Tuning In Beyond Your Muscles

A couple of months ago my friend Erin told me she wanted me to meet the owner of the physical therapy office where she works. She said that their style of physical therapy is very much in line with yoga and she thought it would be a good idea for us to meet. So early last week I had the good fortune to share breakfast with Jody and Michael, the owners of Hands On Physical Therapy here in Round Rock. We hit it off immediately, and more than an hour flew by as we spoke on all kinds of different topics.

Two important experiences were born from our conversation that day, and I want to share those with you.

My First PT Session (Ever) Confession. I really had no idea what physical therapy was about. I didn't know what conditions could be addressed. I didn't know what kind of work PTs did. Was it massage? Was it exercise?

I typically experience mild persistent low back pain and tightness in the neck and shoulders. I figure this is pretty normal - these are among the main concerns people address with their yoga practice. I didn't think I needed PT, but I was about to have a profound shift in perspective.

Jody began by assessing my posture and some simple movements. She determined that my sacrum is rotated, my right SI joint is locked, and my pelvis is tilted forward. This is understandable. I've had two pregnancies and long, complicated labors in the past 5 years, and I carry my little ones on my left hip way more than I should. I also have tightness in the muscles of my upper back and neck, probably from working on the computer so much. ;)

What ensued on Jody's treatment table over the next 45 minutes or so was a delightful combination of myofascial ("my-oh-fashal") work, education in anatomy, and a deep understanding of the current state of my body and what needs to happen to help it thrive.

In case you're unfamiliar with myofascial work, it is a method of finding a tight spot in the fascia (connective tissue) in the body and applying very gentle pressure for several minutes while encouraging breathing and relaxation. It really rocks. And just like my friend Erin said, it does tie in very well with yoga.

The myofascial work helped me tune into a part of my body that I normally don't pay much attention to. In yoga practice, we focus on muscles and bones, and I while I had some level of knowledge about fascia, this PT session was a real eye opener for me.

At the end of my session my hips were more aligned. I had better movement in my right SI joint. The muscles in my upper back and neck were softer. I felt a huge surge of enthusiasm about the benefits this kind of myofascial-focused PT work can provide for people with deeper health issues than the ones we can easily address with yoga practice. I'm really excited to go back!

Myofacial Stretching Class The next day my Erin was scheduled to teach a Myofascial Stretching class. I had a vision of how myofascial stretching might be beneficial in our Gentle Yoga classes, so I HAD to attend.

I'll tell you, the work was very hard for me to wrap my brain around. In yoga, we focus so much on muscles that it was a real shift for me to think about and feel and work with my fascia. As much as I like to think I know my body, I found this work to be a whole new opportunity.

In the hour long class we did a lot of things that looked like yoga poses, but the awareness and intention were very different. Strangely, I am now aware of some long-forgotten core muscles. I can clearly see the benefits of this work and I look forward to learning more and sharing it with you!

To get us started, I've invited Erin to teach a Myofascial Stretching workshop at The Yoga Room on February 16th. Details are posted on our Workshops page. This will be our first step into exploring the fascia and I know it's going to add a whole new dimension and a whole new level of benefit to our yoga practices.

Now, please share your thoughts with me! In the Comments below, tell me about your experience with physical therapy and/or myofascial work. Have you experienced any other therapies that were beneficial to your physical body? What affect has bodywork had on your yoga practice, or vice versa?

Lots of Love, Zelinda