Yoga and OMPT or … When the Students Become the Teachers

One main goal in physical therapy is to help keep people moving for the purpose of health and being able to participate in a full life. One way that people are able to accomplish this goal is through yoga. It incorporates movement and strengthen and balance.

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A growing number of people are passionate about yoga, and I am seeing more and more clients in clinic that want to return to pain-free practice. And I like to support this, because I realize that my job is to support people in what they enjoy.

Additionally, I have begun to give workshops to yoga instructors to provide a service to them. In these workshops I educate on types of pain, teach a movement screens using yoga poses, and help them know when someone may need specific treatment to address movement problems or mechanical issues.

Last week, I had the amazing opportunity of traveling to Nairobi, Kenya to teach OMPT with the Jackson Foundation and Kenyatta Medical Training College. I taught a class of 16 Kenyans in the last module of their 18 month program. While I was there, I had offered to lead a 3-hour workshop at Shine Yoga Center through the Africa Yoga Project.

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It wasn’t something that I had anticipated when I offered to teach, but the day before the workshop, when I realized that most of the physiotherapists were coming to the workshop, I decided to put them in small groups. Each group had at least one physio and one yoga instructor. One thing that made the experience so incredible was that during the workshop, after I gave them instructions, I let the physiotherapists and yoga instructors teach each other.

And then I sat back and watched them. I admit it, tears came to my eyes. Why did I get emotional? Because as I looked around the room I saw that these physios could do so much more than what I could have done alone. It was like 13 of me, teaching one-on-one.

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But mostly, the reason this experience was so special is that one of my goals as an instructor is to empower people to become confident in who they are and what they have to offer. Teaching requires knowledge and confidence. Here was this group of physiotherapists that had been in my class for just over a week, and I was watching them teach their community! I got to see the looks of respect on the faces of the participants as the physiotherapists talked and taught. It was truly a highlight of my entire life.

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If you have ever wanted to volunteer, The Jackson Foundation is great organization to do that with. Anyone who has been through NAIOMT’s certification through Level II is well-equipped to serve as a teaching assistant in this program.

Prior to going to Africa, I had some anxiety about safety and disease, but that was exaggerated by the “unknown.” I never felt unsafe, using the Foundation’s guidelines for travel and preparedness. The Kenyan hospitality couldn’t be more welcoming; we were well cared-for, and I can’t wait to go back!

Feel free to contact me if you are interested in volunteering, and I can connect you with the organizers.

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-Rebecca Lowe, PT, COMT, FAAOMPT

Rebecca began coursework in 1994 with the North American Institute of Orthopaedic Manual Therapy, was certified in 1999, and fellowship trained by 2006. She owns Manual Therapy of Nashville, is a NAIOMT CFI. She is very thankful for the framework that NAIOMT provided her right after graduating from PT school. Her advice, don’t just learn techniques, learn when to use them.  And, look at the whole person. She recently published a book for her patients (and therapists) called Restoring Hope in Chronic Pain: A Whole Person Perspective from an Orthopedic Manual Physical Therapist.

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