Unlocking Joint Mobility: Incorporating Yoga into Physical Therapy Practices
by Sarah Apple Kingsley, pt, dpt
My name is Sarah Apple Kingsley and I have been a practicing physical therapist since I received my Doctorate in 2014.
During my first 5 years as a therapist, I treated how most therapists do, using standardized exercises and stretches taught in PT school or during our clinical rotations. Physical therapists are taught to apply “cookie-cutter” type exercises if a patient has low back pain, others for hip pain, and for a general geriatric population that just needs strengthening to do these generic exercises.
For the most part, if a patient’s case is uncomplicated, oftentimes this approach would be effective. When treating a geriatric population that just needed general strength and balance training due to lack of physical activity, I saw some promising results. However, for many of my patients, I quickly discovered that this method alone was not enough. Why were some of these standard exercises taught to thousands of PT students every year causing some of my patients more pain and dysfunction? Why were some patients simply not getting better?
Unfortunately, it is far too common for therapists facing patients that are not improving to become discouraged and lose interest. Faced with a lack of progress, many therapists will discharge a patient and send them on their way claiming physical therapy just didn’t work for them. For me, that conclusion was frustrating and unsatisfactory. I personally experienced this scenario when trying these same cookie-cutter type exercises on myself when I was experiencing pain and injury, and found myself not only not improving, BUT GETTING WORSE!
That is when I THANKFULLY discovered the LYT Method. This amazing method, created by a physical therapist, completely redefined yoga and functional movement. LYT focuses on how each joint is supposed to move and what typical compensatory patterns most people utilize that leads to pain, dysfunction, and a lack of proper muscle activation. Many of the moves are so simple yet so specific in the manner in which they are performed, which is what really makes a lasting change on the body and a major difference in outcomes. I began using this method and exercises on myself and after finding positive results I started to introduce some movements with my patients in the clinic!
When I began incorporating spinal mobility stretches, hip hinging strategies, self-joint mobilization techniques, and fascia stretches into my exercise routines with patients, the results spoke for themselves! Not only were people starting to feel and notice their bodies in a way they hadn’t been aware of previously, but they were able to use these strategies to move and feel better during their daily activities.
A therapist can manually mobilize a joint or release a muscle that is tight or has developed a trigger point, but it is the beneficial repetitive movements that will keep the mobility in place. Conversely, the repeated dysfunctional movement patterns will cause the patient to continue to return with pain and poor joint mobility. Teaching these movements to my patients has facilitated an increase in their mobility on a daily basis, which results in lasting changes and benefits.
Yoga allows the body to move in a variety of ways, encouraging the patient to get back in touch with their body both in an isolated manner for each part of a system as well as the entire body as a whole. Physical therapists and referring physicians often separate the body into parts due to a specific prescription for shoulder pain, hip pain, or back pain, and thus only focus on that specific area of the body. Through yoga’s full body movements, it becomes clear that a lack of mobility, strength, and/or activation in one area could be responsible for the pain in a completely different area of the body. Yoga also allows the mind to connect to the body in a way most of us are unable to during our daily lives. You can completely change an exercise or movement just by giving a different cue and focusing on a different pull or activation. The same yoga poses can be used for completely different purposes when cued accordingly. This mental and physical focus is a form of meditation in itself. I strongly believe that being able to connect to your body in this manner is a crucial factor for true healing.
Learn how to truly heal yourself today by taking one of our LYT Daily classes! The benefits from the cues provided in these classes outweigh most all other forms of yoga for treating the body as it is meant to move. Start small and focused, then move larger and faster as the body heats up. You won’t regret giving this method a try!