Defining Moment Modern Science, Ancient Practice Physical therapy and yoga, working together for patients. By Becca Ellis, PT, DPT | June 2017 Listen to 'Defining Moment' I am a physical therapist who fell in love with yoga and all of its mental, physical, and emotional benefits. I loved it so much, in fact, that I decided to change my approach and open up a healing center that would integrate the ancient practice of yoga with the evidence-based practice of physical therapy. We offer our services in private and small-group settings for those rehabbing from injury. We offer wellness and prevention services as well. I didn't always appreciate gentler forms of exercise, or understand the importance of total body wellness. My earliest exercise-related memories involve competitive sports and high-intensity activities that required me to push my body to the max—to run its fastest, defend against opponents, even to sacrifice itself for the win. Unsurprisingly, I sustained many injuries and underwent multiple knee surgeries during my years of competitive play. Then, a snowboarding accident resulted in a neck injury that caused me a great deal of pain. So, a few years ago I finally decided to focus on tending to my own treatment. I'd grown weary of constant neck pain that was beginning to radiate into my arm. I was tired of my knees hurting every time I went on a run. I started taking yoga classes and stopped higher-intensity training. Yoga, I found, met my needs as a low-impact, body–weight-resistant form of exercise that focused on alignment, body control, and balance between strength and flexibility. Drawing from what I'd learned in my basic classes, I began developing therapeutic practices at home that were specific to my symptoms and clinical findings. I stuck with this program and enhanced it over the course of several months. I felt progressively better, to the point that I no longer had neck pain when I woke up, medial knee pain at the end of a 9-hour work day, or numbness in my hand. I was feeling stronger each week—with better posture, more energy, and a brighter outlook on life. I found myself yearning for more yoga in all its aspects—including breathwork (controlled breathing) and meditation. I came to realize that adding this piece of mindfulness had changed my perception of pain, too. Being better able to control my breath helped me relax, decreasing tension in my neck and shoulders. Meditation helped me focus on things that were positive and healthy. These benefits prompted my defining moment—a conviction that I must bring yoga into my work as a physical therapist. I knew that providing this type of instruction as a professional in movement science could be extremely helpful to people dealing with chronic pain and with orthopedic and degenerative spine injuries, and those seeking preventive wellness. As my physical therapy career evolved, I'd gravitated from working primarily with athletes and patients who were postsurgery to people with nonsurgical degenerative spine injuries. This population can be challenging to treat. Optimal management of their care often requires a detailed approach, including breaking old habits, making lifestyle changes, and integrating an exercise program that must be followed faithfully over a long period of time. Personalized therapeutic yoga programs, I came to see, could fit these needs! Consistent yoga practice helps participants improve their strength, stability, flexibility, and kinesthetic awareness—the components of best-practice treatment of chronic, nonsurgical orthopedic and spine injuries. Yogic breathwork, I saw, could add the elements of improved endurance, control, stability, pain tolerance, and relaxation. People with nonsurgical degenerative spine injuries seemed a promising population with whom to try to integrate yoga instruction. This approach, I knew, would require a lot of time and a hands-on approach to properly integrate the concepts into treatment. This would be quite a challenge for a busy outpatient orthopedic therapist, which I was at that time. Thus, I decided to start my own practice. Restorative Therapy Company opened last August, based on a clear vision. I wanted my clinic to be a place of healing where the science of physical therapy would integrate with the therapeutic benefits of yoga. I wanted to work 1-on-1 with patients, taking the functions of the entire body into account and using this individualized integrative approach to improve quality of life. Yoga is something that anyone can do, and it can be modified to accommodate a wide variety of body types, conditions, or injuries. It works because it focuses on all facets of total body wellness—anatomical alignment, balance of flexibility and stability, kinesthetic awareness with movement, core support and strength, multiple joint functioning, proper breath function, and emotional and mental health. I know this is a new way of thinking about physical therapy and health care, but I'm excited about seizing this opportunity to empower people to take hold of their own health and wellness. I'm fulfilling a dream to serve those who seek a holistic approach to total-body wellness. My goal is for my studio to be a place where those who come through the doors and work with our staff will find peace for their mind, body, and soul.