By Linda Childers

Lori Rubenstein Fazzio, DPT, PT, MAppSc, YTRX, of Mosaic Therapy in Los Angeles, Calif., knows what it’s like to experience excruciating pain. After suffering career-threatening injuries in a horseback riding accident in 2007, Rubenstein Fazzio was determined to return to her PT practice. She credits yoga with helping her to return to work, and decided to integrate the practice of physioyoga into her practice to help patients also reclaim their lives after injury.

PT_news-01Physioyoga differs from traditional physical therapy by combining yoga with evidence-based physiotherapy, to help patients restore and maintain optimal movement and function. The practice is used by PTs who also are certified yoga instructors.

“One of the main differences between yoga and PT is the breathing and visualization techniques that we utilize,” Rubenstein Fazzio said. “Stress exacerbates so many health problems and yoga can balance that and empower patients through visualization, meditation and asana [yoga postures].”

Physioyoga has received increased media attention over the last two years after “Sex and the City” star Kim Cattrall credited the practice she nicknamed “fizzy yoga” with helping her get through a grueling performance schedule for a London play.

“Some studies have shown that chronic pain can affect a patient’s brain chemistry and actually cause changes in the brain,” Rubenstein Fazzio said. “Physioyoga offers a holistic approach that helps patients recover both mentally and physically and spiritually.”

Help for varied conditions

Rubenstein Fazzio has seen physioyoga help patients with a variety of health conditions including back and neck pain, musculoskeletal injuries, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, neurological conditions, migraines, fibromyalgia, incontinence and irritable bowel syndrome.

“I had one patient who had severe RA and was in a wheelchair,” Rubenstein Fazzio said. “This patient had tried PT, injections, medications and multiple surgeries for almost 20 years without relief and with decrease in function and lifestyle. I worked with her two times a week for a year; with physiyoga she improved dramatically and went from being on disability in a wheelchair to full-time work, hiking and biking with no more need for pain medication.”

Rubenstein Fazzio does a preassessment on each new patient and then designs an individual treatment plan that incorporates yoga poses, breathing methods and meditation.

“Therapeutic yoga is so much more than just poses,” Rubenstein Fazzio said. “If a patient is suffering from neck pain, we also look at how changing their breathing patterns affects their neck pain, and how they can manage stress better. You can stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system to help our patients heal faster and better.

Yoga not only helps to relieve stress, but it also helps to relax the nervous system, according to Rubenstein Fazzio. She modifies yoga poses and physiotherapy to match each patient’s goals and needs. As movement experts, Fazzio said PTs are uniquely qualified to integrate yoga into their practice.

Rubenstein Fazzio said in the past 10 years more than 500 clinical studies on the benefits of yoga therapy were performed, and she sees the practice gaining more attention and validation.

“Physioyoga allows PTs to go beyond treating a patient’s symptoms, and to empower patients to take part in their healing,” said Rubenstein Fazzio who is on faculty at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. Previously she was on the faculty at Mount St. Mary’s College doctoral program of physical therapy in Los Angeles and was certified as a yoga teacher by Samata International, Los Angeles.

For PTs interested in cross-training as a certified yoga instructor and incorporating yoga into their practice, the International Association of Yoga Therapists offers conferences and certification.

Linda Childers is a freelance writer.