April 1, 2014

Yoga Expertise Combined With Osteopathy—A Different Approach to Yoga & Health. ~ Gabriel Shpilt {Interview}

Dana Smith and Nicole Cluett

Two years ago, yoga teachers and good friends Dana Smith and Nicole Cluett decided to study osteopathic manual practice together.

They chose London College of Osteopathy (LCO), a school that specializes in concise and flexible learning options for yoga professionals leading to a Diploma in Osteopathic Manual Practice (DOMP). After graduating from LCO, they opened Mind, Matter and Motion, a clinic in Waterloo, Ontario that offers traditional Hatha Yoga classes as well as osteopathic manual treatment to combat a number of common health conditions. Their hard work paid off and these days Dana and Nicole enjoy the rewards of owning a thriving clinic. In this interview, Dana explains how she and Nicole got the idea to complement their yoga knowledge with Osteopathy as well as some of the joys and challenges they have faced in building their own unique practice.

How do you describe Osteopathy?

Osteopathy is bringing the body back into balance. Through manipulation of the musculoskeletal structure, the body is given its opportunity to heal. The body possesses an inherent self-healing ability. Osteopathy allows that healing to occur. The manual manipulation is always gentle and safe. We work with all aspects of the body: soft tissue, ligaments, muscles, joints and viscera.

You are both yoga teachers. What experiences brought you into the field of Osteopathy?

Both Nicole and I had sought out yoga for different reasons and both of us found answers and, more than that, opportunities to help people. Throughout the yoga teacher-training course we were shocked at the amount of anatomy that was taught and required to be a safe and effective yoga teacher. Earlier in life, I had been to an osteopath for a series of fainting spells that he successfully cured. I remembered his treatments while doing the yoga teacher training and it became quiet clear that these two forms of therapy complemented each other in many ways.

What are the most common medical conditions you treat at Mind, Matter and Motion?

Our client base is diverse. It’s difficult to pick the most common ailment, but if I had to I would say headaches, shoulder/neck pain and lower back problems, whether they are caused by sciatica or just posture. So many people work behind desks or drive a fair amount in the day, postures that leads to a great deal of aches and pains. These would be our most common.

What sorts of conditions or injuries do you specialize in at Mind, Matter and Motion?

Nicole has taken to Biomechanics more then I have. She works with most of our sport injuries or movement based health problems such as Tennis elbow, vertebra misalignment, knee and ankle pain. I’ve gravitated towards visceral: digestion issues, more internal pains and dysfunction and cranio-sacral. I work a lot with headaches and sleep pattern issues.

How do you incorporate yoga into your work as an osteopath?

A lot of clients get homework! Many times as I’m treating someone I become aware of a yoga posture (or two) that will help to lengthen, stretch out, release or strengthen a muscle or area of the body that needs some help. Additionally, we have several different types of yoga classes (for example, Yoga for Office Workers). Depending on what the client is experiencing, we may recommend a particular class that would be sequenced to best assist their body type or posture.

How does your knowledge as Osteopaths influence your yoga instruction?

I think it makes us safe teachers. I would feel awful if I heard that one of my yogis was injured in my studio. We have some tricks other yoga teachers might not have: ways to protect the spinal vertebrae and ligaments from becoming twisted in a pose. Or modifications to poses. Not every yoga pose is ok for everyone’s body. We are very aware of that, able to recognize it and provide more suitable movements. The body is fascinating and we are always learning from our clients, both as Osteopaths as well as yoga teachers.

What is the most rewarding part of having incorporated Osteopathy to your yoga studio?

Seeing the improvements in movement. So many of our clients arrive with limited range of motion or pain in certain postures. It’s always so rewarding to see the movements change. The look on our clients’ faces when a motion that caused such an issue just six weeks earlier, no longer does. It’s like watching a light bulb turn on that screams this works!

Having the two combined in one facility has been an amazing experience. Not only can we see in the yoga room what Osteopathy has done for our clients (greater range of motion, less pain in movement), but also we see what each individual needs to focus on. The work can occur in the Osteopathy treatment room or in the yoga studio.

What subjects are essential for yoga teachers to study in order to become knowledgeable osteopaths?

Anatomy and Biomechanics: which muscles play off of each other and how. It is important to know what is being engaged and strengthened in different postures as well as how it is affecting or playing off the other joints and/or ligaments.

Where did you receive your training in Osteopathy?

Proudly, London College of Osteopathy (LCO).

How did the training you received at LCO, prepare you for opening your own clinic and treating patients?

It was a fantastic all-encompassing education. Not only did it prepare us for the treatment aspect, but also touched on the business aspect. Time was taken to answer our questions. Whether those questions were treatment based or about becoming a member of our governing body and working with insurance companies.

What is your advice to any healthcare practitioner who is looking to expand their practice into Osteopathic Manual Practice?

Get ready to be busy! A lot of people are looking for an Osteopath. We are rare to find and that makes it difficult for many to get an appointment in a reasonable time frame. Many clients call after a sleepless night. They wait until the pain is intolerable. Finding a way to work these ‘need to see you NOW’ clients into your schedule can be challenging.

Is there anything else you want to share about your work in both Osteopathy and Yoga at Mind, Matter and Motion?

It’s been a fantastic journey so far. I wake up every morning excited to come to work. There is so much truth in, “find something you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.” I didn’t understand that until I found this practice. There is always something to learn and someone new to meet. Every person you get to know lends to your experiences and your world. It’s exciting!

For more information on Mind, Matter and Motion, visit their website or contact Nicole and Dana at here


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Apprentice Editor: Celeste Shea/Editor: Rachel Nussbaum

Photo: courtesy of the author

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