She's head of the (yoga) class
She can twist like a pretzel. Bend like a rubber band. Her pigeon pose is the envy of her students.
It’s all part of life on the mat for physical therapist and yoga teacher Allie Flowers, all the way up to the Dec. 5 date her newest yoga student, baby Piper Rose Flowers was due. By day, Flowers works as a senior physical therapist at Tidelands NextStep Rehabilitation Services.
Until recently, she spent most evenings and weekends teaching Vinyasa flow yoga at Tidelands HealthPoint and at studios in Pawleys Island and Murrells Inlet. She put her classes on hold until late winter while she prepared for Piper Rose’s birth in early December, but she didn’t give up her head stands, side bends and hip-openers. Instead, she kept up her 60-minute routine every morning.
“Yoga has really helped me feel better,” says Flowers. “Life doesn’t slow down when you’re pregnant, so yoga eased my back pain, lowered my stress level and made me stronger.”
Flowers talked to her doctor early in her pregnancy to get a list of dos and don’ts.
“There are so many misconceptions about what expectant moms should and should not do, so l was so glad to hear her say I should continue doing everything I did before I got pregnant,” she says.
She plans to share her experiences with other expectant moms and add prenatal yoga classes to her schedule.
“I’ve done a lot of research and learned so much about the positive benefits for expectant moms,” she says. “I want to show other women that they can do it, too, and modify it to fit their needs.”
Meanwhile, she already has a pink yoga outfit for Piper Rose, and she’s perfecting her baby yoga massages. Flowers says there’s a strong link between physical therapy and yoga, and she combines the best of both worlds for her students and her patients.
Vinyasa flow, which involves synchronizing the breath with a continuous flow of postures, can be practiced slowly for restorative, therapeutic purposes or at a fast pace for cardio benefits.
Although Flowers has a preference for inversions and back bends, she always gears a class to her students’ needs. It’s what keeps her students from teens to senior citizens in their 70s coming back for more.
“Yoga definitely increases and improves flexibility, balance and strength, and those are important for a healthy person wanting to maintain good health, as well as someone who is working to regain function and mobility,” she says.
“Once people begin to feel the benefits, they want to come back.”
And she’s a big believer in positive reinforcement. “Sometimes it can be a nudge, a gentle hand on the back or a simple adjustment to help someone get the most from a pose,” she says.
The benefits flow both ways. Flowers brings her training in therapy, anatomy and physiology to her therapeutic yoga classes. In turn, her reward is hearing someone say,
“I can do this.” “Teaching yoga is a joy, but the biggest reward for me is seeing a student’s confidence increase and discomfort or pain subside,” she says. Flowers comes from a family that put a priority on physical activity.
Growing up in Rhode Island, she skied, ran cross country and did jazz, ballet and tap. She turned to yoga for help recovering from a shoulder injury when she was in her second year at the University of Connecticut.
“It freed me of pain, and I learned how to regain the strength that I needed to avoid surgery,” she says. “Plus, it made me feel so much better mentally and physically. I knew I wanted to incorporate yoga into my future,” she says.
When she became a physical therapist, she recognized the potential benefits of adding yoga to her therapy for her patients. She enrolled in an intensive, 10-month therapeutic training program at Black Mountain Yoga in North Carolina, where she studied philosophy, anatomy and physiology, ethics, psychology, meditation and kinesiology and earned a certification in therapeutic yoga. She also did 200 hours of additional training.
She has refined her techniques to help her students and her patients reach a higher level in their practice.
“Even though yoga is inherently therapeutic, I learned so much about how to help my students and patients improve balance, mobility and flexibility and generally increase their enjoyment of life,” she says. “Most of all, I love to see people go from feeling pain to being pain free and being more confident in their bodies. That’s what yoga can do, whether it’s in a studio or in the clinic.”