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  • ruthnewnam@gmail.com

Yoga and Physical Therapy

It’s hard for me to believe, but I’ve been practicing Physical Therapy for almost 20 years.  I entered PT school with a strong desire to help people heal, regain physical independence after injury or illness, and return to a level of function where they felt fulfilled and complete.  I still carry this desire in my practice, but it looks very different from where I started.

I began my career working in hospitals and rehabilitation centers.  This is where people are healing, learning how to walk again, learning how to use a wheelchair or their prosthetic leg for the first time after catastrophic injuries or illnesses like spinal cord injury, stroke, heart attack, head injury, physical trauma, lung transplants, burn injuries, etc.  Working with this group of people was a humbling learning experience. The grief that losing your independence and sometimes your personal identity can cause is real for the patient and for the family and friends who care for them. This is where I really started to learn about the mind-body connection.  

Because this type of work can be intense, I looked for outlets in my personal life to deal with the stress. I’ve always been active and athletic. Running, swimming, doing triathlons, working out in the gym all seemed like ways to exert myself and work off stress. It was and is still helpful to me, but I needed something that didn’t totally separate my body from the stressful things in my mind. I needed something to connect them, and allow my body to soothe my mind and vice versa. I wasn’t able to articulate it this way at the time I started practicing yoga, but it did eventually fill this need for me.

And, as I started practicing yoga, I recognized traditional PT exercises in yoga poses.  Of course, yoga came way before Physical Therapy was ever imagined. By this time, I was working with clients on an outpatient basis and had the ability to be more creative with my treatments. I started incorporating yoga poses into my PT practice, and my clients responded well. I used balance poses to work on stability, I used breathing exercises to calm anxiety with clients who had chronic pain or neurological disorders, I used yoga twists and stretches to help find more mobility in my clients’ bodies. And, of course, my PT knowledge was and is informed by yoga. Becoming a yoga teacher seemed like the next natural step to blend my practices together.

I took a weekend yoga teacher training workshop and began teaching yoga to my fellow employees at work in 2008.  They loved it and expressed their gratitude freely. With the encouragement of my coworkers, I took more intensive training to become a registered yoga teacher (RYT 200 hour), and began teaching in the community in 2012.  Over time I’ve developed a style of teaching combining my knowledge of yoga, anatomy, physiology, biomechanics, and healing.

After years of debating about starting my own practice, I took what felt like a giant leap away from working for someone else and started my private practice of Yoga and Physical Therapy in January of 2017. It was scary to step out on my own, but I knew this was the only way to do what I really wanted to do--what I really felt passionate about.  

I now have a Physical Therapy practice, where I use yoga as therapeutic exercise,  where I offer breathing practices to complement a physical practice or exercise regimen, where I use other therapy techniques to help people with chronic pain, muscle tension, and athletic injuries, and where I teach people how to use yoga to heal their bodies.  

Combining these practices of yoga and PT has been fulfilling for me personally and professionally. I feel what I’m doing bridges the gap between traditional healthcare that is a reactive, pharmaceutical based model and self care.  My knowledge and guidance provides people with a way to build a personal practice (of yoga, of exercise, of self massage, of breathwork, of meditation, …) that allows them the independence and the confidence to take care of their whole selves.

Quads stretch: yoga pose and PT exercise

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