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Natural Awakenings Washington DC Metro

Yoga Comes to Primary Care

Aug 31, 2015 05:08PM

Casey Health Offers Innovative Therapy

by Robin Fillmore
Imagine this: you have a chronic lower back problem that leaves you in pain, most of the time.

Or this: you have a gut issue that makes planning your diet—and your life—a challenge.

Or perhaps this: you suffer from paralyzing migraines and have tried just about everything to help deal with them, but nothing seems to work.

For any one of these conditions, you seek help from your primary care doctor first and at your appointment, he recommends yoga therapy. You think, “How can yoga help me heal and feel better?” Minutes later, a clinical yoga specialist enters the exam room and proceeds to consult with your doctor about a treatment plan for you. She has different yoga props with her and before you know it, she eases you into a series of yoga poses, providing you immediate relief and comfort. “Wow,” you think, “This yoga therapy thing just might work for me.”

At Casey Health Institute in Montgomery County, that’s exactly what is happening. They are one of the first medical facilities in the United States to have a full-time yoga therapist who works as part of a collaborative team of providers to address specific or chronic health conditions, illnesses, pain, traumas or challenging life transitions.

By adapting and modifying specific yoga poses to meet the needs of our patients, they use this ancient healing practice to promote healing and wellness. Their clinical yoga specialist works as part of our team of clinicians that include a naturopathic doctor, primary care physicians, acupuncturists, chiropractor, behavior health psychologists, nutritionists, massage therapist and Reiki master, to render personalized healing treatments.

Some days Casey Health’s clinical yoga specialist, Mary Pappas-Sandonas, can be found “floating” in their clinical practice to offer patients yoga techniques, breathing exercises, deep relaxation and meditation, as needed. This is a bonus service that their patients receive. Other days, she works individually with patients who have been referred to her for personalized yoga therapy sessions.

Yoga therapy is employed to address specific health conditions such as low back pain and migraines, as well as type 2 Diabetes, depression, high blood pressure, obesity, PTSD, to name a few. At patient appointments, Pappas-Sandonas first conducts an initial 90-minute evaluation which is usually followed by a series of dynamic, one-on-one individualized yoga sessions that address the patient’s conditions.

This customized protocol is adjusted over time to meet the evolving condition of each patient. Poses are designed to meet the patient “where they are” with specific postures and breathing techniques designed to align with personal goals. The yoga specialist is continually consulting with the providers to create a summary of goals, progress and accomplishments. Individuals don’t need to be familiar with yoga or even experienced in the practice to reap its benefits.

Yoga therapy sessions at Casey Health are based on the principles of Iyengar Yoga, clinically proven to be highly effective in the management and treatment of many health conditions. It is appropriate for all ages, conditions and levels of fitness and is known to have preventative, restorative, palliative and curative benefits. It serves as the perfect companion to the participant’s medical care, both diagnostically and therapeutically, and supports a balance of the inner state, physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

Casey Health also offers a variety of group yoga, fitness, and health classes for all levels in their Wellness Center. This is where they incorporate yoga and other classes and workshops, provide lectures on nutrition, sleep and stress reduction and help their patients understand the factors that influence health. Classes are designed to strengthen physical, emotional and spiritual well-being, to reduce stress and promote health. For more information about yoga therapy and the different programs offered at Casey Health, call 301-664-6464 or visit


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