Yoga is the root of physical therapy. This has been a recurring theme in my posts and it comes up naturally as I write, again and again (the post on 6th October, 2017, 15th September, 2017). I look at it from various angles and through different microscope lenses. For physical therapy to succeed and set you on a wellness path, yoga principles (character building for a still mind) are a must. The name is not important here. You may call it yoga or not, the principles are key.
Yoga is widespread in the world today, not only here in the western world, now it has caught on at a feverish pace in Asia, Europe, Australia and Africa. In fact the United Nations on 11th December, 2014 proclaimed June 21st to be “International Yoga Day.”
Due to the popularization of yoga, the pure form of yoga has been sacrificed and it is being interpreted in different ways. Among the many variants of yoga popularized (may I say by name-sake only) are hatha yoga, raja or ashtanga yoga and vinyasa yoga. The most prevalent misconception being that it is a way to perfect only asanas which is at the gross level of the body. However, true yoga as M.S. Viswanath (Pattabhi Jois’ student and a yoga master himself) suggests, is only one. There may be different ways or paths to practice this. The main aim and goal of yoga he mentions is Samadhi or “evenness of mind.”
When Patanjali originally composed the yoga sutras in 400 CE, he was by no means the first one to practice yoga. It was in fact visualized and practiced many generations before, and Patanjali was the observer, knower, and compiler of these sutras. We still do so in this day and age, however, we need to be mindful about it and gather our scattered efforts for an effective practice. Traditionally in India, we also are aware of Bhakti Yoga, Gnana yoga, and Karma yoga. Though the end goal of each of these paths is ultimately the same- that is stillness of mind (or equal-mindedness) in the divine play of life, which is the realization of our true nature.
The most important challenge in the kind of lifestyle we live today is the ability to be in charge of the mind-body so that we may dwell in spirit. Hence the popularity of yoga involving the bodily asanas. With all the amenities and comforts of modern world, the connection with our divine aspect is hanging on loose threads. It is up to each one of us to establish this connection and strengthen it into a firm and strong thread/string. And if your chosen path is through contemporary yogasana, welcome to StableMovement Physical Therapy.
Often one goes to a physical therapist when in pain or injured. In this case, the first step would be rehabilitation of the acutely involved structures (inflamed soft tissue, through manual techniques). Once that is healed, or an individual comes in for health and wellness without an existing injury, a functional movement assessment would reveal the root of problem. This may vary from one of the following- joint stiffness, ligament tautness or instability, muscle weakness, faulty biomechanical alignment, a combination of multiple factors, or all of the above. A skilled PT is able to distinguish and address this accordingly.
How does the yoga tie in with physical therapy you wonder?
Well physical therapy is nothing but yoga modified and “broken down” so to say to bring the focus on a particular part. A good analogy would be the use of a microscope to reveal finer and subtler tissues, cells, and sub-cellular structures which are not visible to the naked eye. The important thing here is to look at the finer aspects yet at the same time keeping the whole picture in mind. That is precisely where yoga comes in. Not only in the sense of a particular yogasana, though that is definitely a tool to recovery, albeit the process undertaken through the rehab and wellness journey. See the similarity between the modern PT stretches and yogasanas in the pictures?
How do we go about establishing our connection?
Though yoga is distinguished into various types, it is in the intermingling and practicing of all of these with perhaps predominance of one which would make one a follower of that particular path. When I say ‘predominance of one,’ I mean it is the one you have faith in and fall back on when all else fails (for in yoga, you never, never give up). Once the goal is achieved though, the demarcation boundaries of the various paths merge or vanish altogether.
Hatha means nothing but a strong will or firm determination. That is when one chooses to practice any form of yoga (or physical therapy for that matter) taught by a qualified master (skilled PT), and stay on this journey through sheer will and determination to see the end.
Ashtanga yoga also means the eight-limb yoga. These are
Pursue anything or any action with these golden principles for with this attitude, you will not fail.
Ami Gandhi is a licensed physical therapist in the state of California. She is the owner of StableMovement Physical Therapy, a small boutique practice in San Jose that offers patient centered, one-on-one, hands-on physical therapy.