Featured Teacher: Alison Aiken Physical Therapy & Yoga
It is a miracle that yoga teacher and physical therapist Alison Aiken became a PT. Sure she was a self-described science and math nerd in high school, she even wanted to be an engineer. But one day, completely out of the blue, she decided she wanted to become a physical therapist.
This was a pretty bold move for a seventeen-year-old who had never been injured and had never known a physical therapist or anyone who had ever been to one. It was one of the best decisions she has ever made.
As a kid in Connecticut, Alison was an athlete. And like many of us, when she got to college, she let that go in favor of her studies. “After my lazy college years [during which she excelled in her studies and got a degree in physical therapy at UVM], I decided to run again,” she says. But she could not even run a mile. Today she runs marathons and even 50K races.
I asked her how a person gets from the couch to 50K. Her answer surprised me. “Yoga,” she says. “And not asana, though I love it, you need to have focus. Meditation and breathing help me embrace my surroundings and get beyond the physical discomforts.” Running is her tapas of self-care. “I like to do well, but it is more important to be happy and have fun…Having a fun race is just as rewarding, if not more, than qualifying for the Boston Marathon.”
In her job, however, though it is fun, she cares more about being a great therapist. While she wants to see results, she wants the rehab process to be an adventure rather than torture. I asked her how she makes rehab an adventure. You might be able to guess her one-word answer: Yoga.
“Yoga is more fun than 20 bicep curls, so I try to integrate it into rehab. It’s an adventure rather than a repetition.” She elaborates to say that when her clients are more involved in their own healing, they experience greater success. “We [meaning all the physical therapists at Evolution] do not do a lot of passive treatment. It’s not like you’re waiting around for the construction guys to finish the remodel on your house.” Patients take an active role in their own healing.
As we closed, I asked her about her influences. She told me about her dogs, Oscar and Gladys. They lick her head as she practices yoga at home, but they also demonstrate the best use of asana. They stretch. Mid-nap they will get up, do down dog, then up dog, then plank, then they lay down again. They also do down dog and up dog before they go out. “They self-yoga. If we all did that, we’d be much better for it.” Alison and her dogs seem to agree that good health is a daily miracle we can control though participation.