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Restorative Yoga for Physical Therapists

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Kate Bailey, PT, DPT, MS, E-RYT 500, YACEP, Y4C, CPI owns a private practice in Seattle that focuses on pelvic health for all genders and ages and works under a trauma-informed model where patient self-advocacy and embodiment are a priority. In addition to being a physical therapist, I’ve been teaching Pilates for nearly 20 years and yoga for over 10. Kate’s course, Restorative Yoga for Physical Therapists, combines live discussions and labs with pre-recorded lectures and practices that will be the basis for experiencing and integrating restorative yoga into physical therapy practice. Kate brings over 15 years of teaching movement experience to her physical therapy practice with specialties in Pilates and yoga with a focus on alignment and embodiment.

Yoga is a common term in our current society. We can find it in a variety of settings from dedicated studios, gyms, inside corporations, online, on Zoom, at home, and on retreat. The basic structure of a typical yoga class is a number of flowing or non-flowing postures, some requiring balance, some requiring going upside down, and many requiring significant mobility to achieve a certain shape. At the end of these classes is a pose called savasana, corpse pose (or sometimes translated for comfort as final resting pose). In this pose, which is often a treat for students after working through class, students lie on the ground, eyes closed, possibly supported by props, and rest. It is perhaps the only other time in the day when that person is instructed to lie on the floor in between sleep cycles.

Savasana is one of many restorative yoga postures. In the work created and popularized by Judith Hanson Lasater, PT, PhD1, restorative yoga has taken a turn away from the active physical postures, breath manipulations, and meditations that are commonplace in how we think of yoga. She has focused on rest and the need for rest in our current climate of productivity, poor self-care, and difficulty managing stress and pain.

In a dedicated restorative yoga class (not a fusion of exercise then rest, or stretch then rest… which are really lovely and have their own benefits), a student comes to class, gathers a number of props, and is instructed through 3 to 5 postures, all held for long durations to complete an hour or longer class. Consider what it would look like to do 3 things over one hour with the intent of resting. It is quite counter-culture. Students have various experiences with this type of practice, but over time many begin to feel the need for rest (or restorative practice) in a similar way that one feels thirsty or hungry.

We know the benefits of rest: being able to access the ventral vagal aspect of the parasympathetic nervous system is what Dr. Stephen Porges2 suggests supports health, growth, and restoration. There is the impact on the ventral vagal complex in the brainstem that regulates the heart, the muscles of the face and head, as well as the tone of the airway. To heal, we need access to this pathway. To manage stress, we need to access this pathway. To be able to choose our actions rather than be reactionary, we need to access this pathway. Restorative yoga is an accessible method that may be a new tool in a patient’s toolbox to help manage their nervous systems.

Join Kate Bailey to learn more about restorative yoga in Restorative Yoga for Physical Therapists this year. Courses are scheduled for:


1. Relax and Renew: Restful Yoga for Stressful Times by Judith Hanson Lasater PT, PhD
2. Polyvagal Theory by Stephen W Porges PhD

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