The Monday Memo
January 16, 2017 PITT DPT STUDENTS
Mindfulness in Physical Therapy
As current physical therapy students, we all wrote an essay in order to get into school that detailed what the APTA vision statement for the Physical Therapy Profession meant to us as individuals. As we all still remember that vision statement is as follows “transforming society by optimizing movement to improve the human experience.” When first looking at that statement I am sure what jumps out to us all is “optimizing movement”, where we as future physical therapists will help society by improving an individual’s function so that they can partake in their daily life. What we may miss is that wellness too can help a person improve their human experience. In fact, per the APTA, one of the roles of a physical therapist is to “Restore, maintain, and promote not only optimal physical function but optimal wellness and fitness and optimal quality of life as it relates to movement and health.” Within the physical therapy realm there has been a shift to not only incorporate physical activity but also wellness into treatment. There are many ways in which a physical therapist may incorporate wellness into their treatment of a patient. Rebecca Meehan at the last APTA meeting pointed out that Yoga is one of the many ways that a bridge can be formed between traditional physical therapy and wellness.
Yoga when broken down means “to yoke” or “to join”. Where individuals concentrate on joining the mind, body, and spirit. There are many different types of yoga which include but are not limited to Vinyasa Yoga, Hatha Yoga, Pranayama, Bikram, Medical Therapeutic Yoga (MTY), and the list goes on. Meehan explained that MTY, unlike the other forms of yoga, takes existing evidence based practice while also streamlining clinical assessment and management to improve patient satisfaction and outcomes with specific yoga prescription. In this sense MTY encompasses all components of the biopsychosocial model that we all have come to learn in our studies as physical therapy studies. Yoga also incorporates mediation and mindfulness, where meditation is finding the peace within and mindfulness is a type of mediation where one focuses on being present and being actively aware of what you are doing. The breath that is incorporated in yoga helps to achieve this state of meditation and mindfulness.
There are many ways that yoga can benefit patients which includes and is not limited to improved balance, improved strength, improved mobility, improved mood, improved fatigue levels, and improved quality of life. Many of these improvements are the very impairments that bring patients to physical therapy in the first place, so it seems like a no brainer that yoga is a great tool to incorporate into treatment. Now you may be asking how do I incorporate yoga into my treatment? To be clear, MTY is a specific license you must obtain. This does not mean, however, that just because you don’t have a MTY license that you still can’t incorporate aspects of yoga into your treatment. For example, you may choose to work on breathing with your patient, an essential component to any exercise. You also may elect to incorporate some balancing poses for that elderly patient who is at an increased risk for falls or a warrior 1 pose for the patient working on lower extremity strength, core strength, and balance.
To close, wellness is an important aspect of physical therapy. Yoga is a great way that wellness can be incorporated but it is not the only way. Many tools out there can be used to join physical therapy and wellness and it is just a matter of taking the time to do so. If we as physical therapists are mindful, we can serve as the ones to help patients practice health and wellness.
*If you are interested in partaking in some yoga classes, the Pitt Marquette team hosts monthly Sunday classes at the UMPC Rooney Sports Complex. Stay tuned on the Pitt DPT website for upcoming classes!