Category Archives: Yoga Therapy

Understanding Yoga Therapy

A one-on-one complementary alternative medical approach to health and healing.

PeaceYoga Therapy, or yoga chikitsa, is an ancient therapeutic adaptation of yoga used to suit the condition of the individual to help address suffering (dukha) at all levels of the being. This approach to health and healing has gradually evolved, and modern day Yoga Therapy functions independently, as well as a complementary approach to allopathic medicine (modern day western medicine), in supporting health and healing. The International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT) defines Yoga Therapy as the process of empowering individuals to progress toward improved health and wellbeing through the application of the teachings and practices of yoga.

Western Medicine, or allopathic, practitioners, such as Doctors, Nurses, Physical Therapists, etc., focus on diseases and injuries, and their cures. Yoga Therapists may also work in a curative direction, the primary focus of Yoga Therapy is to work with the individual who has the disease — helping them find greater balance at the levels of the mind, body, and spirit to help reduce suffering. Through the thoughtful and intelligent application of Yoga practices, individuals can gain insight and confidence in the fact that they can improve their condition through their actions. In most cases, this is not a substitute for medical attention, but a complementary approach to improve outcomes at all levels of the being.

Yoga Therapists typically consider the five koshas of the individual including the physical body, the energy body (breath body), emotional body, wisdom or witness body, and the spiritual or bliss body with the understanding that imbalances in any of these layers can result in disease and suffering. A variety of yogic practices, including asana (postures), breath work (pranayama), meditation, intention setting, and affirmations may be utilized to promote greater balance at any of these layers. My Yoga Therapy teacher, Joseph Le Page, M.A., Integrative Yoga Therapy, defines Yoga Therapy as the “facet of the ancient science of Yoga that focuses on health and wellness at all levels of the person: physical, psychological, and spiritual. Yoga therapy focuses on the path of Yoga as a healing journey that brings balance to the body and mind through an experiential understanding of the primary intention of Yoga: Awakening of Spirit, our essential nature.”

Recently the International Association of Yoga Therapy (IAYT) set standards for accrediting Yoga Therapy training programs. These programs must meet standards including at least 600 hours of advanced Yoga Therapy training. Beginning the summer of 2016, the association will begin certifying individual Yoga Therapists (C-IAYT). The basic standards for this certification will be graduation from an accredited Yoga Therapy program.

I have been fortunate enough to study Yoga Therapy through Integrative Yoga Therapy, which is an accredited Yoga Therapy Program. I have completed my initial 500 hundred hours of training, and will be grandfathered in as a C-IAYT when the certification process begins. Despite my opportunity to be grandfathered, I continue my Yoga Therapy training to meet the highest standards and expect to complete this process by November 2016. As a professional Physical Therapist of 20+ years, I feel so fortunate to have discovered this complementary therapy, and to be able to make it available to the residents of the Oxford Hills of Maine.

By Katey Hawes, owner and founder of Posabilities, Inc., physical therapist, registered yoga teacher, and yoga therapist.  You may find her at, Twitter @Posabilities4u, and .

What is Somatics?


thomashannaquote-1Somatics is generally understood as being an approach that addresses mind-body integration.  Pioneers in the area of Somatics were Moshe Feldenkrais and Thomas Hanna.  The term Somatics was coined by Thomas Hanna in the 1970s.

I was first introduced to Somatics during my Physical Therapy training as part of our exposure to “alternative” therapeutic techniques.  Since then I have attended Feldenkrais continuing education courses, and Hanna Somatic techniques have been an integral part of my Yoga Therapy training.  Over the years, I have enjoyed using these techniques with Physical Therapy and Yoga Therapy clients, in Therapeutic yoga classes, and for myself when I have suffered from restrictive tightness or discomfort.

The term Somatics is derived from the word somatic which pertains to awareness of the living body as it is experienced and regulated from the internal environment.  Somatics techniques strive to strengthen integration between the mind and body and to decrease restrictions within the mind and/or body.

So, you may be saying to yourself, “That all sounds great Katey, but I’m still not sure that I understand what Somatics techniques are.”  Essentially, Somatics are movement sequences that have been designed to support natural patterns of the body and mind.  These movement sequences can be performed as independent exercises or as guided movements with the supportive touch of a Somatics practitioner.  Each movement of the sequence is repeated a number of times using small, subtle motions while bringing your attention to any sensations that may arise in your body, breath, or thought patterns.  Between each movement in the sequence, you rest quietly.  Many of these sequences you can complete in 5-10 minutes.  I always encourage individuals to practice these techniques in a quiet, relaxing setting free of distractions, and at a time when they are not in a hurry to rush off to something else.  This way the full benefits of these techniques can be experienced.

Frequently people share that they are amazed how doing so little can make such a big difference.  Truly an exercise in the concept of less is more.  The benefits from Somatics can be many and varied, including:

  • photo-9Control of acute and chronic pain
  • Improved flexibility and strength
  • Increased voluntary control over habitually tight muscles
  • Enhanced mobility and coordination
  • Improved posture
  • Re-established normal breathing patterns
  • Improved balance and awareness of the position of one’s body
  • Stress relief and relaxation

Through the practice of Somatics, you can support your mind in becoming more in tune with your body, and experience growth, change, and transformation regardless of your health status or age.  If you are interested in learning more about Somatics or experiencing Somatics I would encourage you to visit the Hanna and Feldenkrais websites, find a trained Somatics practitioner in your area, or a Physical Therapist or Yoga Therapist in your area who has training in Somatics.

Less is more.” ~ Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

Katey Hawes, owner and founder of Posabilities, Inc., is a physical therapist, registered yoga teacher, and yoga therapist.

You may find her at, Twitter @Posabilities4u, and .

What is … Yoga Therapy?

The topic of last week’s “What is” blog was Physical Therapy.  Most people are somewhat familiar with Physical Therapy, but Yoga Therapy is much less familiar.  I have to admit, I didn’t even know that Yoga Therapy existed as a discipline until two years ago!  Although Yoga Therapy is fairly new on the scene in the Western World, it is gaining more and more recognition in the medical community.

Yoga was first introduced to the US in 1893 by Swami Vivekananda.  A little less than 100 years after that Yoga Therapy became recognized in the United States with Dr. Dean Ornish’s study that showed that therapeutic yoga, meditation, dietary changes, and other lifestyle changes could reverse the effects of heart disease.  Dr. Ornish’s “Program for Reversing Heart Disease” got approved for health insurance coverage in 1990, and it opened the door for yoga therapy gradually to make its way into mainstream medicine.

So, what is Yoga Therapy?  According to one of my Yoga Therapy teachers, Joseph LePage, M.A., “Yoga therapy is that facet of the ancient science of Yoga that focuses on health and wellness at all levels of the person: physical, psychological, and spiritual.  Yoga therapy focuses on the path of Yoga as a healing journey that brings balance to the body and mind through an experiential understanding of the primary intention of Yoga: awakening of Spirit, our essential nature.”  (Integrative Yoga Therapy (U.S.A.), Joseph LePage, M.A.)  

OK… So, what are the differences between Yoga, Yoga Therapy, and Physical Therapy?

This is not a simple question to answer, but I will try my best using the table below.

Yoga Yoga Therapy Physical Therapy
Systems addressed May address physical, psychological, and spiritual levels of the student. Addresses the 5  Koshas – Physical body, energetic/breath body, emotional body, wisdom/ witness body, and bliss body or the essence of the individual. Addresses primarily the physical body – with a focus on the musculoskeletal & neurological systems, may incorporate breath work in support of the physical systems.
Techniques used In the US primarily Yoga postures/ Asanas, as well as breath work/pranayama, relaxation, & meditation. Yoga postures/Asanas, somatics, breath work/ pranayama, techniques to direct energy including mudras, self inquiry with the support of yogic texts, relaxation, meditation, and yoga nidra. Hands on manual techniques, physical agents to address pain and inflammation, education, therapeutic exercise, neuromuscular retraining, functional retraining.
Approaches Classes or sessions that may be centered on a specific intention such as hip openers, strengthening the core, quieting the neurological system, etc. Guided self inquiry –  support of an inquiry of where imbalances may reside, and how to bring greater support to the self as whole to decrease pain and suffering. Hands on techniques, modalities, education, and prescriptive home exercises/ activities to decrease pain and increase function

So, which is the right one for me?  

This does not need to be an either/or proposition.  Any of these approaches can stand alone, or complement the other.  Additionally, I did not discuss the role of Yoga Therapy in addressing psycho emotional challenges.  Yoga Therapy may also be beneficial in addressing depression and anxiety.  If you are unsure of the appropriate approach for you, discuss this with a trusted health and well being professional.

If I am interested in Yoga Therapy, how do I find a Yoga Therapist?  

Currently, there are no regulations around who can claim to be a Yoga Therapist, so buyer beware.  This may soon be changing though.  The International Association of Yoga therapists has passed requirements for Yoga Therapy training programs including an additional 600 hours of training beyond the initial 200 hours of teacher training.  (  If you are considering a Yoga Therapist ask them where they received their training, and then check out that program.  As in any profession, credentials don’t guarantee anything except that an individual has met minimum requirements of training and education.  Beyond that, talk with the therapist that you are considering and look for reliable references to ensure they will be a good fit for you.

kt-photo-300-frameOK Katey, so what is your training?  

After completing my 200 hour yoga teacher training, I completed one months worth of intense Yoga Therapy training through Integrative Yoga Therapy  (  I am preparing to begin my final stage to receive my initial 500 hour PYT (Professional Yoga Therapist Certification) and then will continue on to complete my 1,000 hours of training as a Yoga and Yoga Therapy professional.  I know that to some of you Yoga Therapy may sound a bit fluffy, but I can assure you that after 20 years of practice as a Physical Therapy,  I was amazed and impressed with the depth of knowledge and teaching that was provided in my training.  I feel very strongly that my abilities as a Physical Therapist have been boosted by my Yoga Therapy training, just as much as I feel that my Physical Therapy background has supported and strengthened my abilities as a Yoga Therapist.  I truly feel blessed by the lineage and professionalism in both of these fields.

The part can never be well unless the whole is well.”  ~ Plato

Katey Hawes, owner and founder of Posabilities, Inc.., is a physical therapist, registered yoga teacher, and yoga therapist.

You may find her at, Twitter @Posabilities4u, and .

Compete or collaborate? That appeared to be the question…

instructors-4It was so exciting!  We were a couple of months away from completing our Yoga Teacher Training.  Soon we would be able to go out and share our yoga in our respective communities.  But wait – three of us lived within a three mile radius of each other, in a relatively small community of 12,000 that already had three yoga instructors.  Would the Oxford Hills community support an influx of three new yoga instructors?  After seven months of supporting each other, would we now have to compete against each other?

ohyoga180-blkRather than the wait and see approach, we began to hatch a plan.  First, we discussed pooling our resources for marketing – making flyers, posters together, etc.  Next, we decided to work together in securing a place to provide each of our respective classes.  It appeared that we were collaborating, so we decided it was time to have a meeting and start to map out a plan of how our collaboration would work.  First item of business – a name.  The first few ideas fell flat.  Then Oxford Hills Yoga?  Boring.  O.H. Yoga?  No.  OH Yoga?  Hmmm.  OH! Yoga?  Not quite.  OH Yoga!?  Yes, that’s it!  We had a name – OH Yoga!

On June 3, 2012, we offered our first OH Yoga! Community Class.  Over 40 people braved the flooding rains and arrived at the Center for Movement and Meditation to practice with all three of us.  From there we continued offering our own perspective classes in the space – still collaborating and supporting each other as much as possible.

It was all going so well!  Then along came my opportunity to open Posabilities in my own space.  (See my blog – The Path to Posabilities)  Once again it appeared that we were faced with a decision – compete or collaborate?  If I moved to the new space would Kathryn and Katey join me, or would I have to make a split from OH Yoga!?  There were lots of questions.  If we all made the move would we still be OH Yoga! or would we all become Posabilities?  Would we be able to offer a studio experience, or would we operate independently in the space offering our own classes?  If OH Yoga! continued what would that look like?  Many questions, a few answers, quite a few unknowns, all balanced by a strong bond of mutual trust and respect.  We were going to make the move together!  Classes would be offered by Posabilities, but they would be designated as OH Yoga! classes to distinguish them from other classes that might be offered in the space.  .

posa-logo-190We have now been offering OH Yoga! classes at Posabilities for four months.  In that time, we have grown – we have increased from three instructors to four instructors (Welcome Julie!), our classes have grown, and we continue to add new classes.  But it has not been a process without challenges.  Yeah, you may be thinking, “Come on – four yoga instructors – it must be all peace and love – what challenges?”  Well, yes there is plenty of peace and love, but at the same time I have learned that, as yoga instructors, we have an incredibly strong sense of self and that which we hold true for ourselves.  I have also learned that those truths do not always conform to each other.  Uh oh, does that mean that our truths, ideas, and desires sometimes, dare I say, compete?  Yup, the other C word.  So, here’s the thing.  I did a little research and found that the Latin roots of compete are com- together + petere to seek.  The Latin root of collaborate is collabōrāre – to work together.  (  When we find that we have competing ideas within our group we seek and work together to achieve a solution that honors each of our truths.  Usually the end solutions are much better as a result of the competitive and collaborative processes.  That, I believe, is the key to our continuing evolution as instructors, as OH Yoga!, and as the greater Posabilities community.  The question is not “compete or collaborate”; the question is how to balance collaboration and competition.  After all, Yoga is all about balance, isn’t it?

Out beyond ideas of right doing and wrong doing, there is a field.

I’ll meet you there.   ~ Rumi

Please join us for our 2nd annual OH Yoga! community class @ Posabilities, this Friday, June 7, 2013 – 5:30-6:30.  

For more information, click here.

Katey Hawes, owner and founder of Posabilities, Inc.., is a physical therapist, registered yoga teacher, and yoga therapist.

You may find her at, Twitter @Posabilities4u, and .

The Path to Posabilities

Posabilities was not a life long dream come true.  If you had asked me two years before I started Posabilities, it would not have even been on my radar!  So you might say it came pounding on my door and said, “Katey, you’ve got to do this!”

Flashback about two years ago.  I had been practicing as a Physical Therapist for 20 years and held a comfortable (if not always fun) middle management position with a large health care provider.  I love being a Physical Therapist, but after 20 years I was feeling like I needed a new challenge.  At the same time, I was enjoying the many benefits of my own regular yoga practice.  So a reasonable option seemed to be to pursue my Yoga Teacher Training (YTT).  I could continue with my secure full time job, and teach a yoga class or two as a side “hobby job.”

I started down the path of finding an YTT program that I could attend in my spare time.  One day, I casually  asked Amy Figoli, owner of the Maine Yoga House, if she knew of any YTT programs that would fit my schedule, and lo and behold she was preparing to offer her first one that next fall and it would be a weekend format which was perfect for me!  Rap, rap, someone’s at the door!

Fall arrived, and I began to open the door a crack as I started my YTT.  How exciting!  Wait, this is intense.  In addition to the once a month three day training, I have to show up at class twice a week?  I need to practice yoga every day?  I need to write papers, read books, and OMG! I have to delve into some deep self-inquiry?  My employer had allowed me some flexibility around my seven month training, but I was going to need way more flexibility than they could offer.  I’d opened the door a crack to check things out, but I was being asked to open it even wider.  What to do?  Open it some more? Close it?  Stand back a safe distance and peak through it?  Rap rap.

I opened the door a little more, left my secure middle management position, and went back to direct patient care which allowed me greater flexibility.  This was great!  In addition to greater flexibility in my schedule, I was occasionally able to use yoga postures with patients on their road to recovery. After 20 years as a Physical Therapist I was having an epiphany.  These yoga postures were having significant positive effects on my patient’s outcomes.  Calming of the nervous system, decreased pain response, improved posture and body awareness, and the patients loved it!  At the same time, I made the discovery that there was a whole field out there called Yoga Therapy.  The rap rap was becoming a knock, knock.

My pursuit of a hobby job was becoming a calling.  Knock knock – “Come on Katey.  Open the door and step through it.”  Despite some misgivings, with the urging of my husband, Jeff, I opened the door wider.  I committed to a 300 hour Professional Yoga Therapist trainingand headed out to Tucson for my first two week module.  Surrounded by inspiring instructors, Yoga Therapists, and fellow students the knocking at the door was becoming more and more persistent.  I began to formulate a vision.  My vision included a space housing a studio and a clinic space where I could offer Physical Therapy, Yoga, and Yoga Therapy, other instructors, and health and wellness providerssharing that space with me, and the space would be close to Main Street. This vision had a name, Posabilities, and I envisioned a time line of three to four years…

Bam, bam, bam – come out from behind that door!  Four months (not years that I had planned) after my vision had begun to gel my husband found a building one block off of Main Street, Norway that could be retrofitted to be fully accessible, and include a studio and clinic space for myself and other practitioners.  Again, I had my misgivings, but the universe rarely knocks twice, and Jeff continued to support and urge me forward.  So I stepped through the door and headed down the path to Posabilities!

Posabilites_11082012_GraphicPosabilities has now been open for four months, and I have been blessed by the many people that have traveled and continue to travel the path with me.  My YTT instructor, Amy Figoli, and my sister in law, Ruth lead me to the door and urged me to open it.  The OH Yoga! instructors (more on OH Yoga! next week), and the other collaborators at Posabilities have brought  richness to the journey that I could never have manifested on my own.  My husband, Jeff, has been with me every step of the way – sometimes leading, sometimes following, but usually right by my side, and never letting me turn back or take the easier path.  And finally, the members of the growing Posabilities community who sustain and nourish me as we continue to forge the path forward!

Life is a gift, and it offers us the privilege, opportunity, and responsibility to give something back by becoming more.”  ~ Tony Robbins

Katey Hawes, owner and founder of Posabilities, Inc.., is a physical therapist, registered yoga teacher, and yoga therapist.

You may find her at, Twitter @Posabilities4u, and .

I laughed so hard tears ran down my legs

Rather than being hilariously funny, stress incontinence can be frustrating, inconvenient, and even embarrassing.  Stress incontinence is an involuntary release of urine that occurs when downward pressure is put on the abdomen during activities such as sneezing/coughing, laughing, exercising, or having sexual relations.  This is the most common type of urinary incontinence in women, and can be common in men following prostate surgery.  The good news is that with treatment stress incontinence can likely be managed.  A 2007 study showed that pelvic floor exercises can result in better control of the bladder with coughing, laughing, sneezing, or exercising in up to 70% of women. (Lentz, GM, 2007)

Treatment options for stress incontinence include:

  1. Exercises
  2. Lifestyle changes – (Read my blog from last week, “Control issues”)
  3. Medications and/or injections
  4. Devices (pessaries) and/or Surgery

Exercises and life-style changes are typically the first line of defense and recommended before considering medications and/or surgeries.

Before I discuss some great exercises for improved bladder control I’d like to give you a brief overview of the anatomy of the pelvic floor and urinary system.

  • Bladder – The bladder wall is made up of the detrusor muscle that contracts to expel urine, and remains relaxed as it fills.  This is a smooth muscle so is not under voluntary control.
  • Urethral sphincters – There are 2 of these, the internal and external sphincters.
    • The internal urethral sphincter is a continuation of the detrusor muscle and is located at the base of the bladder and is also involuntary.
    • The external urethral sphincter is located just beyond the internal sphincter in women, and just beyond the prostate in men.  This muscle is a voluntary muscle, so we can voluntarily contract and relax it.
  • Pelvic floor muscles – The primary muscles of the pelvic floor are the levator ani muscles which form a hammock that supports the bladder, uterus or prostate, and rectum.  These muscles attach to the tail bone, pubic bone, and the obturator internus which is a deep hip rotator muscle.
  • Transversus abdominis (TVA) – While this muscle is not actually part of the urinary system or pelvic floor anatomy it is worth mentioning.  The TVA runs side to side across the front and side of the abdominal wall and is the deepest of the abdominal muscles.  (For more information on the TVA, see my blog post “Accessing the Core.”)

Now that you are familiar with the muscles involved in bladder control here are some fun facts  (At least I think that they are fun!):

  • The pelvic floor and the TVA work in synch with each other.  When one contracts the other automatically contracts.
    • If you aren’t sure how to contract the pelvic floor, engage the TVA by pulling your belly button up and back towards your spine and that lifting you feel between your tailbone and pubic bone is your pelvic floor!
  • When the pelvic floor is weak the “hammock” sags allowing the neck of the bladder to drop down too low decreasing the effectiveness of the sphincter muscles in controlling the release of urine.
    • Strengthen your pelvic floor, and your sphincters can work more effectively!
  • The external sphincter and the detrusor (bladder) muscles work in opposition to each other.  When on contracts the other relaxes.
    • Engage your pelvic floor or TVA to relax your detrusor (bladder) muscle.  Gotta go really bad, but no bathroom in sight?  Do 3 quick contractions of the pelvic floor and buy yourself some time!

5 exercises to help combat stress incontinence:

1) Kegels

  • First practice finding your pelvic floor muscles.  You can do this by stopping urination midstream.  If you do this successfully you found the right muscles.  (Do not make it a regular habit to stop urination mid stream.  This can lead to other problems.)
  • Start out lying on your back and tighten your pelvic floor muscles and hold for 5 seconds, then relax for 5 seconds, repeat 5 times.  You can gradually increase up to a 10 second contraction, 10 second relax, and 10 repetitions.  Repeat 3 times a day.
  • Begin practicing in different positions – sitting, standing, squatting, and standing on one leg.
  • Also practice quick kegels – contract 1-2 seconds, relax 1-2 seconds.  Practice while coughing, sneezing, lifting, and laughing.

2) Belly scoops

  • Begin lying on your back with both knees bent.  Breathe out and scoop your belly button up and back toward your spine, keeping your belly button scooped breathe in, breathe out, and on your next inhale relax your belly.  Repeat 3-5 times.
  • You can progress this to lying on your back legs lifted up toward the ceiling, on all fours, sitting, standing.

3) Clamshell – Lying on your side, with both hips and knees bent about 45 degrees and legs stacked on top of each other, keep the feet together and lift your top knee up only as far as you can without your pelvis rolling back, then lower the knee.  Repeat 10-30 times on each side.

4) Knee squeezes – Lying on your back with your knees bent, or sitting up, place a pillow or 8” ball between your knees.  Squeeze both knees into the pillow/ball, hold 3 seconds, and then relax.  Repeat 10-30 times

5) Walking – Walking helps tone almost all of the exercises involved in your bladder control.  As I have mentioned before this is almost the perfect exercise for most people!

As always, inform your healthcare practitioner of any changes in your health status, and check with them before starting any new exercise program.  Oh, did I mention that both Yoga and Pilates are great practices to help strengthen your pelvic floor and core, and that your favorite physical therapist can work with you one-on-one to help you determine the best way to improve your bladder control?

“I am thankful for laughter, except when milk comes out of my nose.”  ~ Woody Allen

Lentz GM (2007). Physiology of micturition, diagnosis of voiding dysfunction, and incontinence: Surgical and nonsurgical treatment. In VL Katz et al., eds., Comprehensive Gynecology, 5th ed., pp. 537–568. Philadelphia:  Mosby Elsevier.

Katey Hawes, owner and founder of Posabilities, Inc.., is a physical therapist, registered yoga teacher, and yoga therapist.

You may find her at, Twitter @Posabilities4u, and .

Embracing Your Core

Last week, when I wrote about accessing the core, I was referring to the deep core muscles of your abdomen that provide your body with strength, stability, and vitality.  This week the topic is the core of your being.  “Whoa, the core of my being, do you really want to go there?”  Sure!  Why not!

In yoga therapy, we use the koshas to represent the layers of our being with atman at the very center representing our true self or essence.  Unlike the core muscles of the trunk which can become weak or inflexible, atman, or your essence, is enduring and unchanging. What can change is your connection with and awareness of your essence.

The koshas or layers that make up your being are the physical body (annamaya kosha), energy or breath body (pranamaya kosha), emotional body (manamaya kosha), wisdom or witness body (vijnanamaya kosha), and bliss body (anandamaya kosha).  When these koshas become imbalanced or distorted your perception of your essence changes.  Just like the sun never changes even though it may seem to dim with the clouds, your essence never changes even though it may seem to waiver with imbalances in other areas.  When we bring balance to the physical, energy, emotional, wisdom and bliss bodies our essence shines brightly, just like the sun shines brightly when the clouds are cleared away.

There are many approaches that you can use to achieve greater balance and reconnect with your true essence.  Some approaches include:

  1. Get out into nature, feeling the earth, and breathing in fresh air.
  2. Meditate, including sitting meditation, practicing mindfulness, or praying.
  3. Practice Yoga including yoga postures, yogic breath techniques, and mudras.
  4. Eat mindfully and nutritiously, and drink adequate amounts of water.
  5. Surround yourself with people that love and support you.
  6. Get enough sleep.
  7. Read philosophical or spiritual texts.
  8. Engage in creative outlets that you enjoy.

Just as strong, flexible, and engaged core muscles provide your body with strength, ease of movement, and vitality, a strong connection to your true essence allows you to find greater contentment and harmony in your life and experience your bliss.

Yoga is about clearing away whatever is in us that prevents our living in the most full and whole way. With yoga, we become aware of how and where we are restricted — in body, mind, and heart — and how gradually to open and release these blockages. As these blockages are cleared, our energy is freed. We start to feel more harmonious, more at one with ourselves. Our lives begin to flow — or we begin to flow more in our lives.” ~ Cybele Tomlinson

Katey Hawes, owner and founder of Posabilities, Inc.., is a physical therapist, registered yoga teacher, and yoga therapist.

You may find her at, Twitter @Posabilities4u, and .

Accessing the Core

There is a lot of talk about “the core”, and just as much confusion.  In functional anatomical terms what are we talking about when we discuss the core, why is it important, and how do we access it?

When we talk about the core we typically are referring to the collection of muscles that surround and support the abdominal region, and that stabilize the spine.  These muscles include all of the abdominal muscles, the posterior spinal muscles, the pelvic floor muscles, and the diaphragm.

When these muscles are strong, flexible, and working together in a coordinated manner we experience greater strength, ease of movement, and vitality.  It is when these core stabilizers become imbalanced with each other that we can get into trouble and begin experiencing dys-function and possibly pain.  Your spine is naturally curved in a gentle S-curve when viewed from the side.  This curve allows your body to evenly distribute body weight and provide shock absorption as you move through your daily live.  If your “core” muscles become overly weak, strong, flexible, tight, or are not working together in a coordinated manner the curves in your spine can begin to distort leading to degeneration, pain, and eventual decreased functional abilities.

There is no one, (or two or three…) magic exercise for the core.  The first and most important step is to bring your awareness to your core muscles and learn to engage them in a balanced and coordinated manner.  Here are a few of my favorite approaches to do just that:

  1. Table push downs:  Sitting in front of a table with your feet resting flat on the floor, and your hands on top of the table palms down, focus keeping your elbows in at your sides and your shoulders down as you press your hands down into the table.  Exhale as you push down and hold for a count of three, and then relax.  As you do this you should feel a gentle tightening and drawing in of your lower abdomen.  This is your TVA (transversus abdominis) which is your deepest abdominal muscle.  The great thing is that when ever you engage your TVA your pelvic floor muscles are engaged also, so this is a 2 for 1!
    (It has been estimated that the contraction of the TVA and other muscles reduces vertical pressure on the intervertebral discs bays as much as 40%.  *Hodges P.W., Richardson C.A., Contraction of the abdominal muscles associated with movement of the lower Limb.  Physical Therapy. Vol. 77 No. 2 February 1997.)
  2. Table push ups:  Still sitting in front of the table, bring your hands into loose fists with the thumb side of the hand facing up and place your hands underneath the edge of the table.  Continuing to keep your elbows in at your sides and shoulders down, inhale and press your hands up into the table for a count of 3, then relax.  When you do this you should feel the small muscles on either side of your lower spine engage.  These are your multifidi muscles.  These muscles are a group of deep spinal muscles that run up and down the spine each spanning 3 joint segments.  These muscles offer stability to help the vertebra work more effectively, and reduce degeneration of the joints of the spine.
  3. Weighted inhalations:  Lying down on your back with a 1-2 pound bag of rice or beans on your belly right below your ribs, breathe in deeply through your nose filling out your belly so that the bag rises, then exhale relaxing and softening the belly.  This helps engage the diaphragm as you breathe in.  The diaphragm is your primary respiratory muscle and separates your thoracic cavity from your abdominal cavity.  This muscle connects with your TVA, as well as the top 3 vertebrae of your lumbar spine.  You can gradually increase the weight of the bag up to 5 lbs as long as you do not have a compromised respiratory system (COPD, asthma) and using higher weights is not indicated with young children or the elderly.
  4. Somatics:  Most Somatics sequences (Feldenkrais, Hanna) focus on coordinating movements in the core, alone with the breath.  These are a resting exercise of mindfulness of movement and can help you increase your awareness of your core, and improve your engagement of the core.  In addition to Somatics, Yoga and Pilates are two great ways to improve balance and coordination in your core since they focus on the entire body, rather than just isolating out one muscle at a time.  Enjoy taking some time getting familiar with your deepest core muscles and reaping the results in increased health, well being, and vitality.

“My strength comes from the abdomen.  It’s the center of gravity and the source of real power.” ~Bruce Lee

Katey Hawes, owner and founder of Posabilities, Inc.., is a physical therapist, registered yoga teacher, and yoga therapist.

You may find her at, Twitter @Posabilities4u, and .

Note to Self: Breathe


We all do it, we do it every day, and we’ve done it since the day we were born.  Yep, let’s face it, we all breathe.  But, have you given serious consideration to this vital function and all the important roles that your breath plays in your day to day life?

First of all, you know that you need to breathe to stay alive, but your breath does many other things for you including:

  1. Stress reduction– Deep, slow breathing with long exhales has been shown to reduce the fight or flight sympathetic nervous system, and help the rest and digest parasympathetic system.  This can help reduce our stress, pain, and other chronic conditions associated with stress.
  2. Chronic disease management – It has been scientifically proven that deep breathing can positively affect the heart, brain, digestive system, and the immune system.  According to Mladen Golubic, a physician in the Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Integrative Medicine, breathing can have a profound impact on our physiology and our health.  “You can influence asthma; you can influence chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; you can influence heart failure,”
  3. Pain control – Scientific studies have found that participants who practice deep breathing in conjunction with pain medications during medical procedures experience less pain, discomfort, and emotional upset.
  4. Communication – Try to talk without breathing.  You can’t do it!  Have you ever noticed how hard it is to finish a sentence when you are short of breath?  Any singer or public speaker can tell you that as your breath control improves your ability to communicate improves.
  5. Energy regulation – With training we can learn to use the breath to energize or relax us, or move our energy into better balance.

As a Physical Therapist, Yoga Therapist, and yoga instructor, I often guide individuals in bringing their attention to their breath, and in breathing techniques targeted at different outcomes.  There is no one way of breathing that is “right” for everyone, at every moment.  The first step is to become attuned and aware of your breathing – mindfulness of the breath.  If you would like to explore the power of your breath further, there are many practitioners trained in this powerful tool, including yoga therapists and instructors, meditation instructors, respiratory and physical therapists, and voice coaches.

Katey Hawes, owner and founder of Posabilities, Inc.., is a physical therapist, registered yoga teacher, and yoga therapist.

You may find her at, Twitter @Posabilities4u, and .

Shades of Green

It’s not easy being green, but when my husband and I decided to start a business that would provide a spectrum of integrative health options, including Physical Therapy, Yoga, and Yoga Therapy, it became clear that going green was an important consideration.  The question became how green could we realistically go with the green ($$$) we had available?  After all, it is all about balance.

Why green? Sure, going green is a popular notion these days, but beyond feeling as we were doing the “right” thing, the reasons we considered green options in setting up our business included:

  • Providing a healthy environment within our building.
  • Limiting our carbon footprint and supporting sustainability.
  • Conserving the other green, our $$$ bottom line!

SO, what steps did we take to be greener at Posabilities?

  1. Heat – One of the biggest decisions we had to make in retrofitting our building was whether to keep the oil burning furnace and accompanying oil tank in the building.  I felt very strongly about not having an oil tank in the building due to the potential of fumes that can be irritants to people.  After considering all of our options and the associated cost, we settled on a high-efficiency propane furnace.  Additionally, as we increased the insulation in the building, we used insulation which is green by being brown. ( Lastly, we do not run a “hot yoga” studio but keep room temperatures between 74-76 F during yoga classes.
  2. 20130127_141532Flooring – About ⅔ of the building did not have flooring other than the cement slab, so we had many options in this area.  Much of the clinic side of the building was already completed with laminate wood flooring, so we matched this flooring in the rest of the clinic rather than tearing up the existing flooring and adding it to the local landfills.  In the studio, we immediately ruled out carpet due the chemical fumes that carpets emit, the potential allergens, and difficulty in keeping it clean and healthy over the long haul.  In the studio space, we went with hardwood, which is easier to keep clean, and allergen free, is a replenishable natural resource that can last for 100+ years.  (  In the lounge, we went with Marmoleum click tiles.  These are cork blocked linoleum tiles.  Linoleum is natural and is one of greenest floors on the market.  It’s bio-based, highly durable, non-toxic, anti-microbial and easy to maintain. (
  3. Paint – Next came the walls. I wanted deep, rich colors, and was very happy when I could find what I wanted in Behr’s zero VOC paints.  VOC are volatile organic compounds found in many paints that can emit toxins into the air for years after application.  Zero VOC paints are much healthier during application and after.
  4. Furnishings – Though we did buy a number of new furnishings for the space, where we could we re-purposed 20130127_142058furniture that we no longer needed in our home, or that we were able to buy used.  We found our check-in desk on Craig’s List ( and I was pleasantly surprised, when I found out that the seller came from my mother’s home town (8 hours away), and quite possibly was a distant relative!  Additionally, we were able to find a truck full of great used furniture at surplus business assets in Sanford.  (  Again, we had a great conversation with the owner, who finds new homes for perfectly lovely and high quality office furnishings.

So, as it turns out, being green isn’t really all that hard.  We will continue with our intention to be as green as possible by using green cleaning products, using our filtered water cooler – rather than selling water in plastic bottles, and making as many green decisions in our building and business as possible.  Please visit the links that I have shared to find ways that you can improve your health in and outside of your home, and limit your footprint!

Green is the prime color of the world, and that from which its loveliness arises.” ~Pedro Calderon de la Barca

Katey Hawes, owner and founder of Posabilities, Inc.., is a physical therapist, registered yoga teacher, and yoga therapist.

You may find her at, Twitter @Posabilities4u, and .