yoga studio. Needless to say, it didn’t take long for me to identify a natural connection between the Eastern philosophy that drives yoga and my own Western-based medical field of physiotherapy.

I immediately saw the value of bringing yoga into my treatment room.  The physical aspect of yoga matched very well with the physical rehabilitation side of physical therapy. That’s when I started to look for specialized training to teach me how to use the poses as exercise prescription for those experiencing the types of pain and ailments that often lead one to physiotherapy.

Since this initial “ah-ha” moment, I have been trained and certified by the Professional Yoga Therapy Institute based in the U.S. – a program established specifically to provide medical therapeutic yoga training to licensed healthcare professionals. This led me to founding of Saskatoon PhysioYoga, our sweet clinic that embraces the hybrid identity of both a Physical Therapy practice and a Medical Therapeutic Yoga center.

Yoga for Health Conditions

But to call it simply a physiotherapy clinic with added yoga classes is missing the point. Medical Yoga Therapy, according to the Professional Yoga Therapy Institute, is a form of integrative medicine delivered by experienced, licensed medical professionals.

Where typical yoga classes teach poses and a certain level of philosophy, medical yoga therapy builds on Western, research-based medicine to help clients achieve specific health and movement goals.

Current classes offered at Saskatoon PhysioYoga, address issues like chronic pain management, spine care/strengthening, and myofascial release. Sessions are instructed by healthcare professionals, and some include one on one initial assessments by a physical therapist.  This allows students to feel confident and safe as they begin classes here with the understanding that their instructors are ready and willing to help at every step of the way.  

All our classes and one-on-one sessions are designed for  men and women of all abilities.  With our small classes, we put a premium on individual attention, often screening participants  one-on-one with a physio, and because of our medical backgrounds, we’re able to adapt poses and exercises to address individual health conditions, physical and pain limitations, age, etc.

I had often been told by yoga teachers to “push through the pain” I experienced in a pose.  That I must “get through to the other side of pain in order to achieve my goal”.  That never sat well for me as a physio.  In the rehab setting I always respect the pain response, assess it and determine based on several factors how to move forward.  So I bring that same sensibility to every class I teach and develop.  

Medical Therapeutic Yoga and Why It's Different

That’s where Medical Therapeutic Yoga can be different.  Our approach is more along the lines of  “OK, why is this causing you pain?  What tissues or structures are stressed here and is it a healthful stress?”  Then, we may try to delve a little deeper and find where the pain might coming from. Is it neural tension? Is it a repetitive strain injury? Is it coming from further up the chain in your neck or back?   We often play the role of detective when it comes to pain and movement dysfunction; putting the evidence together to better understand the whole picture of health in our patients.  Bringing our training as Physical Therapists and as Medical Yoga Therapists to bear in diagnosis and treatment provides us with even more tools to put to work in patient care.  

I’ve been a Physio for the better part of two decades now.  With the combination of Medical Therapeutic Yoga AND Physical Therapy, my caregiver skillset is even more complete.  I adore the possibilities  I’ve been given through this extra certification/training with PYTI.  The opportunity to teach and guide and explore wellness with my clients takes on a more holistic approach.  And it has been extremely rewarding.  Much gratitude.   

At the intersection of western based medicine and ancient yogic practice you’ll find us, honing our unique set of holistic health skills at Saskatoon PhysioYoga.  Come explore with us!