Dyspraxia, Physiotherapy and Yoga
This month's blog post is an interview with Eve Monteiro, a physiotherapist and yoga teacher from The Yoga Physios
She tells us how physiotherapy and yoga can be beneficial to both body and mind, helping everything from co-ordination to concentration and managing stress.
Eve and I have been working on an exciting unique weekend workshop for dyspraxic adults 'Thriving with Dyspraxia', which she shares more about today...
Hi Eve, could you tell me a little more about yourself?
Hi Emma! Gosh where do I start? I am a physiotherapist living and working in Devon. I have been a physiotherapist in many different settings, from working in the NHS and private practice, to setting up a physiotherapy service in Uganda and providing physiotherapy training in India. I co-own Ashton Physiotherapy in South Devon, with my husband Mike who is also a physiotherapist. Together we combined two of our passions to establish The Yoga Physios, using yoga with physiotherapy as a therapeutic tool to help people physically improve and manage their issues. I am also a black belt in karate and I love anchovies.
What inspired you to train as a physiotherapist? What do you enjoy most about your work?
I came into physiotherapy via a roundabout route really. I initially studied Psychology and Anthropology but soon realised I didn’t want to be a psychologist or do research... or work in an office for that matter. I considered many different career paths from marine biology to tree surgery. Eventually I realised that my interest in health and the body, and my need to do something physical, could be combined in physiotherapy! (Which ironically my mother had suggested back at the start. Annoying when your parents are right!). I am so glad I did other things first though as I think it has given me a much more holistic perspective, and an understanding of people and how their minds: personality, motivation, experience etc impact their physical wellbeing.
I enjoy lots of different things about my work. I enjoy working face to face with so many different people. I love the detective work of diagnosing a problem and working out what is contributing to people’s issues. I really enjoy the variety of the work, but also how deep you can delve into different specialities. Also, it sounds cheesy but I get a real satisfaction from watching people get better, move better and feel better. It’s great to watch someone become more empowered to help themselves improve, as they understand more about what is going on in their bodies, and to feel like I facilitated that.
Why might someone with dyspraxia see a physiotherapist?
I suppose people often think of physiotherapists as just treating sports injuries, but as movement specialists, there is a lot physiotherapy can offer people with dyspraxia. This could be in a group setting or in one-to-one sessions, where we thoroughly assess an individual’s physical abilities and develop a tailored program. Physiotherapy helps with improving things like balance, muscle tone, body awareness and proprioception (your body’s messages to your brain about where it is and what it is up to).
People with Autism, ADHD or Dyspraxia often learn things differently. I understand you have a psychology degree; do other physiotherapists generally have much training on different learning styles?
A bit I suppose, to be honest I think a lot of physiotherapists just learn it from experience and time in the job. We become very adept at picking up subtle clues from the people we work with as to whether they are “getting” it or not. I think having a psychology background has given me a much more solid understanding of how different people learn though, and provided more of a theoretical framework to guide my treatments. For example, some of the concepts I teach people in physiotherapy sessions can be quite unfamiliar, so I apply my psychology background to reach people in different ways. This might be through giving a combination of visual, kinaesthetic and auditory information etc, so they are more likely to take on board the message.
You are also a yoga teacher. How did you become interested in yoga?
Hmm good question! I had practiced yoga over the years and felt the benefits it gives first hand. But what really drove me to go into teaching it...? Well I guess I am interested in the WHY behind everything I see. Why are people getting injured and getting re-injured? I realised that my job as a physiotherapist was to guide people towards better movement patterns and health behaviours to try and prevent some of these issues.
Once this became clear, I wanted to be part of the solution and the prevention, not just patching up the injuries all the time. I also saw the benefit of using movement sequences rather than just giving out exercises that people do whilst continuing on with the same bad habits that gave them the problem. I think, for me, yoga just ticked a lot of the boxes. It is so multi-faceted too, depending on what you want from it. It can be purely physical, it can help you cope better with the stresses of life, and it can offer moral and spiritual guidance if thats where you want to go with it. It represents a change in lifestyle for me, and I hope, for some of my patients.
Can yoga help with difficulties with co-ordination and proprioception? Can it be adapted or made more accessible for us?
Both personal experience and studies have shown that Yoga can definitely help with these things! And body awareness, balance, dexterity, strength, flexibility... the list goes on. There are lots of different styles; fast, slow, gentle, tough. It is very versatile can be adapted specifically to help certain issues if the teacher has the right training and understanding. Although you may not think it from looking at Instagram these days, the real beauty of yoga is that it’s not about the end position or what shape you can throw. It’s more about the journey and experiencing being in your body, and the changes that yoga makes to your body and mind. It’s not about ego, it is about developing yourself, not being in competition with other people. That is how it should be anyway.
A lot of us struggle with the cognitive and emotional consequences of dyspraxia as well as motor skills. Can yoga be helpful for these?
Yoga can help with various cognitive and emotional issues: anxiety, low mood, focus and attention, confidence and stress. In addition, studies have found that yoga can improve memory, attention, organisation and planning. Both the breathing and meditative aspects are great tools for helping with this, but also the physical activity helps all of these things!
Lots of dyspraxic adults have had difficult or embarrassing experiences with PE and exercise classes in the past and find it hard to get into exercise as an adult. What would your advice be?
I totally get that it can be really hard. I wasn’t sporty at school and I’ve definitely been the person picked last for the team or hiding out on the squash courts! I think its really important to find something that works with you, your body and your personality. For me, I found my way in individual sports rather than team sports: climbing, martial arts, etc. Yoga is great (did I mention that already haha!) because it allows you to practice in a community, or in unison with other people, but also individually; no-one is relying on your ability and it is non-competitive. It is really important to try and find something that works for you.
Physical activity is really really essential, a sedentary lifestyle is downright disastrous for your health; psychological and physical. Also, if you do exercise... you actually improve at it! Which then makes it easier to actually start doing more and maybe even branching out into different types of exercise. There are so many options now, you can do almost any type of activity you want from the safety of your own living room just using YouTube (maybe not horse-riding so much). The more you do, the better you will feel about it, and the better you will feel. The hardest part is starting.
...So now for our exciting news!...
In the work I do I have come across adults with dyspraxia who feel quite alone and like there isn’t much information or support available. So it’s really exciting to be working with you on providing a weekend workshop for dyspraxic adults. Could you tell everyone a little more about what is planned?
Using our combined skills (erm, you might want to call us the “Dream Team”!) we are providing a whole weekend workshop specifically for dyspraxic adults. The weekend will include specialist dyspraxia talks, and sessions of practical physio-led yoga & mindfulness for dyspraxia. We are aiming to cover common topics which dyspraxic adults seek support for from us both – from co-ordination and organisation, to anxiety and fatigue.
What do you expect people to gain from the weekend?
I hope that people will really enjoy the weekend and the opportunity to take some time out to focus on their dyspraxia and keeping themselves physically and psychologically well. I really think it is quite a unique opportunity, and that people will leave with a better understanding of their dyspraxia and how to manage difficulties associated with it at home and work. It can be difficult to digest all the information in a weekend, which is why we are keeping the numbers small so that each individual can leave with a bespoke plan to follow.
What are you looking forward to most about working with a group of dyspraxic adults?
I am looking forward to working with group of unique individuals and empowering them to learn tools and skills they can incorporate into their lives. The weekend is going to be tailored by the needs of the individuals attending, so it is going to be such a great opportunity to work on and
adapt exercises to meet individual needs and goals. Lastly, I understand that many dyspraxic adults have difficult and frustrating relationships with their bodies at times, so I’m looking forward to being a part of gently facilitating more body awareness and self-compassion.
Thank you Eve. If you would like to find out more about our ‘Thriving with Dyspraxia’ weekend, or to book your place*, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
*Please be aware that places will be limited to ensure individual attention.