Promoting Health and Wellness with Physical Therapy and Yoga Therapy

Meryle Richman, PT, DPT, MS, CST, 500- Hour RYT, Advanced Teacher of Therapeutic Yoga.

Optimal health and wellness are achieved by “bridging the gap” between Physical Therapy and Yoga Therapy. By integrating these fields of healthcare, this approach to rehabilitation results in a holistic or biopsychosocial model in the rehabilitation experience. The focus is on assessing the individual at all levels of their human system (being): physical, energetic, psycho-emotional, and spiritual well-being. Research supports the benefits of Yoga as it addresses every aspect of life and body system (Eastern Medicine) rather than considering each body part or system separately (Western Medicine).

What is Physical Therapy?

Physical Therapy uses a bio-medical model of evidenced-base treatment methods, such as hands-on manual skills, various modalities, and therapeutic exercises to help individuals restore and maintain optimal movement and function. In addition, physical therapists provide pain care and rehabilitation, as well as provide patient education and injury prevention. As licensed health care professionals, physical therapists have extensive knowledge and specialized skills in evaluating and treating individuals with dysfunctions, disabilities, injuries or suffering from a variety of disease symptoms.

What is Yoga Therapy?

Yoga is an ancient life system of health that promotes the ‘union’ of the mind, body, and spirit. These evidenced-based treatment methods incorporate meditation, breathing exercises, self-reflection, along with body alignment and balance poses. A therapeutic yoga practice can be modified to fit any age, condition, and physical ability. By utilizing the biopsychosocial model, the individual is instructed in a personalized lifestyle program and daily practice. The goal is to reduce pain and to promote an overall balanced lifestyle of health and well-being.

Overall, the combined benefits of Physical Therapy and Yoga Therapy:

  • Encourages a positive view of aging and physical capabilities; healthy alignment of the skeletal system and improve bone strength
  • Promotes healing from orthopedic and sport injuries; improves flexibility and strength
  • Improves core strength for scapular, abdominal and back musculature
  • Provides relief from chronic pain and joint pain
  • Helps to normalize blood pressure, decrease cholesterol levels, improve heart and lung function and digestion
  • Decreases tension, emotional and physical stress; help address distressful emotional states including anxiety, depression, trauma, and pain
  • Improves endurance and balance


My Story:

After being in chronic pain in both my knees for more than 15 years and being an avid cyclist, I went to Dr Steven Zelicof, orthopedist, who specializes in treatment for arthritic knees and robotic surgery. I was still fairly young and did not want to undergo surgery, Instead I chose to receive for 3 years a series of injections of Euflexxa to each knee, twice a year for three years and then cortisone injections for two years for my knees, in addition to physical therapy and yoga therapy. When I realized the pain was interfering with my quality of life I chose to undergo a left total knee replacement two years ago and a right total knee replacement one year ago, since my knees were “bone-on-bone”. I found that with the combined therapies of physical therapy and yoga therapy, I was motivated and empowered to heal myself on the path of recovery, to live a healthier lifestyle and resume bicycle riding. Initially, in the healing process, pain, swelling and lack of mobility in my knees and function was debilitating. I managed my pain with pain medication for three weeks and knew if I was to drive my car and return to work, I had to be off opioids. With my skills as a physical therapist and advanced teacher of therapeutic yoga I had applied the therapeutic and healing techniques briefly discussed in this blog. The most important tools that I have learned and continue to utilize are postural awareness and alignment with stretching, gradual strengthening exercises, cardiovascular exercise, and gentle therapeutic yoga. In addition, utilizing breath awareness and being present within myself for all activities, and to correct habitual habits that are not healthy for my body (body awareness and meditation) are tools for self-care. I also learned to have “patience” as the patient in the healing process and to be self-compassionate for myself. Eating well was also important and to eliminate the cravings for sugars and carbs. On occasion, if I have a set-back, I check in with myself to listen to the messages from my body, and with this “inner wisdom”, I begin the path for healing once again.


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