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How Yoga Can Help People Recovering from COVID-19

Hi Everybody, Heidi here!  I’m writing to you today with my home health occupational therapist and yoga instructor hats on.  Before I went on maternity leave, I was starting to see more and more patients in their homes after discharging from a hospitalization due to COVID-19.  These patients were mostly middle-aged and had been generally healthy before they got sick.  The one thing they all had in common when I saw them?  Taking a deep breath was really, really hard.  They were also experiencing decreased stamina and energy needed to get through their day.

I immediately thought of my yoga background and the most effective yoga techniques I use every day, all day long.  Breathing practices (or pranayama).  Yogic breathing practices are tremendously beneficial for helping to regulate the nervous system, lower blood pressure, reduce anxiety, and so much more (10 Scientifically Proven Benefits of Pranayama (Yoga Breathing)).  

I began introducing yoga breathing and simple interventions (like a warrior series) into my sessions and my patients reported (anecdotally of course) that it was helping them!  I made it simple and provided written handouts so they could continue the practice everyday.   

Three yoga breathing practices I taught

Simple Warrior Series

  • Usually standing at the kitchen counter (for extra stability if needed), I taught Warrior I -> Warrior II -> Reverse Warrior
    • I made sure to focus on cueing the breath and creating visualizations for breathing into the extra space created in the ribs especially with the Reverse Warrior posture.
    • I followed the clients stamina level and introduced everything very slowly.  We were able to build on the practice each session.

Here are some considerations when introducing yoga-based interventions into rehabilitation.  Consider whether or not yoga will be a meaningful intervention for your client?  

Find out if they…

  • are currently practicing yoga
  • have expressed an interest in learning yoga
  • are receptive to a few introductory techniques you show them

This last point is important.  Most of the time, I will initially instruct a client in an introductory yoga intervention and not even call it yoga because I want them to experience the technique without being biased by it being called “yoga”.  I will typically teach diaphragmatic breathing or a counted breath (like box breathing) technique and then ask them how they felt after.  For people who have never done yoga, I find that it is really important for them to experience some components of it first hand to help them understand that yoga doesn’t have to mean sweating on a mat for 60 minutes twisted like a pretzel.  I find this to be even more important and effective for people who are really having challenges with their health and who have just come home from the hospital.  Many times they are so weak and so discombobulated that doing and explaining after is so much more effective.

In case you want to dig deeper in the research, here is an article published earlier this year in the International Journal of Yoga: Yoga for COVID-19

Have you been teaching yoga to people recovering from COVID-19? Please share in the comments below, we would love to hear from you!

*The instructions in this article are for educational purposes and are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of a physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen.

Featured

What is Occupational Therapy?

Chances are you may have never heard of occupational therapy.  Unless you have gone through rehabilitation after an injury or illness or know someone with different abilities who went through therapy growing up, occupational therapy is one of those specialized healthcare professions that is still gaining momentum in the mainstream conversation of society.

Nevertheless, ask an occupational therapy practitioner or student (or a consumer who has had experience with occupational therapy) and you are sure to hear about all of the wonderful roles that OT plays in healthcare and in society.  Many of these definitions are based on the personal and professional experiences of these advocates.

Occupational therapy is a vital healthcare profession because occupational therapy practitioners understand that learning what motivates people helps us understand how to help people live the most fulfilling version of their lives. 

Occupational therapy practitioners understand that participating in meaning activities and occupations is at the core of the human experience.  That is why therapeutic engagement in occupations is at the core of occupational therapy practice and is the distinct value of occupational therapy.  Occupational therapy is informed by occupational science, anatomy and physiology, kinesiology, anthropology, sociology, and more.

Occupational therapy practitioners understand that human beings are “doers” and that the meaning and purpose of life can often times be found in what people do; therefore, when people experience an accident/illness/injury that prevents “doing” the effects can be devastating.  Occupational therapy practitioners are trained to work with individuals to restore function and teach compensatory techniques to facilitate a person’s return to the highest level of independence to “do” for themselves once again in the person’s “new normal”.  In the case of children who are born with a disability, occupational therapy practitioners work with the child and family from the child’s birth to support the best quality of life, development, and functional abilities.

One of my favorite quotes to sum up occupational therapy came from Ginny Stoffel when she stated:

“Occupational therapy practitioners ask, “what matters to you” not, “what’s the matter with you?”” ~ Ginny Stoffel, AOTA Past President

The following definition is from the World Federation of Occupational Therapy:

Occupational therapy is a client-centered health profession concerned with promoting health and well being through occupation. The primary goal of occupational therapy is to enable people to participate in the activities of everyday life. Occupational therapists achieve this outcome by working with people and communities to enhance their ability to engage in the occupations they want to, need to, or are expected to do, or by modifying the occupation or the environment to better support their occupational engagement. (WFOT, 2012)

For more information, visit: the World Federation of Occupational Therapy website

Do Yoga Everyday: Create your home practice

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

“Consistency is key” ~ Unknown

Yoga can be a powerful practice to include into our daily lives. For me, following the yoga teachings of the yoga sutras by Patanjali has been life changing in my ability to manage anxiety and become a person who observes before reacting. I feel empowered to tackle bigger and bigger projects and to seek greater understanding of the life experiences I am presented with.

Yoga requires daily practice. Develop your sadhana today!

How to set yourself up for success in five steps:

  1. Dedicate a space for practice – this can be a place on the floor where you lay out a mat or a special cushion.
  2. Schedule the daily practice – start with a time commitment that you will be consistent with. This might literally be two minutes of practice. Maybe even one moment you pause during the day and take one, full, deep breath. Trust me, the more you spend time in your yoga practice, the more time you will want to spend in your yoga practice. Watch this TedTalk for great insights for habit change.
  3. Invest in yourself by acquiring the tools you want for your practice.
    • If you are going to be doing more physical poses (asanas) invest in a good mat, blocks, a strap, and a bolster or two.
    • If you are going to be doing mostly meditation, invest in a cushion and mala beads.
  4. Hold yourself accountable. Look forward to your daily practice or tell a friend or family member to check-in with you to make sure you follow through with your commitment.
  5. Set a goal or two. In rehab, we always set goals for our patients. Writing SMART goals can help you stay on track and motivated to keep up with your daily yoga practice. SMART stands for:
    • S = Specific
    • M = Measurable
    • A = Achievable
    • R = Realistic
    • T = Time-bound
    • Example = I will practice yoga for at least five minutes every morning before 8am for at least 5/7 days of the week.

All the best in your yoga adventures!

Namaste,

Heidi

Overcome Postpartum Wrist Pain with these Simple Tips to Improve Everyday Life

“A mother’s arms are more comforting than anyone else’s.”

Princess diana

Wrist pain after pregnancy doesn’t have to become a barrier to enjoying life with your new bundle of joy. While the cause is likely due to the extended time you now spend holding your baby and lugging around that car seat, there are some simple steps you can take to ease the pain and prevent any repetitive stress injury to the wrists.  

Repetitive stress injuries occur when someone repeats the same motion over and over, for example, holding the same position for long periods of time. More information from the Cleveland Clinic here.

The following protective techniques and preventative strategies may support well-being by promoting a reduction in pain.*  

Use larger muscle groups when carrying equipment. This simply means using the largest muscle group(s) to bear weight whenever possible.  For example, carry the car seat with the forearm instead of with the hand (which causes additional stress and possible inflammation of the tendons of the hand/forearm due to gripping something heavy tightly). [picture or physical example of what this looks like will help]

Ergonomics for Mothers and Caregivers. Ergonomics for mothering means completing our “work” as efficiently and safely as possible.  Specifically for addressing wrist pain, be sure to keep the wrists in a neutral position whenever possible (including when typing, driving, and using electronic devices).  When holding your baby, be sure to prop up the arms and baby on a pillow (such as a BoppyⓇ) for nursing and feeding.  Also when feeding a baby, it is important to support your body as well by sitting with the feet and back supported so that the muscles can stay relaxed.

Active range of motion and tendon glides. One of the most important and simple exercises we can do is to move both arms within a full active range of motion, this includes shoulder shrugs, arm circles, and tendon glides for the hand/fingers(see below).  These exercises can prevent tension from developing in the most used muscle groups and decrease the chance of developing tendonitis in the muscles of the forearm. 

A Note about Tendons ~ the movements of the hand are controlled by muscles that originate in the forearm.  The tendons of those muscles are located in the wrist, hand, and fingers/thumb.  Tendon glides help stretch and move the muscles through their full range of motion and can help tendons glide through the carpal tunnel.

Mindfulness. Go about your day completing your  daily activities with intention. Practicing mindfulness simply means to complete daily activities intentionally.  In the instance of postpartum wrist pain, mindfulness can help by reminding us to relax.  For example, throughout the day, be mindful about relaxing the shoulders and relaxing any tension in the body, specifically the tension we hold in the neck, shoulders, arms, and hands due to all of the lifting and carrying.  Keeping the muscles relaxed can assist with easing pain.  

Created by Heidi Carpenter, OTD, OTR/L © September 2020. Embody Occupational Therapy, LLC.

*This article is for educational purposes and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen.

Therapist Tool: Scoring Spreadsheets for the Sensory Profile-2 and the Sensory Processing Measure

At Embody OT, most of the focus is on mind-body modalities; however, I wanted to share this tool that was very helpful to me when I was working in outpatient pediatrics.

This is ONLY a scoring sheet for each version of the Sensory Profile-2 and the Sensory Processing Measure assessments. The purpose of this tool is to allow the scorer to enter the raw scores from the paper scoring sheet and then have the spreadsheet tally the scores with pre-filled formulas. The scores are automatically added up in an effort to eliminate the flipping of pages back and forth and to reduce the chance of copy errors.

Please click HERE to access the tool.

Enjoy!

The Embody OT Philosophy

The Embody OT Philosophy is built on the principle that establishing healthy habits is at the core of wellness.  The adage, “consistency is key” is so important when it comes to being healthy and managing chronic conditions.

The foundation of Embody OT is built on the three concepts of embody, empower, engage and make up the “Self-awareness, empowerment, and engagement” (SAEEM) Model. SAEEM depicts the transformation that occurs when behaviors change to support living well.  To embody signifies that a person acknowledges and becomes aware of who they are and accepts the body and mind they are living with.  Empowerment occurs when a person learns which healthy habits support their individual needs; “education is power” and learning how to manage the conditions we live with (as opposed to “control”) allows for transformation to begin.  When we “let go” of feeling the need to control, we replace the feeling of control with wisdom to know which areas of our life can change.  Finally, to engage in daily life utilizing new skills and practicing new habits supports the goal to “live life to the fullest”.

This model of “Embody, Empower, Engage” is built on many frameworks and theories most notable, the Transtheoretical Model of Change (TTM), Motivational Interviewing, and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).

Mind-Body Modalities (aka Mind-Body Interventions) are at the heart of Embody OT, these include meditation, tai chi, and yoga.

Where Can I Get a Shower Chair?!

Getting and finding the durable medical equipment (DME) can be a challenge… here is a PDF for the current equipment lending closets/programs in Southern Arizona.

I currently work in the home health setting with primarily older adults and many of our clients are in need of affordable options for durable medical equipment. Insurance companies, including Medicare (what Medicare covers), cover SOME equipment, but many times clients and their family members are left with the responsibility and task of figuring out what equipment the client needs and how to get it. Additionally, for insurance and Medicare to cover the equipment, the clients must meet very specific criteria and have a physician prescription (in most cases).

Anyway, I put together a list of the lending closets and programs in Southern Arizona which will hopefully benefit consumers and providers in the area. Enjoy!

*Disclaimer* The contents of this post are not a substitute for medical advice from your healthcare professional.

Meet Heidi

Heidi Carpenter, OTD, OTR/L, RYT®200, Pn1

Heidi Carpenter is a native of Arizona and grew up in Gilbert.  She completed a Bachelor of Science in Psychology at Northern Arizona University in 2009 and earned her Doctor of Occupational Therapy degree from Creighton University, in Omaha, Nebraska, December 2014.

Following graduation, she completed a year-long pediatric residency program with Creighton University where she received additional training in outpatient pediatric and school-based settings and was the lab assistant for the pediatric coursework for the entry-level OTD students.

Heidi moved back to Arizona in January 2016 and is currently working in home health.  Heidi founded Embody Occupational Therapy, LLC in March 2018 and has been steadily growing EmbodyOT ever since.  

Stay tuned because many exciting projects are underway at EmbodyOT!

Contact Heidi

Featured Certifications 

Board Certified Occupational Therapist

200 hour Registered Yoga Teacher

100 hour Certified Meditation Teacher

Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification

In Progress

Certified Brain Injury Specialist (anticipated completion late 2021)

Planned

Certified Kinesio Taping Practitioner (anticipated completion 2022)

AWCIM Integrative Health Coaching certification program 

Car Yoga

Recently, I had the privilege of sharing my passion for yoga with my colleagues and they asked if I would teach a class at work.  Of course I jumped on this opportunity and I wanted to tailor this class specifically for their needs…

Many of us in the home health world spend HOURS a day driving and this can REALLY take a toll on the body (and mind).  Therefore, I developed a self-practice guide with a yoga flow specifically designed to counteract the effects of prolonged driving.

Car Yoga Handout

Please let me know if you have any questions/comments/suggestions/concerns!

Namaste,

Heidi