by Kathleen Ingalls, PT, DPT


January 1, 2015. I needed a change. I’m not usually one for New Years resolutions, but I recognize the need to continually self-assess and adjust accordingly. It just happened to be a convenient day for such a change, so I laced up my shoes and headed to the gym to register with the other New Years Day members. Between planning a wedding and juggling the first year of my professional career, I was experiencing my first encounter with stress from adulting. I needed to find a healthy form of release, and that’s when I discovered yoga.


I realize yoga has been around for thousands of years, but this new yogi had no concept of the philosophy or practice behind the ancient tradition. Not to mention, I grew up doing competitive cheer, so my idea of a workout was a bit more fast paced. Nonetheless, my first class was an eye-opener, and I quickly realized there was more to yoga than creating slow, beautiful poses. My initial draw to this mind-body fitness was stress management and toning up; little did I know, I would find myself incorporating the four basic principles of yoga’s healing system into my physical therapy practice.

Principle #1: The body is a holistic entity with many interrelated and inseparable parts and should be treated as such. This is definitely a principle I’ve found to be more relevant since expanding my practice to include a more manual approach. Don’t find it strange if you come in for an issue with your ankle and we’re assessing your pelvis or low back—don’t worry, we’ll explain.

Principle #2: We function as individuals; therefore, our practice should be tailored to meet each student’s unique, individual needs. In physical therapy, I constantly find myself making modifications and adjustments to each patient’s plan of care and daily treatment sessions based on a variety of factors—prior level of function, endurance level, and personal goals just to name a few.

Principle #3: In yoga, the student should feel self-empowered to be one’s own healer. While I spend quite a bit of time during each treatment session using hands-on techniques which can’t be replicated at home, I make sure to educate my patients on exercises and activity modifications they can apply outside of PT to reinforce the healing process on their own.

Principle #4: For healing to occur, the student must maintain a positive state of mind. We live in a society in search of instant gratification, and unfortunately, PT is not a quick fix pill. While it is a goal for you to feel better when leaving than when you arrived, the healing process typically takes longer than one treatment session. Stay positive—stay engaged.

Over a year later, I continue to grow and develop in both my physical therapy and yoga practices, applying principles of each to the other. As my yoga instructor reminds us each class, it is important to thank yourself for taking time to make it to your mat. Maybe yoga isn’t your thing. Maybe your mat is the court, or the road, or the weight room. Regardless, I encourage you to find your release and get active.

Woodyard, C. (2011). Exploring the therapeutic effects of yoga and its ability to increase quality of life. International Journal of Yoga Int J Yoga, 4(2), 49. doi:10.4103/0973-6131.85485