Category Archives: Yoga Therapy

Balancing the Body’s Harmony: The Ancient Art and Modern Science of Acupuncture

Acupuncture is becoming increasingly popular, yet many people remain reluctant to use it as a form of treatment. So, what exactly is it, and how can it help you? We answer these and more below!

What Is Acupuncture?

Acupuncture is a therapeutic technique of inserting fine, one-time-use pre-sterilized needles into very specific points along the body to assist in pain management and healing of injuries. Patients often ask us if acupuncture is painful. The needles used for acupuncture therapy are extremely fine – patients likely feel a small poke but once the needle is inserted, most patients do not feel much pain.

How Does It Work? – Traditional Chinese Medicine

Acupuncture was developed more than 3,000 years ago in China. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), injuries or illnesses are believed to be the results of an imbalance of energy within the body, specifically within meridians, which are channels of energy flow throughout the body. Acupuncture is used to help restore energy balance by placing fine needles at specific points along these meridians.

How Does It Work? – The Gate Control Theory of Pain

Although acupuncture is an ancient practice in Eastern medicine, its use in Western medicine is relatively recent. Though the exact reason why it works is not totally clear, Western medicine has several different theories as to how acupuncture helps with injury recovery. One of those is the Gate Control Theory of Pain.

The Gate Control Theory of Pain outlines how pain signals reach the brain from the spinal cord. In simple terms, if the ‘gate’ is open at the level of the spinal cord, a pain signal can pass through, reaching the brain where the pain is perceived. If the ‘gate’ is closed, a pain signal cannot pass through, and therefore the brain does not perceive pain. So, using this theory, applying a non-painful stimulus when someone experiences a painful stimulus can activate the closing of the gate and decrease the pain signal to the brain. An example of this would be if someone bangs their knee against a hard surface. Usually, our first instinct is to rub the knee (a non-painful stimulus), which helps us feel less pain.

What Injuries Can Be Treated With Acupuncture

Acupuncture can help in the healing process of many muscle and joint injuries. However, it is important to note that it won’t exactly heal these injuries. For example, if a muscle is torn, acupuncture will not repair the tear. However, it can assist in the symptoms associated with the tear, primarily by decreasing pain. Acupuncture has been used to aid in the recovery of a number of injuries, such as rotator cuff tendonitis, tennis elbow, and mechanical neck and back pain.

What Are The Risks Associated With Acupuncture?

The risks associated with acupuncture treatment are relatively minimal. The most common side effect is soreness and/or bruising in the region where the needles are inserted. The risk of infection is extremely LOW since the needles are pre-sterilized and used once. Some people might feel light-headed or dizzy after acupuncture treatment, so it is important to make sure you are well-hydrated and have eaten before your treatment session. If you are pregnant or have had other medical conditions (ex., cancer, stroke, etc.), there are certain points or areas that your practitioner will avoid. This is why it is extremely important to be thorough when reporting your medical history to your practitioner.

If you would like to learn more, ask your practitioner to discuss whether it would be an appropriate option for you, or book an initial assessment with us here!

Yoga Basics, Part 6: Styles of Yoga

There are many styles of yoga, some more modern than others, and some which are combinations or derivatives of more traditional styles.

For our purposes here, we will describe the five main styles you are likely to encounter in a yoga studio near you!

This way, when you sign up for a class, you will have a better idea of what to expect and if it’s for you! 😊

1. Hatha Yoga

Hatha is referred to as “physical-based” yoga because it is more grounded in physical practice (as opposed to other types of yoga that are grounded in more abstract concepts such as spirituality, self-discipline, or even energizing techniques).

It is also a more generalized style of yoga which makes it great for beginners:

  • Provides an introduction to the most basic asanas (yoga postures, or poses)
  • Practised at a slower pace
  • Provides some focus on meditation, breathwork, and relaxation

 In fact, most Western classes are hatha-based.

Milton physio showing tree pose as part of classic hatha yoga practice for an educational blog
Tree Pose is one of the classic Hatha poses

Therefore, best for beginners and those who prefer a more relaxing practice!

2. Vinyasa Yoga

Translated from Sanskrit, Vinyasa means “to place in a special way”, as in the arrangement of steps, or the flow from one asana to the next. This flow sequence is coordinated by the breath, from an inhale to an exhale.

Vinyasa Flow practice is more intensive than Hatha:

  • More challenging poses, focusing on strengthening all parts of the body
  • Poses and sequences are variable, depending on the creativity of the teacher
  • Classes can have different themes, and so, no Vinyasa class is the same!
Burlington Physio demonstrating a step by step vinyasa chaturanga flow sequence for an educational blogpost on different styles of yoga
A typical Vinyasa Flow from Chaturanga to Down Dog

Therefore, great for those seeking a challenge, faster-pace, more variability, and wish to focus on strength!

3. Bikram Yoga

Developed by Bikram Choudhury in the 1970s, Bikram Yoga is a very specific practice that takes its poses from traditional hatha techniques:

  • Always 90 minute sessions
  • Always the same sequence of 26 poses
  • Always two breathing exercises
  • In a heated room of about 40C (or 105F)
  • In a carpeted room, with mirrors, and brighter lights

Bikram Yoga is meant to be more intensive:

  • Focuses on strength, flexibility, and aerobic practice
  • Does not usually adjust for the practitioner
Mississauga physio showing an eagle yoga pose, typically practised in hot yoga, and always part of bikram yoga, in an educational blog
Eagle Pose, one of the 26 asanas in Bikram Yoga

So, are Bikram and Hot Yoga the same thing?

Short answer, not quite.

Hot Yoga, is a derivative of Bikram Yoga, and as the name implies, it is also practised in a heated room:

  • Poses and sequences vary from the original Bikram Yoga to avoid trademark disputes and the controversies surrounding the founder
  • In a heated room of about 26-37C (or 80-100F)
  • Often in a dim, candlelit room with music playing
  • Adjusts for the practitioner’s needs

The heated room has several benefits:

  • Sweating a lot more, which is suggested to be good for both detoxification and calorie loss
  • Increased heart rate increases the aerobic challenge
  • The warmth loosens up the muscles and tissues, and is more comfortable for joint pain
stock photo of thermometer showing nearly 40 degrees Celsius, indicating how how hot yoga typically is
Hot Yoga is usually practised at above 30C

For either one, make sure you bring water and a towel!!!

Therefore, best for those who like the heat and prefer to break a sweat during their workout!

4. Restorative Yoga

Introduced in Part 5 of our Yoga Basics Series, Restorative Yoga as the name suggests, is meant to restore or rejuvenate:

  • Focuses on winding down after a long day, relaxing the mind, and calming the nervous system
  • Minimal number of poses during a class, usually 5-6
  • Poses can be modified to be easier and more relaxing
  • Supports such as blankets, bolsters, and yoga blocks are used so you can relax further
  • Resting in each position comfortably for approximately 5-10 minutes
  • No yoga experience needed
burlington physio showing a supported child's pose in an educational blog about restorative yoga
Supported Child’s Pose in Restorative Yoga

Therefore, great for anyone who is looking to reduce anxiety and improve their sleep quality, or for anyone recovering from an injury or illness!

5. Yin Yoga

Yin Yoga was established in the late 1980s, based on the ancient Taoist concepts of “yin” and “yang”. The idea being that we often need to complement the Yang in our lives with a bit more Yin.

Yang represents more the masculine, active, fast-paced, and energetic aspects of our lives. On the other hand, Yin represents more feminine, passive, slow-paced, and calm energy.

There is a misconception that Yin and Restorative Yoga are the same thing. While both:

  • focus on passive positions (rather than the “Yang” poses of the more active Yoga styles)
  • are slow-paced
  • appropriate for any level of experience
  • calm the mind and nervous system
  • cultivate an aspect of meditation by increasing inner awareness and focusing on the breath

Yin Yoga specifically:

  • Works to release the deep connective tissues with challenging and slightly uncomfortable prolonged stretch positions (whereas Restorative poses are entirely about comfort and relaxation)
  • Increases and maintains flexibility by helping release the fascia
  • Lubricates the joints by improving circulation
  • The poses work into the meridians (or energy flows) of the body as per traditional Chinese Medicine
  • May or may not use supports during class, depending on the teacher
Oakville physio demonstrating a butterfly pose stretch in yin yoga for an educational blog
Butterfly Pose in Yin Yoga

Therefore, great for anyone looking to improve flexibility, or balance out an already strong Yang practice, such as Vinyasa!

Bonus: Prenatal Yoga

Prenatal Yoga is adapted for pregnancy to avoid poses that would otherwise stress the joints. As long as your doctor has cleared you for physical activity during pregnancy, Prenatal Yoga is a great activity for expectant moms:

  • Usually focuses on pelvic floor and breathing exercises, meant to prepare for labour and delivery
  • Uses props (e.g. bolsters, blankets, wedges, yoga blocks)
  • The focus is more on stability rather than flexibility, as pregnancy hormones already loosen your ligaments, which can sometimes lead to joint pain
  • Gentle and relaxing, it may also help lower your blood pressure and stress, as well as help stabilize emotional ups and downs  

Ask your yoga teacher for modifications as you go through the changes of the different trimesters and your center of gravity continues to shift.

For example, you may need to take more breaks as you feel more tired during the first trimester. Focusing on Cat-Cow rather than Downward Facing Dog may be helpful when experiencing morning sickness.

As you get your energy back in the second trimester, it might be best to focus on strengthening.

Relaxation and breathing techniques might be more beneficial as you near the end of your pregnancy.

Pregnant woman on an exercise ball, prenatal exercise and therapy

If you are struggling with your Yoga practice, or recovering from an injury that is affecting your ability to engage in Yoga, we offer one-on-one Therapeutic Yoga sessions! Contact us for more information to find out how both our Physiotherapists and/or our Yoga Therapist can help!

Yoga Basics, Part 5: Restorative Poses

Welcome back to Yoga Basics! Today we will demonstrate five of the most common Restorative Poses.

What are Restorative Poses you may ask?

There are many reasons to practice yoga… Some seek a challenge, looking for a yoga practice that feels more like a workout. Others think of yoga as a way to maintain mobility and flexibility.

Restorative Practice is for everyone. Sometimes you need to unwind… not everything has to make you sweat!

Here is a check list to see if you would benefit from some Restorative Practice:

  • Do you wake up tired and groggy?
  • Do you have a hard time falling asleep?
  • Are you recovering from an injury?
  • Are you more stressed, or on edge, than usual?
  • Do you struggle with anxiety?
  • Do you find it hard to shut off your brain?
  • Are you struggling with concentration?
  • Do you find yourself constantly checking your smartphone throughout the day, even while at work?

Then maybe you should give Restorative Yoga a try!

A class is usually 5-6 poses, often supported by yoga blocks and bolsters, so that you can relax into each stretch for 5-10 minutes.

If trying these Restorative Poses for the first time, start with 3 minute holds. You can set a timer to go off and then slowly come out of each position to the next…

1. Sukhasana, Easy Sit Pose

While Restorative Yoga uses yoga blocks and bolsters to set up supports for most of the positions, you may not have all that at home. That’s okay. Blocks are meant to be smaller and more firm supports, while bolsters are larger, softer objects. You can use pillows and cushions in lieu of bolsters, and a mini step stool, or a big textbook, or a foam roller in lieu of a block.

  • Place a thickly folded blanket, or a horizontally-placed block, on the ground. Sit cross-legged on the floor, your sit bones on the support and your legs off of it.
  • Note: A higher support will be easier if you have issues with the knees, hips, or low back.
  • Place your hands on your knees, palms down.
  • Keep pelvis in a neutral position, so that your low back is not arched or slouched. (You may play around with some movement by arching your low back, opening up the chest, and gazing upward for a Seated Cow Pose. Then, slouching your whole spine and neck to bring chin down to chest for a Seated Cat Pose. Then, returning to a neutral pelvis position once again.)
  • Relax, close your eyes, and lengthen your breathing.
  • Depending on the length of time in this pose, it is good to alternate the cross of the legs.
Burlington Physio showing Easy Sit Yoga pose supported onto a block for Restorative yoga blog
Supported Easy Sit Pose

2. Balasana, Supported Child’s Pose

  • Position a bolster / pillow on an incline. Ideally, with two blocks: one midway underneath the bolster on its horizontal edge, and one underneath the far end of the bolster, on its vertical edge. If you cannot achieve a perfect incline, that’s okay.
  • Sit back on your calves in front of the lower end of the bolster. Your knees should be on either side of the bolster.
  • Then, lay your body onto the bolster, arms on the floor and palms down, relaxing. Your head will be turned to one side for half the time, and the other side for the other half. If you have neck pain turning to one side, then stay on the other side only.
Burlington Physio showing a supported child's pose using a bolster and blanket for Restorative Yoga Blog
Supported Child’s Pose
  • Note: if sitting back on your calves bothers your knees, you can substitute with Supported Wide-Legged Forward Fold Pose. Using the same support and your torso laid on top, have your legs extended out on each side of the bolster, the width between them based your comfort.

3. Matsyasana, Supported Fish Pose

  • While sitting with legs extended out in front of you, place a bolster or a long pillow behind you, touching your lower back. (Alternatively, you can use one vertical and one horizontal block as shown in the picture!)
  • Then, lay back your head and torso onto the bolster, your arms spread outward and palms facing up.
Oakville physiotherapist showing a supported fish pose, using yoga blocks, for a restorative yoga session
Supported Fish Pose

4. Supta Baddha Konasana, Supported Reclining Bound Angle Pose

You can try this one with some, all, or none of the supports, based on what is most comfortable for you!

  • Use the same bolster set-up as with Child’s Pose, but create a steeper incline if able.
  • Sit with your low back to the lower end of the bolster. Then bend knees and bring the soles of the feet to touch, as the knees drop down on either side of you.
  • Lay back your head and torso onto the inclined bolster behind you.
  • You can place your left hand over your heart and the right just under the ribcage, or have the arms stretched out on the ground on either side of you, palms up.
Oakville physio showing a supported reclining bound angle pose using yoga blocks and a pillow, for a Restorative Yoga Blog
Supported Reclining Bound Angle Pose

Note: If you have knee or groin pain, you can place blocks / bolsters underneath each knee so you are not overstretching and feel supported. Alternatively, when you initially bend your knees, do not bring the soles of the feet together or drop the knees to the sides. Instead, place a bolster directly underneath the knees and allow them them to comfortably rest on top.

5. Jathara Parivartanasana, Master Revolved Abdomen Pose

Most commonly known as Supine Twist (or Supine Spinal Twist Pose), you can either perform it with both legs at the same time, or one leg straight while the other goes over it.

  • Variation 1: lie on your back with knees bent and feet on ground.
  • On an inhale, spread out the arms at shoulder height and lay them on the ground, palms up.
  • On an exhale, drop the bent knees to the tight side so that the right outer knee is on the ground (and approximately level with the pelvis), and the left knee and hip are stacked directly over the right.
  • Ground down the left arm and shoulder blade as a counterbalance.
  • Revolve your abdomen back so that it is facing upward as much as possible.
  • Hold position for 2-3 minutes, then slowly return to start position, and repeat the same for the other side.
Mississauga physio showing a master revolved abdomen yoga pose, AKA supine twist stretch, for a restorative yoga blog
Supine Spine Twist Pose
  • Variation 2: lie on your back with both legs straight. Bring left knee to your chest.
  • On an inhale, spread out the arms at shoulder height and lay them on the ground, palms up.
  • On an exhale, bring left knee over the right thigh and toward the ground. The left knee will be approximately level with the right hip and the left foot will also be on the ground, approximately level with the right knee. You can use your right arm to hold down on the left outer thigh and keep the leg in place, controlling the amount of stretch.
  • Ground down the left arm and shoulder blade as a counterbalance.
  • Hold position for 2-3 minutes, then slowly return to start position, and repeat the same for the other side.
Supine Spine Twist Pose Variation

Bonus pose: Viparita Karani, Legs-Up-To-The-Wall Pose

This pose is referred to as a “restorative inversion.” It is great for venous drainage and improving circulation, especially for swelling in the feet. Additionally, the position stretches the hamstrings, relaxes the pelvic floor, and may relieve some low back tension. Contrary to the name, it does not necessarily have to be done with legs against the wall.

  • Variation 1: Bring your mat or a blanket next to a wall at home. Then, getting close to the wall, lie on your back and place your feet onto the wall.
  • Scoot your hips as close to the wall as you are comfortable, then straighten out the knees, so that you for an “L” shape in this position.
  • You may place a cushion underneath your head or tailbone for increased comfort.
  • Spread your arms out about 45 degrees away from your body, palms up. Relax into the pose.
  • Note: if you are less flexible, use a lower cushion under the hips and tailbone and position yourself a bit further from the wall. If more flexible, you can use a higher cushion and get closer to the wall!
Burlington Physio showing Legs-up-to-the-wall yoga pose for restorative yoga session
Legs-up-to-the-wall Pose
  • Variation 2: Waterfall Pose is an alternative position of Legs Up that does not require a wall!
  • Begin by laying down on your back with knees bent and feet on the ground.
  • Lift up the hips to slide a block (at its horizontal positioning) underneath the sacrum (the bony part just below the low back and just above the tailbone). You are now in a Supported Bridge Pose.
  • Bend one knee up toward you, then the other, with the block feeling like a comfortable support underneath.
  • Then, straighten out the knees so that the legs point up to the sky. If you have tight hamstrings, having the knees slightly bent to accommodate the tightness is okay.
  • Spread your arms out about 45 degrees away from your body, palms up.
  • Relax your breathing and enjoy the feeling the legs elevated!
Burlington physio showing a waterfall yoga pose using yoga block supports for a Restorative yoga educational blog
Waterfall Pose
  • Note: if preferred, you can even stay in a Supported Bridge position, with the block underneath the sacrum, the knees bent, and the feet still on the ground (hips and knees hip-width apart)!
Oakville Physio showing a supported bridge post, using a yoga block, for a Restorative Yoga session at home
Supported Bridge Pose

Congratulations! You have completed a session of Restorative Yoga! Practice for a few weeks to reap the benefits, expanding the 3 minute holds to 5-10 minutes, and modifying your supports as needed. Remember, it’s not about perfection but rather what feels like a comfortable and restful position for you.

If you are having difficulty with these poses, or they are aggravating a pre-existing pain, let us know so we can help!

Yoga Basics, Part 4: Core Strength

Welcome back to the Yoga Series!

This series for anyone who is a beginner at yoga and would like to learn more about the individual poses so they can build the foundation for their practice…

Today we will talk about yoga poses that focus on building your core strength (check out Part 2 for some Common Poses that are used as starters in today’s post). If you are new to yoga and thought it’s all about stretching, guess again!

These core poses will definitely challenge you, but that’s okay! You don’t have to be super flexible and you don’t have to be super strong to start because it’s through a regular practice that you improve 😊

1. Dandayamana Bharmanasana, Balancing Table Pose

Balancing Table Pose, also dubbed the Bird-Dog, works your core, glutes, and back stabilizer muscles.

  • Start in Table Top, hands under shoulders and knees under hips (and placed hip-width apart)
Mississauga Physio showing four-point or table-top yoga pose.
Table-Top Pose
  • The whole spine is parallel to the ground, head is in line with the body, and the gaze is toward the ground as well
  • Gently pull belly-button in 2 inches toward the spine
  • Then, on an inhale, reach one arm forward so that it is parallel with the ground
  • Then, without arching the low back or tilting the pelvis, straighten out the opposite leg so that it is parallel to the ground and in line with the torso
Mississauga Physio showing bird-dog yoga pose
Bird-Dog Pose

Hold position for 5 breaths, continuing to pull the belly-button inward. Then, slowly lower arm and leg down while keeping the whole torso in a neutral position. Repeat on opposite side. If you find having both arm and leg up is too challenging for the balance, perform only with the arm, or only with the leg, alternating between both sides.

2. Kumbhakasana (AKA Phalakasana), High Plank Pose

High plank is a great core exercise but it does put a lot of weight-bearing through the wrists and shoulders. If this is uncomfortable, try it on your forearms instead (Dolphin Plank). In Dolphin Plank, keep the elbows under the shoulders. You also have the option of either a straight torso, or hips higher in the air to make holding the pose easier.

  • Start in Downward Facing Dog (described in Part 2!) and on an inhale, lower your hips as you shift your torso forward
Burlington Physio showing downward facing dog yoga pose.
Downward Facing Dog Pose
  • In this way, your arms should become perpendicular to the ground and your shoulders position directly over your wrists
  • If needed, you can slide the toes farther back
  • Your whole spine should make a straight line and turn your gaze toward the floor, without letting the head hang down
  • Gently pull the belly button in 2 inches toward the spine in order to engage the core
  • If feeling wrist discomfort, press more into thumbs and index fingers
Burlington physio showing a high plank yoga pose
High Plank Pose

Hold position for 30 seconds, or 5 breaths. Then, bring knees down to come into Table Top to rest. Repeat 3-5 times.

3. Phalakasana (variation of), Knee-to-Elbow Plank Pose

This pose is a more advanced variation of the plank and can flow as a sequence from the Three-Legged-Downward-Facing-Dog (AKA One-Legged-Downward-Facing-Dog), or can simply be done from a High Plank position. We will describe the flow sequence in order to challenge your balance further and begin to get you more comfortable with the flow of regular practice.

  • Start in Downward Facing Dog and then extend the right leg up into the air, foot flexed so that the heel points toward the wall behind you
  • Keep the pelvis square to the floor, do not let it twist or dip with the leg raise
  • As you are now on “three legs” now (Three-Legged-Downward-Facing-Dog), your balance will be challenged by the asymmetry of the pose
Burlington physio showing a three-legged downward facing dog yoga pose
Three-Legged Downward Facing Dog Pose
  • From here, on inhale, shift torso forward as you lower the pelvis and bring the right knee toward the right elbow
  • Pull belly button in two inches toward the spine to engage the core and stay in this position for 1-3 breaths
Burlington physio showing a knee-to-elbow plank yoga pose for core strengthening
Knee-to-elbow Plank Pose
  • On an exhale, return to Three-Legged-Downward-Facing-Dog
  • Lower right leg down, and repeat with left

For further challenge, bring knee to opposite elbow, thereby adding a twist to the Knee-to-Elbow Plank.

4. Vasisthasana, Side Plank Pose

Side Planks are a great core exercise that works your balance and concentration. Additionally, they are a weight-bearing exercise that strengthens wrists, forearms, and shoulders. If you have wrist or shoulder pain, or find the straight arm position too challenging, try this position on your forearm instead!

  • Start in either High Plank or Dolphin Plank (forearm plank)
  • Twist your lower body (pelvis and legs) to face to the left, and place left foot on top of right (or in a staggered position, just in front of it)
  • Putting your body weight through the right arm, slowly turn the torso to face to the left as well, extending the left arm up toward the ceiling. If extending the arm to the ceiling is too challenging, your can place it on your left hip instead.
  • Pull belly button in two inches toward your spine to engage the core
  • Make sure your hips are stacked one on top of the other; your body should form one straight line from the feet all the way to the crown of your head
  • If you started from High Plank, the supporting hand should not be directly under the shoulder but slightly in front of it. Press through the base of your thumb and index finger.
Burlington physio showing high side plank yoga pose for core strengthening
High Side Plank Pose
  • If you started from Dolphin Plank, the forearm should be adjusted to be perpendicular to the body
  • Keep your head neutral and gaze forward, or if able turn to look up toward the left hand as it reaches for the ceiling
Mississauga Physio showing low side plank (on forearm) yoga pose for core strengthening
Low Side Plank Pose

Hold position for 10 seconds while continuing to engage the core and take gentle breaths. When ready, return to High Plank (or even Table Top) to rest. Repeat 3 repetitions on each side.

5. Paripurna Navasana, Boat Pose

This pose works both your abs and hip flexors!

  • Begin seated with legs straight out in front of you
  • Place hands on the floor slightly behind the hips and press down
  • Lean torso slightly back, keeping chest open and low back straight
  • You should now be sitting more on the sit bones and tailbone area
  • On an exhale, bend the knees and then lift the feet off the ground
  • Gently pull the belly button in 2 inches toward the spine to engage the core and keep the low back straight
  • If able, straighten out the knees. In this way, you’re creating a V shape with your body! If not able, keep knees bent and shins parallel with the ground.
  • Lift arms in front of you so that they are alongside the legs and parallel to the ground. If not able, keep the hands on the floor, or lightly hold on to the backs of the thighs for stability.
Mississauga Physio showing half boat yoga pose with calves parallel to the ground, for core strengthening
Boat Pose

Hold position for 10-15 seconds, gently breathing throughout that time. Repeat 3-5x. Gradually increase the hold time as per your tolerance. Always keep the low back straight!

Bonus Sequence:

It’s time for another flow sequence! The main challenge here is the Chaturanga Dandasana, (Four-Limbed Staff Pose).

  • Start from Downward-Facing-Dog
  • On an inhale, shift forward to High Plank and pull the belly button in 2 inches toward the spine
  • On an exhale, slowly lower your body to a few inches above the ground by bending your elbows to 90 degrees (or as close as you are able)
  • Try to keep your body as parallel to the ground as possible. Aim to have your upper arms in line with your torso and your forearms perpendicular to the ground.
Oakville physio showing chaturanga, or four-limbed staff yoga pose for core strength.
Chaturanga, or Four-Limbed Staff Pose
  • On an inhale, straighten out the arms again as you lift up the chest and gaze toward the sky. Going into Upward-Facing-Dog, stay propped up on your toes, knees + thighs + pelvis still hovering above the ground. If this is too challenging, go into Cobra Pose instead (knees + thighs + pelvis can all rest on the ground).
Oakville physio showing upward facing dog yoga pose.
Upward Facing Dog Pose
  • On an exhale, engage the core and pull your hips up toward the sky to return to Downward-Facing-Dog

Congratulations, you have completed the bonus challenge! If you struggled with any of the above positions, that is okay. Start wherever you are able and gradually progress from there!

If you are experiencing pain or difficulty with range of motion while attempting these poses, or have specific goals you are working toward, or would just like some more guidance with your practice, let us know!

What Does Self-Care Look Like During Isolation…

Ever since social distancing has been enacted to prevent the spread of COVID-19, our Palermo team has been adapting to the “new normal” along with everybody else…

Everything we post is also our own way of coping 😊 Whether it’s making sure we keep moving, setting up our own workstations from home in order to begin Telehealth, prioritizing our sleep and stress management, meditating to ease our own stress and anxiety, or delving into other interests, such as yoga or gardening or writing or crafts!

There are things within and things outside of our control, so we are focusing on what we can control and accepting what we cannot.

That is, accepting the situation for what it is (and seeing the opportunities that may inadvertently have opened up as a result)

                                                → so we can move forward with life.

Part of that is establishing a “new normal” routine. Humans are creatures of habit and do well with a well-established routine (even if it needs shaking up once in a while). You may have already found your new routine amidst self-isolation and that’s great!

A question to ask yourself is whether or not this routine is incorporating stress-management and self-care so that you emerge from quarantine happy, healthy, and thriving?

For a lot of people this is a unique opportunity to start integrating more self-care into their lives precisely because while we are adapting to a new normal, our routine is already in a state of change and more flexible. Plus, for some there is a lot more free time!

What is self-care?

The official definition of self-care is: “the practice of taking action to preserve or improve one’s own health.” Specifically, “taking an active role in protecting one’s own well-being and happiness, in particular during periods of stress.”

This will look different from one person to another. We have different interests, different stressors, different jobs and schedules… there is no one-size-fits-all.

Self-care is something that refuels rather than drains you. It is something you enjoy doing, rather than something you feel you should do.

For example, you know exercise is good for you and you know you “should” exercise, but every minute spent on that stationary bike is torture! Every time you force yourself to do it, it’s a struggle.

Tennis player doing mobility exercises from a Oakville Physio clinic

Sure, sometimes we also procrastinate on doing the things we enjoy either because we don’t think they are a productive use of our time, or because we are too focused on the outcome rather than the process. But if you don’t even enjoy the process, then that particular thing is not refueling you.

Isn’t self-care selfish?

Short answer, no.

Long answer? Ever heard of the expression, “you can’t pour from an empty cup?”

All the human beings you take care of have emotional, mental, and physical needs. So do you.

If you’re always busy tending to theirs and never to yours, you become fatigued, unhappy, resentful. You are less present in their joy and accomplishments because your mind is running a mile a minute thinking of everything else that needs to get done.

But the problem is, that list will never end. So waiting until you “have” more free time is pointless. The moments with your family and friends are now, not tomorrow or next summer or next year.

The thing about time is you don’t “find” it or “create” it – you “prioritize” it. Yes, that means some other things have to fall off the list, or take a backseat. And that’s okay. Sometimes that priority list has to be reshuffled throughout different times of the year, and that’s okay too.

One of those things to prioritize is your self-care. When you come from a happier, healthier and more energized place, your actions carry more impact. You accomplish more and the people around you feel that you are happy, healthy, and energized. Mood is transmissible. Ever notice how when someone snaps at you because they’re in a bad mood, your good mood drains away and you snap back? And what’s an easy way to be in a bad mood? Feeling fatigued, unhappy, resentful.

Enter self-care!

So what does self-care look like?

Woman in a reclined butterfly restorative yoga poseat oakville physiotherapy clinic
  • Determine what you need. What would self-care look like for you? What do you enjoy doing? What do you find relaxing? What do you find helps you feel happy, healthy, or energized? It can be taking a long bath, going for a walk or a run, knitting, gardening, reading, meeting up (virtually) with certain friends, etc.
  • How will this look? Is 1x week enough? Or 1x day? For how long? Is it going to work better in the morning or the evening?
  • Self-care has to be planned. If you are to prioritize that time for yourself, you have to plan ahead and then protect that time when other things sneak up to say they’re important (“Oh, I need a ride.” “Oh, are you available at this time for a meeting?”). Work, family, and even friends will always have requests. Depending on the urgency of those requests, sometimes you have to reschedule. But when you plan ahead, unless something is an emergency, it would have also been planned ahead. At first, others may be annoyed with you saying “I am not available right now” but it’s because they’re not used to it! Give them time to adjust by letting them know in advance when you’re not available and then enforcing your protected time for yourself.
  • Make sure you are also addressing other factors: enough sleep (and no, catching up on your sleep on weekends doesn’t count), a healthy diet, some form of exercise or movement (let it be something you actually enjoy!), and looking after your health (is there something you’ve been ignoring?)

Need ideas?

  • Nutrition: make it a goal that you get at least thee servings of fruits & vegetables throughout the day and drink at least two full glasses of water. Look up a new recipe to try 1x week, bonus points if it is plant-based!
  • Sleep: the average adult needs 7-9 hours of sleep. Do you feel refreshed enough not to have to hit snooze in the morning after 7 hours? Great. If not, then maybe experiment by going to bed half an hour earlier or waking up half an hour later.
  • Movement: commit to a daily walk. Or a twenty-minute yoga practice in the morning before you start your day. Or doing your favourite exercise video three times per week.
  • Nature: It has been shown that nature has a calming and even therapeutic effect. If a daily walk outside near greenery is not always feasible, then commit to getting at least some fresh air daily. Set a timer and sit on your balcony or in your backyard for 10-15 minutes.
  • Relaxation: there are many different forms of meditation. There are breathing exercises. Journaling can also be a great tool. Or as mentioned above, even sitting in nature.
Meditating in nature, relaxation and stress-management strategies at Oakville Physiotherapy Clinic.
  • Social connection: depending on your situation right now, this may not be easy. Maybe you are self-isolating alone. Maybe the people you live with are sometimes your biggest stressors. Maybe there are people you miss but cannot see right now. If you are alone, consider a daily phone-call with a friend or loved one, or a virtual hangout every Friday night for 1-2 hours. Maybe make every Saturday afternoon an activity day for the whole family. Make sure these are interactive rather than something like a movie night when no one is talking.
  • Try a new hobby: something you’ve always been curious about but never had a time to try. Start small with no expectations of outcomes. It’s not about how good you get at it; it’s about enjoying it. It can be learning a language or an instrument. It can be drawing or crafting. Even if it’s one hour a week! Yes, finances may be tight right now and most businesses closed. But the internet has so much free content!

Tip: Don’t try too many things at once. Even one or two at a time is enough. Often, trying to add several things to our routine becomes stressful to integrate and balance. Just like everything else in life, it takes practice and tweaking until you find what works best for you. And remember, self-care is a routine, not a treat a few times per year!

In the meantime, if you are experiencing pain or have had an injury for a while that has been sitting on the backburner, let us know how we can help. Virtual sessions are now available! Most private insurance (benefits) companies now cover theses types of sessions.

shows woman receiving Telehealth / tele rehabilitation in Milton, Oakville, Burlington Ontario for pain.

Restore this Friday!

Take a long exhale! You’ve survived the first week of September (hopefully).

This is a time of year when there is a spike in colds and other illnesses. These are from back to school germs and the season changing, but did you know stress also has a role in our immune system?

This Friday (September 13th) join us for a Restore and essential oils session with our Oakville Yoga Therapist Ashley.

What is Restorative Yoga?

When you think of yoga you may have images of people bending into odd shapes, or sweating through a flow class. If you’re using yoga as a recovery technique or a way to clam your nervous system, then restorative yoga would be amazing!

Restorative yoga includes poses and postures that are generally supportive. This means laying on yoga pillows / bolsters and blankets and being supported by these props. It is generally not stretching or moving. Your instructor will help ensure the positions are most comfortable for you using the props.

Poses may be held for longer periods of time also (between 3-10 minutes). Your Yoga therapist / instructor will assist you in some guided meditations and use essential oils to enhance the experience.

Questions? Please email us at or contact us at (905)-582-9700.

The date of our next session is Friday September 13th, 2019 from 6:30pm to 8:00pm. The investment is $30.

Netflix Review – Your World Explained, “Music” – From an Oakville Physio

It’s hard for anyone to shut off their brain to what our education disposes us towards. For a Physiotherapist this may mean:

  • Analyzing how people walk with curiosity (don’t worry, we don’t judge, we usually just wonder how we can help)
  • Watching sports net playbacks for a slow motion shot on an injury so we can predict the severity of the injury, what a potential diagnosis may be, an if we should consider dropping that player from our MLB or NBA fantasy league
  • Watching Netflix documentaries or docuseries or TED talks with the lens of a Physiotherapist.
Oakville rehab clinic with Physiotherapists, massage Therapists, chiropodist

In this blog I’ll give you a play by play on key points that would be of interest from a Physiotherapist perspective during watching the first episode of the Netflix series Explained called “Music”.

In the introduction, they set the tone in discussing the importance of music in our lives. One area where music has been found to affect human beings is the beats per minute rhythm. Simply, listening to faster music makes us move a little faster! They go on to mention briefly the impact music has on a person with movement disorders such as Parkinson’s disease move more fluidly.

What is Parkinson’s Disease?

Parkinson’s Disease (PD) is a complex neurodegenerative disease that affects every person differently. A highly visible person who was diagnosed with early onset PD is Michael J. Fox.

Conscious movement in the body begins in the brain. It is controlled by dopamine, a neurotransmitter (chemical) that carries signals between the brain and the nerves. PD symptoms appear when the cells that produce dopamine die.

Parkinson’s can progress at a different rate for each individual. The combination of symptoms also vary by person. A neurologist would be the lead in the care, but Physiotherapists, Occupational Therapists and Speech Language Pathologists are all helpful members of the health care team depending on how symptoms progress.

older man doing yoga at Palermo Physio in oakville
More common symptoms of Parkinson’s include:
  • Tremor
  • Slowness and stiffness – can be helped with a Physiotherapist’s and Massage Therapists hands on-treatment as well as prescribed exercises (as can the below)
  • Decreased balance
  • Muscle rigidity
  • Constipation, which is a less common symptom can be assisted with exercise as well as a Pelvic Health Physiotherapist.

You can read more about PD from Parkinson’s Canada.

In the Netflix Docuseries Your World Explained they initially say that music an help with PD symptoms. For someone who has slower movements and difficulty initiating actions the steady beat of music can hep speed up a movement pattern and steady it.

The brainstem and cerebellum help us to create the rhythmical patterns that help us walk. This is the ancient “reptilian brain”. Our heart rate at rest should be between 60 and 80 beats per minute (BPM) but can increase with faster music.

I know our speech language pathologist and audiology friends at Chorus would also find it interesting. This is both from the sense of when sound turns into music, and the frequency of sound, to the use of music in things like voice and speech therapy. This is shown in the rehabilitation of Gabby Gifford.

Slacklining picture to show oakville and burlington physio and yoga clinic

We often use music in Massage Therapy, Physiotherapy, and Yoga Therapy sessions to help facilitate relaxation. This is the transition from the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) to the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest).

A huge take home from this episode is the brains ability to learn and adapt. Neuroplasticity is still being understood, but it is essentially the brains ability to retrain other parts of the brain to take over for damaged part of the brain. As in with many things, early and intensive intervention is important. The fact that humans are able to heal, progress, adapt is remarkable and shouldn’t be discounted, everyone moves at their own pace.

Stairs - showing oakville RMT

Welcome Yoga Instructor Kery to the Palermo Physio Team!

We are pleased to announce Yoga Therapist, Kery Madison has joined our team!

She will be teaching private lessons from 9am-2pm on Saturday, November 3rd and Saturday, November 24th. As well as every Saturday in December, with group classes to come in 2019!

Woman doing Yoga - yoga Therapy or private yoga at Palermo Physio clinic

Kery completed her Yoga Teachers training at London Ontario’s Lotus Centre in December 2005. This was a 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training program focusing on Hatha Yoga and Mindfulness Meditation. She has taught in many venues and as a private instructor in Toronto, London, Halifax and Australia.

She recently has enrolled in the Yin Yoga Teacher Training with Erin Aquin of the De La Sol Yoga Studio in Hamilton where she is learning Yin philosophy and how to make yoga more accessible for those with different physical needs. 

Helping hands from Oakville Physio, massage, yoga, yoga therapy, foot clinic

She is a graduate of the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design with a BFA. While there she learned that while a final goal is important, perhaps even more important are the many paths and experiences to get there.

Kery is a currently completing her thesis work at the Toronto Art Therapy Institute to complete her studies as a Certified Art Therapist / Psychotherapist. 

Mindfulness practice and meditation have been centric in both her Art Therapy and yoga practices which she enjoys sharing with others. Yoga therapist Kery brings a wealth of world experiences which she incorporates into her class in group and one-on-one sessions. 

Very believes in the importance of adapting and modifying yoga poses (Krama’s) in order to make yoga more accessible to all.

Oakville Yoga Therapy, massage, chiropodist, physio

Yoga is something that can assist with pain, stress, recovery, flexibility, balance and strength when applied well and individually. Individual yoga sessions can help prepare an individual to progress into a group setting with confidence of modifying poses for themselves through the use of kramas and props, and in choosing an appropriate class

If you wish to learn more about how the services of  Yoga Therapy, and Kery can help you, please email the clinic at or call (905)582-9700.

What is Yoga Therapy?

We’ve all seen photos in magazines and social media of perfect looking yoga poses done by super bendy people. While that is yoga for some, it is not what yoga looks like for everyone. Everyone has a different body, different sizes, different joint shapes, different limb lengths, different abilities.

The experience of Yoga is different for everyone.

Yoga Therapy is often one on one, yoga in a private setting. In our Oakville space Yoga Therapy is usually in a private room. How the Yoga Therapy session is structured is dependent on the goals of the person. The Yoga Therapist will guide you through movements, stretches and breathing exercises.

Woman doing Yoga - yoga Therapy or private yoga at Palermo Physio clinic
Yoga can be for Everyone!

The combination of movements and exercises can be geared more towards relaxation and mindfulness, strength, balance or mobility. The beauty of it is that your yoga therapist tailors each session towards the individual and their needs.

older man doing yoga at Palermo Physio in oakville
Yoga can be for Everyone!

Joining a large group class can be intimidating and not appropriate for some. Guidance in movements and yoga practice is important for the novice. A Yoga Therapist will show you best use of props and supports and modifications for yoga movements that are appropriate for YOU. Your Yoga Therapist similar to a Physiotherapist will provide you a small (or larger) program for home. The goal is to guide you through progressions and assist you in a practice that can help benefit you everyday life.

If you have any questions regarding Yoga Therapy (or private yoga) sessions, please contact us at or call (905) 582-9700

Wood Yoga Blocks showing Oakville yoga Therapy

Private Yoga Therapy – Oakville

We strongly believe that Yoga can benefit everyone!

The Asana or poses of yoga are incredibly diverse.  The poses are just one branch of yoga. Their purpose is to prepare the body to sit and meditate more comfortably. This makes sense from a movement perspective. It also makes sense from a concentration perspective.

We can focus more readily after we move. 

It’s a win, win, win.

Move, focus, and the reap the benefits of a calmed mind!

It can be intimidating entering into a new activity. There are many questions. What class should I take, what are these props, will any old injuries be affected?

Wood Yoga Blocks showing Oakville yoga Therapy

You will benefit from private Yoga Therapy if you:
  • Have limited experience with physical activity
  • Are recovering from an injury
  • Have experienced injuries in the past
  • Are recovering from a stroke
  • Have Parkinson’s disease
  • Have scoliosis
  • Have Ankylosing Spondylitis
  • Have anxiety
  • Have issues with balance
  • Are self conscious going into a class setting initially
  • Want a one on one focus to work on form a modifications of poses that work for you

older man doing yoga at Palermo Physio in oakville


If you are interested in learning more about Yoga Therapy and packages for numerous sessions please call us at our Oakville Physiotherapy and Wellness Clinic at (905) 582-9700.

Oakville Yoga Therapy, massage, chiropodist, physio