Bridging the Gap: Physical Therapy and Yoga Therapy

Reduce Muscular Tension with Body Scanning

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

A Body Scan Meditation is a simple tool to use daily if you experience chronic tension or pain. Most people who suffer from chronic pain exert more effort in daily activities than people who are pain free. Before you begin a stretching routine, exercise program or therapeutic yoga practice begin by paying attention to parts of your body and bodily sensations in a gradual sequence starting from your feet to your head. The benefits of a body scan meditation are to reduce the stress associated with muscle tension and help to reduce inflammation and fatigue.

You can begin to cultivate your ability to be mindful and tuned in to what you are feeling, without judgment, by practicing a sequence of scanning your body. In this way, “body scanning” works to break the cycle of physical and psychological tension that can feed on itself.

Practicing a Simple Body Scan Meditation (10 minutes)

Begin by sitting comfortably on a chair or lying on your back. Bring your attention to your breath. Let your eyes close softly or keep them open with a soft gaze.(Note: you do not want to fall asleep)

Notice how your body feels as you breathe. Become aware of the feeling of air moving in and out from your nose.

• Start with the toes of your left foot and slowly move up your foot, leg, and groin, feeling the sensations as you go. Continue doing this with your right foot and move slowly up the right leg to the groin. From there, move up through your stomach to your shoulders, and then your low back, upper back, shoulders, and neck.

• Then go to your fingers of both hands and move up simultaneously in both arms, returning to the shoulders. Then move through the neck and throat, and finally to all the parts of your face, the back of the head and the crown of your head.

• Continue to notice sensations in the different areas of our body. Breathe into any area of tension as you scan your body. Imagine softening and lengthening any areas of tightness. If your mind wanders return to the breath.

• Finish by breathing out through the crown of your head. Feel the sensation of the breath flowing and moving from your toes and up and out through the crown of your head.

The body scan meditation is an effective meditation that can help you to return to and maintain a relaxed state when you notice tension in your body. Practice this anytime you feel tension and If you do not have a lot of time, you can do an abbreviated version of this body scan meditation by just sitting and noticing any place in your body that you are  carrying tension, rather than moving from part to part. This will become easier the more you practice the body scan meditation1.


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A Client’s Therapeutic Yoga Journey and Story

“The Journey to Recovery from Reverse Shoulder Replacement”

I have been working with Meryle Richman since weeks prior to my second RSR and sixth joint replacement. Her coaching combines her excellent skills and expansive knowledge as a fellow physical therapist, as well as a yoga instructor and yoga therapist in training. Her skills reach beyond her science-based training to her spiritual and mindful healing passions to truly help people recovering from pain and disability.

Preparing for any joint replacement goes beyond identifying basic tools to help with activities of daily living, pain medication, or physical support systems. The inner healing requires both body and mind, in addition to learning how to use tools to merge and create a safe place to go within yourself to help heal and push off feelings of incompleteness or off mourning the loss of your old physical self. From being a strong independent woman, physical therapist, skier, and biker, who enjoyed dancing, photography, baking, painting, felting, I found these things slipping away. Throughout the five prior replacements, I have always worked diligently in rehab and adapted to new limitations. But the spiritual and mindfulness part of recovery has always been difficult.

Using the tools of breath, relaxation, and yoga moments, which Meryle has skillfully adapted to my limitations, I have been feeling stronger and more positive through these first two weeks of recovery. This will be a flowing journey as my recovery moves through phases. Using meditation and relaxation, breath, and guided movement of yoga, combined with traditional physical therapy, my recovery will be enhanced. I look forward to seeing that strong independent woman again, with, of course, realistic expectations of how I will resume some past and begin some new ones.

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