Physical Therapy Meets Yoga to Create Mindful Movement
Aug 29, 2014 07:55AM
● By Lauressa Nelson
Lancaster native Jonina Turzi, a physical therapist and the owner of West End Yoga studio, considers herself a movement educator. “I educate clients and students about what’s happening inside their bodies,” remarks Turzi. “If the body produces pain, it is a signal that something is out of alignment from its natural, balanced state. I help people gain awareness of something deeper that can help them to heal.” Turzi sees 20 to 25 clients per week in the private practice she started in 2011 and teaches two weekly group classes at West End Yoga studio, which she opened in November 2013 next to her therapy office in Lancaster.
As the daughter of an occupational therapist and a teacher/guidance counselor, Turzi took an early interest in helping others, especially with their health. While that focus never wavered, discovering an inner peace in running lifted her out of troubled teenage years and began to direct her course. “Although I had also played team sports, when I started exercising by myself, for myself, I started to feel peaceful, and when I was running alone, I finally started to like myself,” she relates.
In college, Turzi’s passion for exercise led her to teach group fitness classes, such as weightlifting, kickboxing and cardio, while pursuing a pre-nursing track. When she realized the degree to which informing physical movement enabled her to serve others in the way she wanted, Turzi switched her major to physical therapy.
However, it wasn’t until her senior year in college that Turzi took her first yoga class at Temple University, giving her new inspiration. She was excited by yoga’s exceptional ability to embody mindfulness; to bring a meditative, inner experience of the body into physical exercise. “I wrote a paper in that class saying I would find a way to integrate the allopathic approach of physical therapy with yoga’s mind-body wisdom, and I can’t believe I’m living the dream,” Turzi remarks enthusiastically. She completed a hatha yoga teachers’ training at the Himalayan Institute while completing graduate school.
After obtaining her Doctor of Physical Therapy degree from the University of Delaware in 2006, Turzi worked in several clinical physical therapy settings, where health insurance reimbursement rates often necessitate limiting individual sessions to 30 minutes or less and rotating between several patients at the same time. She began to see the need for privately paid physical therapy, free of such limitations.
“Clients would say, ‘I’ll pay you to come to my house,’” Turzi recalls. “The demand made me realize that I could create the business model. Since starting my private practice in 2011, I’ve continuously been scheduled a couple of weeks in advance. Half-hour, one-on-one sessions make it affordable for most clients.”
Whether Turzi is guiding a physical therapy session or teaching a yoga class, she is always blending the two approaches. “Yoga retrains the mind to be present in the body in a different way,” she explains. “Even when I’m doing physical therapy techniques, I’m addressing and reeducating a person’s nervous system, and that feels very much like yoga enlightenment. I teach present-moment mindfulness; that there is a choice in each moment about how to sit, stand and move, about being present in the body and getting in touch with the next breath.”
In practice, this typically involves prolonged holds of a subtle posture. Turzi advises, “Holding the posture while breathing is where the nervous system achieves the most beneficial change. In yoga classes, Turzi brings a special awareness to the shape and alignment of asanas, or yoga poses.
In a physical therapy session, Turzi works with clients on her treatment table, where she applies the Visceral Manipulation techniques of French osteopath and physiotherapist Jean-Pierre Barral to release myofascial tension, as well as the Functional Manual Therapy techniques developed by physical therapists Greg Johnson and Vicky Saliba Johnson, of the Institute of Physical Art, in Colorado, to achieve an axial alignment of the bones in a way that trains muscles to support the new alignment.
Turzi is inspired by the future of her private practice and West End Yoga studio. “With about 20 regular teachers and a full spectrum of movement classes, including t’ai chi, qigong, Pilates, ballet barre and all types of yoga, we’re a yoga community that’s sharing ideas and learning from each other,” she affirms cheerfully.
West End Yoga studio is located at 221 W. Walnut Street, in Lancaster. For more information, call 717-380-3559, email [email protected] or visit JoninaTurzi.com and WestEndYogaStudio.com.