Yoga Therapy vs. Physical Therapy
Physical Therapists are body only therapists. They go through extensive schooling to learn protocols to help with all areas of human muscular/structural dysfunction. Everyday they rehab patient’s painful hips, dysfunctional shoulders, back pain etc. They also often have physical manipulation skills. They can perform passive techniques to help muscle relax. Although they are not Medical Doctors they are trained in diagnostic tests to figure out the root of physical problems. PT’s are very useful in helping with injuries and rehabbing from surgeries. PT’s are often limited by insurance considerations in terms of how they work and the time they can spend with patients.
Yoga Therapists work on a whole person model. When working with physical issues a Yoga Therapist is trained to work with muscular imbalances. They are trained in anatomy and how different movement patterns can help heal specific conditions. Yoga Therapists are also taught how to assess breathing patterns and how they might affect pain and healing outcomes. In addition a Yoga Therapist is trained in how to work with someone to optimize their healing potential. So not only do we work with movement and breath patterns, yoga therapy often includes working with different mental states, specific breathing techniques, and meditation.
There are many instances where one might want to work with a Physical Therapist and a Yoga Therapist. A PT can offer evidence-based exercises to reduce pain and restore balance. A Yoga Therapist can often be helpful in finding the best way to integrate movement therapy into one’s life. A Yoga Therapist is trained to teach practice. In my opinion this is where yoga therapy really shines. Very individualized instruction on how to move and breathe to reduce suffering. So while a PT may be your first stop in a healing process, a Yoga Therapist could be your last.
In my yoga therapy practice, I often see clients after a course of physical therapy. I have found it especially useful to work with people who have chronic complaints that PT hasn’t been able to fully address. Often the multidimensional nature of yoga therapy is the missing link that moves clients from “sort of better” to completely healed. I personally have enormous respect for both areas and hope that we continue to find ways to work together for the betterment of all.
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